Riding the Weight Wave

Swimsuit season is coming… that magical time of year when we’re all extra critical of our bodies.

I’m nowhere near as judgmental about my body as I once was. Learning to be kinder to myself about my weight and appearance has been a lesson learned slowly over the last decade. As I’ve aged into my thirties, become a parent, and learned to be more aware of life’s stressors, I’ve recognized a pattern.

I’m the type who gains weight with stress and loses it when life is good. 

Over the last twelve years, I’ve fluctuated between a size 4 and 12. There are times I go beyond a 12 but at that point I stop looking at the tag and just wear forgiving dresses and tights. I have clothes spanning this entire range in my closet. I feel most myself around 145 lbs. but I’ve slowly ridden the wave up and down between 135 and 165. I gain weight during high stress times. When the dust settles, I work out and eat well and eventually regain a healthy weight that coincides with a general sense of well being as other areas of my life calm down.  

Accepting that these gradual weight changes are natural has been one of the more graceful realizations of this era in my life.

Not only am I more gentle and loving with myself, I’m also more aware of how my body is reacting to stress and change.

Recently, I was looking through old pictures, thinking about my weight changes in context of what was happening in my life each year from 2006 to now. What started as curious browsing shifted into life mapping. The higher my stress, the higher my size. When I was most happy, I was most healthy:

2006 – 130 lbs. / size 4

Stress Level: Low

Home: Loved my apartment, friends, and dogs. 

Work: Enjoyed college classes and study abroad. 


2007 – 135 lbs. / size 6 

Stress Level: Low

Home: Still loving my apartment, friends, and dogs. 

Work: Graduated college, worked a fun summer job. 


2008 – 155 lbs. / size 10

Stress Level: High

Home: Moved apartments, my college friends moved to other cities. 

Work: Started graduate school, fellowship and internships.


2009 – 150 lbs. / size 8

Stress Level: Moderate

Home: Made new friends, traveled, lived with my boyfriend. 

Work: Accustomed to graduate school, applied for jobs. 


2010 – 165 lbs. / size 12

Stress Level: Extremely high 

Home: Moved to Houston, also planned a wedding as my fiance started medical school. 

Work: Started a high pressure job in a new city, while simultaneously attempting to complete graduate school remotely. 


2011 – 140 lbs. / size 6 

Stress Level: Moderate

Home: Wedding over, made new friends, settled into the city, miscarriage. 

Work: Graduate school complete, enjoyed my job and co-workers. 


2012 – 140 lbs. / size 6 

Stress Level: Low

Home: Fantastic friends, vibrant social life, felt at home in the city. 

Work: Moved up at work, new responsibilities and challenges. 


2013 – 145 lbs. / size 8 

Stress Level: Moderate

Home: Moved to OKC, left many good friendships behind, infertility treatments in progress. 

Work: Enjoyed teaching, husband started residency. 


2014 – 145 / size 8 

Stress Level: Low 

Home: Pregnant, getting to know OKC. 

Work: Worked part-time, more graduate school. 


2015 – 155 / size 8 

Stress Level: High

Home: New baby, no support system, very few friends. 

Work: Staying home with the baby (not a great fit for me). 


2016 – 165 / size 12 

Stress Level: High

Home: Found my parental feet, residency was hard on my marriage.   

Work: Baby started M.D.O., I returned to part-time work – this was good for both of us. 


2017 – 160 / size 10 

Stress Level: Moderate

Home: Loved motherhood, infertility treatments continued, found more OKC friends. 

Work: Built a full schedule of various part-time work, all great gigs that I love. 

Since having my son, it’s more difficult to get to the gym regularly, but I’m slowly working my way back down to my comfortable weight zone by being more active and eating well. The going is slow but I know from experience that I’ll get there.

In the meantime, I remember that I’m doing the best I can and empathize with myself that I’m juggling a lot. 

Tina Fey says it perfectly in her book Bossy Pants. From the chapter Remembrances of Being Very Very Skinny

“We should leave people alone about their weight. Being skinny for a while (provided you actually eat food and don’t take pills or smoke to get there) is a perfectly fine pastime. Everyone should try it once, like a super-short haircut or dating a white guy.”

And from the chapter Remembrances of Being a Little Bit Fat

“We should leave people alone about their weight. Being chubby for a while (provided you don’t give yourself diabetes) is a natural phase of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Like puberty or slowly turning into a Republican.”

I’ve been somewhat skinny and a little bit fat, but more importantly, I’ve been kind to myself.

How do ride the weight wave? What realizations have you made?

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Heather is a museum educator and art teacher in Oklahoma City. She designs and leads gallery experiences for visitors of all ages at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and teaches art for toddlers and preschoolers at a local day school and at the Belle Isle Library. She has one son, Roger (3) and an aging dog, Amica (15). Her husband Jared is completing a pediatric anesthesiology fellowship at OUHSC. When not balancing the demands of three part time gigs, writing, parenting, and housekeeping, Heather spends what little free time is left maxing out her library card, trying new recipes, gardening, art-making, traveling, listening to NPR, watching movies, and making the long drive back to Texas to see friends and family.


  1. I love all your articles! I have found after having John Roland my saving grace is my BOB stroller, every morning I put the boys in it and walk. It’s weird how much happier I am after my morning walk/ meditation with them, even if they only allow me 15 minutes.


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