I Probably Shouldn’t Care BUT

July 19, 2023

Trigger warning: weight/body image topics are mentioned in this post. If triggering / annoying to you please skip! Also some birth control discussion.

This morning, I saw the highest # on a scale that I have seen . . . possibly EVER, outside of pregnancy.

Now: I recognize that this is not a catastrophe. I recognize that I am still at a normal weight/BMI. I recognize that I seem to be running pretty well (avoiding injury, making progress in speed even with temps rising, having decent endurance in the heat) in spite of this little piece of data. I recognize this is more about vanity than health. I recognize that people may have weight fluctuations throughout the lifespan.

AND, I also really don’t love it. Okay, that’s an understatement. I kind of hate it. I would say I am annoyed/irritated/confused and honestly not even sure how to deal with it. Have I been eating more calories/carbohydrates over the past few months? Absolutely yes, in the context of higher mileage running! And not in what seems like crazy amounts.

I am basically following hunger cues, not eating recreationally “because I ran a lot.” I am eating to avoid migraines, because getting too hungry seems to be a trigger. I am taking in calories (not a ton, but like 120 in the form of Skratch and collagen) before my morning runs because I feel better when I do, and isn’t that what the experts say to do?!

I *did* also switch my birth control pill. I actually do think that could be a factor when I analyze the timeline here. But I switched because I felt like my old one made me slightly dehydrated (Yaz, which contains a progestin that has a mild diuretic effect – not what you necessarily want when you are running in sweltering heat). This weight gain however is not just water. It has continued steadily over the past few months after switching pills. My clothes still fit, but I don’t like how they fit. Or really how I look in general.

I tried to be a good sport about it, I really did. But I do not want to continue on the same path.


1- Run less. Nope. Not right now, anyway.

2- Work out more. Uhh, no. This is clearly not the problem. I *could* theoretically strength train more (and am well aware this is the key to improving body composition) but I don’t think I have it in me to do more than 2 sessions/week while I am marathon training.

3- Switch birth control methods. Yes, I think so. I might go to a progesterone IUD. I have multiple reasons for taking an OCP but I feel ready to try something else. If I hate it I guess I could always have it taken out.

4- Eat less/change eating habits. Sigh. I guess I need to. Maybe I need to emphasize protein and time my carbohydrates more strategically? Maybe I just need to embrace that at my advanced age, I have to really limit sugar for the most part even with a higher mileage load. That said, I know I cannot try to create some sudden giant calorie deficit because I’m sure it would impact my running.

(I recognize that I am only a recreational runner and NO ONE other than me cares how well I run, but right now it matters to me and I’m really enjoying chasing my goals. Except for this annoying side effect.)

5- Stop caring. Unlikely. Just being real.

Thoughts, commiseration, ideas?


  • Reply Lori C July 19, 2023 at 5:30 am

    Commiserating. Could it be you need to switch something up a little bit? Maybe you’re actually over training and not taking it enough. Calories to your body is holding onto whatever you need. I don’t know. I’m not an expert. But seems like you train hard and eat well so…..??

  • Reply Lou Mitchell July 19, 2023 at 5:31 am

    Same problem here. It’s metabolic/perimenopausal, for me – and I suspect (sorry) for you too!. Everyone talks about it but I’m only now realising what a MASSIVE challenge the metabolic changes of peri menopause arel. I hit 44/45 and rapidly my weight started to go up – and my body shape change – despite an active lifestyle / good diet. Nothing had changed, but I was getting heavier. I tried not to care. But I care because my knees complain when I’m heavier and this was starting to limit activity – I can no longer run. I started HRT (due joint pains, mood, foggy head etc) and that made no difference to the weight (though lots of other good effects, and the extra oestrogen definitely made my knees and other joints less painful).

    I’ve addressed the issue consistently for 3 months now with a LOT more strength based training (prior, I was Mrs cardiovascular – not running currently but I swim and cycle a lot), and food logging to try and see what patterns are emerging. Trying to restrict calorie intake to 1600-ish (not being too militant about that). Any less than this and I’m too hungry – which is probably because I’m building muscle! ‘Intermittent fasting’ (this is, for me, skipping breakfast) 5ish days a week also seems to be vaguely effective. I often exercise in the morning, so am training fasted – this is usually just for about an hour of HIIT and weights stuff. If I’m doing more LISS work (cycling, swimming) I’ll eat first, or I run out of steam. It’s really tricky if you’re marathon training but there is so much evidence for the value of strength training for middle aged women. Could you sneak another 1/2 hour in somewhere? Get some coaching on what best to do to maximise gains? I’m a much more powerful / efficient swimmer from doing upper body work, far more gain there than from cranking out time in the lake swimming.

