Saturday, May 4, 2013

On Weight and how Vanity Sizing is NOT your Friend

I've been thinking a lot about weight lately, as I continue to work on taking off the baby weight. I am still quite a few pounds over my goal weight. A few stats:

Highest Weight Ever (non-pregnancy): 182 in early 2002
Lowest Weight (in my memory): 123 in late 2002 (this is too skinny for my frame, I had problems sleeping because my hip bones would dig into the bed).
Personal Happy Weight: 130-135
Highest Healthy Weight by BMI: 139
Max Pregnancy Weight #1: 170.5
Max Pregnancy Weight #2: 188 (yikes! But it's not like I was stuffing my face and sitting on the couch. I worked out regularly and ate a healthy diet. My body just had a good memory for weight gain. Plus he was a summer baby and I was retaining a lot more water.)
Minimum weight post baby #2: 152 lbs (late October 2012)
Current weight: 162.8.

So...I have a ways to go to hit that goal. Quite a story up there in my stats.  I expect most people who lose a lot of weight have quite the story to tell.

When I read about weight or go to message boards on the topic, there tend to be camps of people. There is the "I can't believe how fat people are so lazy!" camp  and "I have a genetic weight problem!" camp.  And while of course both are true for some people, you just cannot make generalizations like. As someone who has lost a significant amount of weight (twice, now working on #3), I can say a few things:

1. It's possible (for most people) to lose weight.
2. It's hard work (for most people) to lose weight.
3. Unless you continue to work at it, it's not permanent (for most people)

I even have found myself judging overweight people on occasion, but have to catch myself. Maybe that overweight person in front of me has already lost a bunch of weight. Maybe they are injured or have a health issue. And maybe they are fit! 66% of Americans are overweight or obese, myself included. AND that includes a lot of people I see at the gym working out.

What does this have to do with vanity sizing? Well, I have found myself having to buy a few items of clothing to get through the summer while I start longingly at my closet. I am contemplating doing the triathlon again, but that will certainly require a larger wetsuit if I do. I got to thinking about how hard it is to buy clothing when all of the stores use their own measurements (and how I don't have the patience for that!), how I cannot even find what I want on-line.  Then I got all nerdy and decided to do some research on vanity sizing.

I dug up some old patterns on the internet for dress sizes. I decided to compare them over various years, then I decided to pull up the current sizing for a few different brands. That alone was annoying so I just settled on The Gap (mostly because my sister works there). See the chart, which is based on dress patterns (these are less likely to go through the vanity size changes than store clothing):

Year Avg height Avg weight Size Bust Waist Hip  
1940s 5'2" 134 SM (10-12) 28-30 24-25 31-33  
MED (14-16) 32-34 26.5-28 35-37  
LG (16-18) 36-38 30-32 39-41  
1960s 5'3" 140.2 12 32 25 34  
14 34 26 36  
16 36 28 38  
1980s 5'3.7" 145.4 8 31.5 24 33.5  
10 32.5 25 34.5  
12 34 26.5 36  
14 36 28 38  
16 38 30 40  
18 40 32 42  
20 42 34 44  
2000s 5'4" 164.3 4 29.5 22 31.5  
6 30.5 23 32.5  
8 31.5 24 33.5  
10 32.5 25 34.5  
12 34 26.5 36  
14 36 28 38 GAP 8 top
16 38 30 40 GAP 8 bot
18 40 32 42  
20 42 34 44  
2010s 5'4.5" 164.7 same as 2000's        
2012   GAP 4 34.5 26.5 37.5  

A few notes:
1.  Our weight as females has been gonig up, pretty quickly.
2.  If you pick a relatively  "standard" size of 34 inch bust, 26.5 inch waist, 36 inch hip, our sizing has gone from 14-16 to 12, and these are DRESS sizes from PATTERNS.  These have not changed like clothing in stores. I have a memory of making some of my own clothing in the 80's and making a size 16, which would be about 36-37 inch bust, 31 inch waist, 39-40 inch hip, which is about normal for me.  (I'm no waif.)
3.  If you look at that same size on the GAP chart, it's a size 4!!  Now, it's a healthy weight and size, but a size 4!
4.  Conversely, a GAP size 8 of 36.5 inch bust, 28 inch waist, 40 inch hips would have been a solid size 16 in the 1940's, a "medium" (and pretty much the smallest I've ever been as an adult.  Post baby #2, pretty sure the waist won't go below a 30.)
5.  A Gap Size 10 today (a normal size, right?) would have been "large" in the 1940's.

So, the vanity sizing is simply fooling us into thinking we are "healthy", when we aren't.  Note I included the average height of females in the same chart.  We have grown a couple of inches in that time, which can account for some weight (10-15 lbs) and some of the size increase.  But that much?  I am 5'2.5" tall, so right there close to the average.  I have several very slender friends who cannot even find clothing because they were a size 4 in high school and now a 0 is too big.

I could go into why we've gained weight in another post. I probably won't. There are books dedicated to the topic: sedentary lifestyles, stress, the abundance of fattening food, fast food, fake food, cheap carbohydrates, saturated fat, HFCS, you name it.  But honestly?  My mother was overweight most of her life.  My grandmother was obese, back when it was less common.  There is certainly a tendency to gain weight in my family, even back before processed foods were the norm.  Truth of the matter is, once you've been fat, it's harder to maintain a normal weight than for someone who was never overweight.


Biz said...

Unless you continue to work at it, it's not permanent (for most people)

Yep, having a healthy lifestyle not only requires you to watch what you do to lose the weight, but stick with it, which is what most people fail at - they think "once I get to 130" my life will be perfect!

But stress and life always get in the way, its how you deal with it that makes all the difference, and something I am trying to work out.

Damn that I love wine and cheese so much!

And I wanted to point out - right now in my closet I have 4 pairs of different type of khaki pants, one is an 8, 10, 12 and 14 and they all fit the same. Crazy!

Marcia said...

That is crazy, 4 sizes!