    So 3 months of real conscious EFFORT on my part – more attention than I’ve ever paid before to what and when I’m eating – has led to maybe 2kg weight loss. Which feels pretty pathetic, but it is what it is. I’m happier with my shape though, and I’m stronger which just feels good. Progress appears to be glacial now I’m in my mid 40’s! I’m now coming to the realisation that to get where I want to be, (another 6kgs off), this level of effort is going to have to continue for another 9 months. I’m not sure I’ve the headspace (big job (UK NHS Dr), 3 kids, other interests too) so am now trying to work on acceptance and looking at what my body does and feels like, rather than what it looks like. That’s not easy.

    Nutrition books I’ve found really interesting / helpful: The fast 800 by Michael Mosely (ideas, principles, not slavish adherence here at all), Spoon Fed by Tim Spector (everyone should read this book!), Ultraprocessed People – Chris van Tulleken (reading this now, it’s quite shocking and a good well researched read). These books are motivating me to change my diet long term – and that of my family too.

    So no answers here, but I think thinking about food intake and timing, and maybe more / better strength training, coupled with a dose of realism, sadly, might be key for you. But it’s HARD and I think you’re ahead of many other women by being even aware of it – it kind of happened for me just post covid before I’d even really noticed, and the work to redress the balance has been barely sustainable. All the best!

  • Reply Chelsea July 19, 2023 at 6:19 am

    Unless you can identify some low-hanging-fruit target (ie every afternoon you eat a giant bowl of ice cream and could replace it with a yogurt), I don’t think you should try to change your eating and exercise at this point in your training. I think the other three culprits (water weight, changing birth control and – as Lou points out – possibly getting older) are much more likely.

    If it makes you feel any better, I also gained quite a bit of weight last summer during my training and came home from the race barely able to fit into my normal pants. BUT – it did go away when it got cooler and I wasn’t taking in a ton of sodium in anticipation of long runs and hard workouts, and I doubt anyone else noticed. I’m with you that it feels gross, but you’ve put in so much work, I’d hate to see you under fuel and get injured.

    Also – FWIW – I’ve had an IUD for the past few years and – after the first couple weeks – I think it’s fantastic.

  • Reply Lauren July 19, 2023 at 6:22 am

    Only sharing what has worked for me…I’m 46 and got a peloton during Covid (cliche). I was not looking to lose weight necessarily, but those annoying 10 lbs would have been a bonus. Despite riding 4-5 days a week I saw no real changes in weight until I started incorporating strength training. I did end up losing about 10 lbs and have sustained that despite some holiday fluctuations for about a year. I always say at this point I’m lifting for my future body but despite trying to fight it, strength training is the main thing that’s made a difference for me at this current stage in my life.

  • Reply Allison July 19, 2023 at 6:47 am

    As someone who coaches women in this age group/struggle, I think you need to keep your calories up while you continue to run. Once you meet your race goals, backing off the running/upping the strength training should help. But at this point I would not cut calorie. As you noted, running is not good for body comp. I’m sure some of the weight is also inflammation from high mileage. But if running is you goal, I think you should keep listening to your coach and eating those extra carbs.

  • Reply Caitlin July 19, 2023 at 6:50 am

    Also just generally commiserating. I don’t think it’s is right for you, especially during training, but the only thing that has ever worked for me is intermittent fasting and a high-fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. I personally find it sustainable but I know that isn’t the case for everyone. Also body weight exercises—I love the book Body By You by Mark Lauren.

    I think my weight issues are completely hormonal. I was a normal weight until I hit puberty then started to gain steadily despite being a very active kid and eating healthy. I gain weight so easily it is sometimes shocking. I’m at a healthy weight again after having my second baby (I was able to get down to a healthy weight after my first as well, once I really dialed in what worked for me). But I think it will always be a struggle and I’m curious to see what peri menopause/menopause brings.

  • Reply Gillian July 19, 2023 at 6:54 am

    Without knowing more I am not exactly offering my professional advise so take this with a grain of salt but…It is really difficult to increase your mileage the way you have and not gain weight. It is super difficult without the help of an RD who really knows nutrition for runners to avoid this. Your analysis of the diet changes you would have to make to lose weight is right on target. To lose weight you would need to use your carbs just to fuel your runs and then be very low carb/high protein the rest of the time. Only you know whether it is worth it to you to do this.

    My guess is that the change in OCP has less to do with the drosperenone’s diuretic effects and more to do with how androgenic the progestin is in the new pill. I would think long and hard before getting a progesterone eluting IUD. I don’t think it is going to provide some of the benefits you have been getting from your OCPs.

    Again, I don’t know all the details…but remember weight is only one metric of health and my guess would be all your other health metrics would be excellent! Let me know if you want to talk offline on this one.

    • Reply Alyssa July 19, 2023 at 4:36 pm

      Although I guess if whatever the progestin in the new OCP is is more androgenic, and you maybe have some water retention in your muscles from inflammation or whatever a little dose of spironolactone might help?
      *not medical advice just speculating on how the physiology could be tweaked

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 19, 2023 at 4:47 pm

        Then I might as well go back on the yaz … but i think it made running harder?!

  • Reply Omdg July 19, 2023 at 6:56 am

    Wait until after your marathon to make the diet changes. After all the work you put in you don’t want to yank your performance. You may be less hungry after you start running less.

    I doubt it’s the hormones unfortunately. But by all means try an iud if you want to.

    I am also at my lifetime zenith weight and had to buy a new wardrobe last year.

    I have found that unless I eat less than 1600 calories per day, I gain weight. Also, *any* indiscretion (incl etoh, salty food, ice cream) sticks to me for at least a week. Part of the problem is that eating and going out make me happy unlike basically anything else in my life, and frankly it’s the only alternative if you want to be social (esp since I can’t walk a lot 2/2 my recent injury) and people act weird if you don’t eat or drink with them. And I’m never going to be a hot young 25yo again so maybe I should work on caring less.

    I wish I had some more reassuring advice, but honestly the only solution is to eat less. I accomplish this by counting calories and trying to stop for the day once I reach 1600. I am often not successful. Happy to commiserate if you want.

    • Reply Ashley G. July 19, 2023 at 10:15 am

      Ugh, yes to all this. I have to eat 1400 calories a day or less to lose any weight at all. Much below that and I’m miserable and hangry, so it’s a very fine line that is tedious and annoying. Strength training definitely helps with the body composition, but the weight stays around. I would love to not care about it, but I do. I wish I loved food less, honestly.

  • Reply Alyssa July 19, 2023 at 6:59 am

    Fellow MD here who just wants to say I loveeeee my progesterone IUD- you will have to pry it from my cold dead hands (uterus).
    Lots of good thoughts above though re age, hormones etc. can’t be sure this wouldn’t have happened anyway, running or not. What do the women in your family look like around their 40s?
    Agree very very hard to change mindset around body image. Maybe when you are working on your mindfulness practice build in some gratitude/affirmation? Your body built three beautiful kids. It let you get through residency/fellowship with prob more caffeine than it wanted. It can run for hours in Florida heat. I think the stoics would say you have to control the controllables and the rest is ok.
    Appreciate the vulnerability!

    • Reply LDMN July 19, 2023 at 10:36 am

      ^^^^ This! I don’t have it all figured out (by far) but wante to offer another perspective. Our whole lives we are force fed that we are supposed to look a certain, very narrowly defined way. And that anything outside of that narrow band is “bad.” You eat healthfully, you exercise a TON… your body might just be changing. I also commend your vulnerability and join other commenters in saying don’t make any big changes until after your marathon. My physician said our bodies put on a little weight as we age as a protector against illness (reserves as we need them) — as long as it isn’t a steady strong number always going up (crossing into harmful territory), try and give yourself some grace. Our western culture and the patriarchy have pummeled into our heads that we lose value as human beings once we don’t conform to a tiny ideal. I struggle with this too, so I try to approach it like this: Would I love my children any less if they gained some weight? My friends? Would I think less of them? Would I be adamant that they put in inordinate effort to conform back to something I’m more used to? No. For me to get back to my 30s weight (in my mid-40s now; 6-9 lbs heavier) it would take SO much work or a serious illness. I’m working at 1) eating healthfully 2) getting exercise (training for a 10 mile run) 3) improving strength and flexibility 4) appreciating my body for all it has done and continues to do for me. Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective with us and starting this conversation… however you get to a happier place for yourself, I wish you well.

    • Reply Beth August 4, 2023 at 3:50 am

      This is not advice, just offering another perspective. I have been taking BC for over 20 years (mostly Sprintec). I did not have any issues with it, but I really did not want an accidental 3rd child. When I asked my OB what she would recommend to be as close to 100% certain as possible that I would not become pregnant (without undergoing surgery), she recommended a progesterone IUD. I took her recommendation, and I hated it. In me, it caused the exact issues you write about here, SHU. I felt very stupid because I’m not young, but I honestly had no idea that different BC methods could lead to such different physical results. It was a very happy day when that IUD left my body for good. I switched back to Sprintec and took an anti-bloating supplement (Happy Mammoth Bloat Banisher) for a month, and my body returned to its former shape and weight, much to my relief.

  • Reply Sarah July 19, 2023 at 7:06 am

    I gained a bit after weaning my 2 year-old after not quite losing all of my baby weight from her in the first place, and I HATE IT. All of the feelings plus (as you articulate) guilt that I hate it when I am still a straight size and when it shouldn’t matter in the context of health and happiness. I understand diet culture and why it’s bad AND YET I grew up in it. GAH. (Also weight more than I ever have outside pregnancy and also hate it).

    • Reply Amy July 19, 2023 at 8:07 am

      FWIW, try to let go of that guilt. Its YOUR body. Who cares if you’re still in “straight sizes” — is there a specific number where it’s okay to care? Piling guilt on top of already feeling bad just leads to a negative spiral. Own your feelings and move forward from there. ❤️

  • Reply Coco July 19, 2023 at 7:09 am

    Interesting post. It seems that distance running makes people gain weight more than lose weight, totally out of expectation right? I think it’s still mostly diet, unfortunately. I did 4 cycles of marathon training and did not gain weight, nor lost any. Now into 40s, my weight has gone up which is a good thing as I was under weight. I stopped weighting myself regularly, maybe once every 1-2 months, and it seems to have stabilized, just 3-4 lbs more than before, although I’m consuming much more food. I stick to whole food unprocessed food 90% of the time, thus I guess totally calorie intake cannot be too high no matter how full I feel. My point is: as we get older, it’s inevitable to gain some weight if we keep same intake, regardless of activity level, especially if you eat with hunger cues meaning you are refueling well. I have copper IUD since second birth, and very happy about it. You can give it a try if you think it’s the hormones of the new pill. And lastly, accept weight gain is like accept aging, not pleasant but better to accept it and move on than fighting against the impossible war.

  • Reply Carrie July 19, 2023 at 7:13 am

    I REALLY appreciate your vulnerability and honesty in putting this out there. As you know, people get real prickly about normal-BMI, healthy people talking about weight – but the things that happen in our brain in response to a number are REAL and need to be processed and validated. I, too, always found that my ideal training weight is a little heavier than the weight I “prefer.” My output and performance is so clearly better with the extra 5-7 pounds of motor (who knows how much is muscle vs a little extra fat stores). I have been doing a lot more peloton in the last few years due to some chronic running injuries – my max outputs on the bike as well were clearly higher when my weight is up a little. My guess is that you are not going to be pleased with your running performance and how you feel in training if you start to restrict your diet. And honestly, restriction to LOSE weight while training for a marathon sounds like a fools errand, both in terms of performance and likelihood of success. Truthfully, I would shelve it until after the marathon and then make some targeted dietary changes.

    This stuff makes me feel crazy too and for context, my non-pregnant BMI has ranged from about 18.5-21 for the last 25 years, so reality and my experience of reality are very different. One thing that has helped me A LOT: I have completely stopped weighing myself. I have never had a scale in my adult home – this would never have been healthy for me. Right now, I actually decline to be weighed even at doctor’s visits. The fit of my clothes, my athletic performance and the appearance of my face (weird I know) are all plenty of information.

    Mostly, I feel you and relate to you so much. Thanks for being you!

  • Reply Miriam July 19, 2023 at 7:15 am

    I think this is common with marathon training, especially in the heat. Your body is retaining water and glycogen to help you perform and probably reserving fat stores because of the (good) stress you’re under. It’s exciting that you have your Feathers course coming up and I imagine you’ll hear even more runners that are experiencing the same thing. You could talk to your coach about adding a few strides after easy runs a couple times a week and having a speed day. That may help with fat burning.
    This has happened to me too and the two things I keep in mind are 1- my body has always hovered within a 5 pound range so I feel like after the marathon it will recalibrate. 2- I won’t be training for a marathon endlessly.
    I appreciate and find this post so helpful, as it is so relatable.

  • Reply Grateful Kae July 19, 2023 at 7:18 am

    Ugh, sorry you’re dealing with this. I’m sure it’s super frustrating. I don’t know the answer either, because as you’re aware, it’s complicated enough for women to lose weight without throwing in the additional factor of the very high mileage, primarily steady state cardio. As you also know, your enjoyment of the sport matters too though!! So of course stopping running isn’t the answer.

    I guess the only thing I can think of that could be semi-useful is to consider counting calories or macros (I know, I know…ew….). This way you could ensure that you are still hitting high enough carbs and calories that you NEED for your running, but maybe not exceeding that. It does seem very possible that with all those miles, your hunger is just totally revved up and you could be unintentionally eating just a *bit* more than you actually “need” to recover… hence the weight gain. ? I am sure it’s difficult to ignore those hunger cues though, nor am I sure you even should.

    I would also say that with your heavy training load, I’m not sure I would stress about adding too much more strength training right now. You are running SO much and already lifting 2x/ week. You know I’m a huge supporter of strength training, but I just don’t think adding 1x extra session of fairly random home lifting (ie not a structured, heavy, progressive overload program or something) is going to make a difference to your weight. Yes, I’ll always agree more strength work= great! But I don’t think an extra 30 minutes is going to magically make you drop any lbs at all, and it may just stress you out more trying to fit more in. It seems like your current 2x per week focusing on strength for runners is appropriate in the middle of marathon training. I feel like not all marathon plans include such high mileage- if you ever were to “back off” slightly in a future training cycle, maybe you could experiment then w/ more strength then. But personally I’d leave that alone right now I think! Your body needs recovery time, too.

  • Reply Grateful Kae July 19, 2023 at 7:25 am

    Also, I see several comments suggesting that you wait to worry about it until after your marathon training. But I guess I thought your plan was to sort of continue marathon training indefinitely for now? Like you have several years of races mapped out, etc. and your plan is to keep the high mileage, longer runs going. I think what to do depends on if this is a short term thing where you can just drop carbs/calories & increase strength after the race (ie don’t really worry about it for now!), or if this will be an ongoing thing where you’ll want a long term “solution” (if that exists! lol).

  • Reply Gwinne July 19, 2023 at 7:34 am

    Outside of pregnancy I basically weighed the same until I was 43. I also went very low, not intentionally, during breastfeeding and infertility treatment. But my weight has been creeping up steadily. At this point 10 lbs higher than premenopause| pandemic. I also work out much more than I have in my life. If I wanted to lose weight I think I’d need to starve myself, which I don’t want to do. I eat well. I’ve tried IF. Barring a thyroid problem, which I’m going to ask about, I’ve given up. I very much have my mothers body. She looks great at 75 so I think maybe the all in my head

    • Reply Gwinne July 19, 2023 at 7:41 am

      Also. For me, and maybe you, I was underweight or low bmi for a very long time. Normal feels result

  • Reply Marci Gilbert July 19, 2023 at 7:36 am

    Is a vasectomy not an option? Then you are off all hormones and can remove that factor.

    • Reply Emma July 19, 2023 at 9:21 am

      Came here to recommend this also. No reason why BC has to be solely your responsibility.

      • Reply Vanessa Johnson July 19, 2023 at 10:50 am

        If you are interested in a natural option, I’ve been really happy with the Marquette method of fertility awareness. Marquette is low-maintenance and objective compared to other methods of fertility awareness. The feminist in me thinks that women shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of the side effects and risks of hormonal birth control.

        • Reply Vanessa Johnson July 19, 2023 at 12:59 pm

          I also struggle with PMDD though so it is hard either way!

      • Reply Diana July 20, 2023 at 2:29 pm

        Fellow iud user and iuds are the in my opinion 🙂

    • Reply Gillian July 19, 2023 at 10:44 am

      SHU has been pretty open about the fact that she uses hormonal birth control pills for more than contraception. Vasectomy wouldn’t help with those other things, though it is my personal favorite form of contraception!

  • Reply Mary July 19, 2023 at 8:37 am

    No real nutrition advice except to say I get you. I also have increased my running miles and find myself at my heaviest weight. I try not to care except I just don’t like the way my body feels with the extra 5-7 pounds. But I don’t want to cut down on the cardio so…here we are.
    For the birth control, is it for family planning reasons or an other reason? If solely for family planning reasons, would a vasectomy be in the cards? I know it is a very personal topic. After we had our kids, I figured my body had done enough on the family front and it was my husband’s turn to have his body affected in the name of our family. Thankfully he felt the same way.

  • Reply ptrish July 19, 2023 at 8:38 am

    I’d strongly recommend working with a sports-focused RD if you are thinking about making any dietary changes/restrictions while training! Mine was very clear about the tradeoffs – speed vs weight loss tend to need different types of fueling, and I found that helpful. She also just got me into better habits overall in terms of protein, hydration, etc.

  • Reply Kersti July 19, 2023 at 8:53 am

    Ugh, in the same boat. I plan to increase strength focused yoga and I’m trying overall to reduce stress.

  • Reply Heather July 19, 2023 at 9:06 am

    I think it’s fine to change your eating habits starting now, you’re still a little bit away from your marathon. Honestly, a lot of people tend to eat too much during race training because they think they are burning so many calories and believe it gives them a license to eat whatever they want.

    As others have said, I would seek out a professional who can guide you in calories in vs calories out and the proper macro ratio. Personally, I have been counting macros, weighing, and measuring my food for the last six years, I think it’s the only real, scientific way to know if you’re fueling your body and training the correct way.

    Good luck!

  • Reply Jacqui July 19, 2023 at 9:15 am

    Emily Oster recently commented on this as well. She’s a similar age and also chasing high performance running goals. I think it is a combination of running and perimenopause. Agree with recommendations to not decrease calories or carbs with marathon training. Only a year or two ago you posted that you were very happy with your body comp when doing aggressive strength training. Hang in there and SO appreciate your openness and vulnerability in sharing.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 19, 2023 at 12:42 pm

      Didn’t know that about EO. She is a far faster and more talented runner than I am so it’s nice to know that even those gifted in other ways have similar struggles.

  • Reply MP July 19, 2023 at 9:32 am

    Agree with so many comments. Stinks that scale does not reflect hard work you’re putting in…agree with others wouldn’t change your diet radically while your mileage is high….but how amazing are you with your high mileage and so easily using your running game. Every time I read the blog it makes me want to run more! A few thoughts
    1-IUDs rock!
    2-your running so much and fitting it in while working, starting a business, and with 3 young kids rocks!
    3-think most men would ignore and difference in weight after upping their running game like you have…or brag at how much muscle they have gained as reflected by the scale
    4-there are never ending adjustments we need to make to our body/how we feel about our body as we age. Damn you eyesight worsening…wrinkles on forehead…eventual slowing pace when running in our 50s…Maybe scale is giving you a chance to work on shaking some things off when your overall life progress is outstanding.
    5-thank you are being open to honestly sharing things that are a challenge!

  • Reply jenny July 19, 2023 at 9:38 am

    I highly recommend Meghann Featherstone’s podcast Fuel for the Sole. She is a running nutritionist and she has several episodes about trying to lose weight while running, calorie counting, etc.

    I think about this a lot (and talk about it a lot with my running friends). I tend to stress eat, I love eating, and I love running. I have struggled with using food as a “reward” for things, like a long run, or a hard day, or whatever. I started running marathons when I was 25, in law school and living in NYC. I swear my main motivation was feeling like I could spend Saturday after my long runs eating chicken fingers and drinking beers all day because I earned it by running 20 miles. I recognize now that this is not the case and probably indicates some kind of disordered feelings around food, etc.

    Now, 12 years and 9 marathons later, I have tried to change some of that mindset, but I still tend to gain weight while marathon training and am generally confused about it all. But I’m trying to figure it out and am asking myself the same questions as you are. The take way from one of Featherstone’s episodes was basically its hard to lose weight while training for a marathon. You can’t train strong and healthy while in a deficit. So right now, I’m in between marathon training and I have been focusing a bit more on trying to lose a few pounds.

    I also then question why I care about the number on the scale at all because I feel good, am happy with the way my clothes fit (????)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 19, 2023 at 12:42 pm

      I do listen and am taking her course this fall. However, I don’t think it will help at all with body comp. She’s pretty clear about that – her programs are targeted towards performance. I will admit I have trouble not noticing that SHE is quite thin (tall, but muscle and very little else!) though. So she must know something . . .

      • Reply KGC July 19, 2023 at 6:07 pm

        Or…her genes predispose her to be tall and thin with muscle and little else =)
        (just tossing out there that some degree of body composition is genetic!)

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 19, 2023 at 6:18 pm

          yes very true!!!! I don’t think she’s doing anything nefarious whatsoever – I think she’s great! It’s just interesting that she looks the way she does but notes that for many, the best running doesn’t come with the leanest aesthetic.

      • Reply Jenny July 20, 2023 at 9:16 am

        I completely agree that MF will not help lose weight (at least I don’t think for me) I haven’t listened to a ton of her episodes yet and have not done her program but I suggested her because she discusses this issue and my take away was basically that its very hard to train well AND lose weight. Very frustrating for me too.

  • Reply KT July 19, 2023 at 9:54 am

    My experience with hormonal BC was in line with this: slow creeping weight gain and an inability to lose it while doing a happy amount of activity where it ought to have come off (and did after quitting). FWIW, I’ve gotten much better at managing the emotional ups and downs that come in the luteal phase of my cycle – knowing that the feelings of life dissatisfaction and despair are temporary and not actually real is helpful, and I can get through it knowing that it’s transient. This will probably change with perimenopause because being female is nothing if not learning on the fly…

  • Reply Ali July 19, 2023 at 10:15 am

    I could’ve written this almost word for word (though I am not marathon training—just running casually). I am probably 10 pounds above what I consider ideal but am very healthy, exercise daily, and have a healthy diet. I am 99.9% sure it’s just age and the resulting metabolic changes. I realize I could drastically restrict my diet and probably get where I want to be—but I don’t want to do that and don’t think it would be sustainable in the long term. All that to say—I think a lot of this is just normal and a crappy part of aging. I also think our generation has some unrealistic expectations around weight and appearance that have been baked into us for years and years.

  • Reply Jeannemarie Hendershot July 19, 2023 at 10:40 am

    Following. I literally had the same thought this morning before my run and then came back and read your post. I blame Meghan Featherstun and all the graham crackers I have been eating. Lol. But would love to see how you address this. For me I’m thinking more conscious sugar and carb avoidance and increasing my mileage a bit.

  • Reply Lesley July 19, 2023 at 10:48 am

    I recently read the books Roar and Next Level by Stacy Sims, an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist. The focus is on how to work with your female physiology to stay active and strong throughout all stages of life- Roar before menopause, Next Level in perimenopause/menopause. Lots of research in the books and ideas to incorporate for whatever sports/fitness you are into.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 19, 2023 at 12:40 pm

      Ooh yes – I need to check her stuff out.

      • Reply Coco July 19, 2023 at 8:15 pm

        I read that and the takeaway is lift heavy weight, eat more to sustain, which might not what you expect. Though I did started to seriously lift weight and eat more after reading her books (as I’m now fully convinced the benefits). I didn’t gain as much weight as I expected but feel stronger and see performance improvements.

      • Reply Melissa July 20, 2023 at 1:26 am

        I’d second these books. I put on a couple of kilos over the last year and tweaking my diet to include more protein at each meal and making sure I was properly fuelled before every run (and throughout the day) did help me lose weight, especially once I got into the higher mileage part of my training. I’ve gone off the rails a little bit at the moment, but at least I know what to do.

  • Reply Thea July 19, 2023 at 11:13 am

    Have you considered working through this in therapy? You have put so much work in to training and from the way you write about running it seems like training hard and trying to get faster really brings you joy…and now it seems like you are considering jeopardizing that progress to conform to arbitrary body standards you’re holding yourself to. Working on re-framing with a professional might help, though I know unlearning this stuff is an uphill battle. At the very least, I’d suggest getting rid of the scale.

    • Reply Nan July 19, 2023 at 5:58 pm

      I was going to respond similarly. This is such a challenging situation that so many of us deal with so I very much appreciate Sarah’s vulnerability and honesty in sharing this. Many years ago, I was very fixated on exercise, weight, food… it totally consumed me and I realized that I did not want to live my life like this. Therapy was immensely helpful in working through all of this and also getting rid of my scale. I still like to exercise and eat healthy-ish but its in a much more relaxed way. The irony was when I stopped being so obscessive, things evened out and stablized and I felt so much more free.

  • Reply Elisabeth July 19, 2023 at 11:20 am

    So many thoughts, SHU. I think everyone – at least every woman – can relate to this post!! I have struggled with weight my whole life and went on my first diet when I was 11. Which, as a mother to a 12-year-old daughter just makes me so, so sad for tween me 🙁

    Some of this is genetic (I have big hip/leg bones and this was 100% inherited) and some of it is lifestyle (grew up in a home where portions were HUGE and you were expected to finish everything on your plate). About a decade ago I overhauled my eating and exercising and got to the point I weighed less than I did in middle school! But this started to take over my life. I did intermittent fasting (which did help with weight loss/energy, but it also spiralled into being very restrictive), cut major things from my diet (dairy, carbs, grains). I did Whole 30 (twice), paleo (loosely many times). I would lose weight, but then eventually gain it all back and then some because I would get burned out from being so restrictive.

    About a year ago I read The F*ck It diet and it really changed how I approach eating. I knew I was always – always – going to be chasing a moving target. I now eat what I want when I want. My weight is about ~7 pounds above where it was when I was spending the majority of my days thinking about food: when I could eat, what I should eat, was it clean/healthy. While I didn’t have a diagnosed eating disorder, I *definitely* had disordered eating.

    I basically don’t weigh myself anymore. My diet is not nearly as “clean” as it was, but aside from knowing I need to eat, I don’t think about food much at all and this has been life-changing.

    I still struggle with body image issues and likely always will because of what our culture feeds us in terms of the “ideal”. While I 100% think that we need to care for our bodies with proper sleep/energy/exercise, I also try to let my body take charge. For the most part, it does a great job of self-regulating now that I’m not restricting/obsessing.

    It doesn’t sound like you have anything close to the challenges I did with the scale (I used to weigh myself daily, so not weighing in anymore is a big shift) but a major trigger for me was when I used to gain up to TEN pounds at the start of my period! Seriously – I would hop on the scale and it would be so much higher. I’m not sure where you are in your cycle, but the water retention and other shifts that happen hormonally with a menstrual cycle can really impact the number on the scale too. Another reason I love not weighing in!!

    Your body is doing incredible things and you look amazing. I’m preaching to myself here, too, to give myself grace…We are NOT the number on our scale. We are strong, beautiful women who work and parent and exercise and are healthy!!

    All that said, I 100% get it. I struggle when I look in the mirror, but less than I did a year ago and hopefully next year I’ll struggle less and less.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns July 19, 2023 at 11:21 am

    I’m experiencing this dynamic as well and chock it mostly up to perimenopause. Other women further down the path of menopause have warned me that your weight increases and shifts down to the belly region… that is what I am experiencing. It’s frustrating but I am trying to let go of it. I try to eat healthy and model healthy eating for my kids and am focusing on dressing for the body I have. Pre-kids, I was able to easily maintain a weight that is 5-10 lower than my current weight. I think that ship has sailed for me, though, and I don’t have the time or the energy to do something about it… I kept losing and regaining the same 5 pounds and it required really restrictive eating/constantly thinking about what I was eating which was not good for me… But I have a lot of empathy for you! I don’t think that cutting back on calories/nutrition is the answer, though, since you are demanding so much of your body.

  • Reply Elizabeth July 19, 2023 at 12:17 pm

    I have read every comment on this post and just have to say…thank you for this post, thank you to everyone who has commented. I feel so much less alone!! I have been struggling for the past year, almost exactly since I turned 40, with seemingly unexplained weight gain, despite regular workouts (treadmill and outdoor peloton running classes, treadmill bootcamps, yoga, and strength classes.) I eat a healthy diet. I’ve started cutting out dessert and reduced alcohol intake. But despite all this, I can’t seem to shake ~5lbs I’ve put on since Covid, and worse, I’m now at the place where any deviation from very healthy eating (enjoying 2 beers one night with friends, for example) makes me gain weight that sticks for awhile and requires big effort to lose.

    I do know intellectually what others have shared: running isn’t the way to lose weight, and perimenopause means a slowing of metabolism and almost inevitable weight gain. But it’s so hard to accept this! I don’t want to gain weight, just because I’m in my 40s now. I don’t really want to be draconian about what I can eat, either. I am so upset with this and have spent this entire year struggling to figure out how to cope (accept new weight and shape vs work hard to change it).

    I am sorry you, Sarah, are in a similar boat, and I am sorry that so many of us commenters are, too. But I am also grateful for each and every poster who has shared their experience. It makes me feel less alone. We will all get through this! Thank you.

    • Reply Ashley July 19, 2023 at 12:28 pm

      I am 100% there with you. Do I accept this, or work my ass off to change something? I have no idea, but I’m also not coping well. And although I’ve never been thin, I’ve always been within the “normal” (heavy air quotes) range for my height. Except I’m not anymore, and it’s done a number on my self-confidence. Lots to work through, here.

  • Reply Ashley July 19, 2023 at 12:18 pm

    I am your exact age, and … same. I work out a decent amount (not as much as you, though!) and eat well. I have gained weight anyway and really, really hate it. Not sure what, if anything, to do about it.

  • Reply RBW July 19, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    +1 to everyone! i’m 43, highest non-pregnancy weight ever, eating/being as active as before. I’m leaning into #5. 1 thing my PCP said that i found helpful– as someone who has always (naturally) been on the low end of healthy BMI, moving more into the middle range of healthy BMI as you enter perimenopause/lose estrogen can be safer for your bones.

    • Reply omdg July 19, 2023 at 12:42 pm

      It also smooths face wrinkles!

      • Reply RBW July 19, 2023 at 12:44 pm

        love it! way to reframe!

  • Reply Anne July 19, 2023 at 12:25 pm

    I echo others’ comments on how much I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing this. I don’t have much more to add but will recommend the book Fat Talk by Virginia Sole-Smith, which came out fairly recently. It is primarily about raising kids in the context of diet culture, but I found it very helpful in terms of my own reframing as to how I think about my body, eating, exercise, etc.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 19, 2023 at 12:37 pm

      thank you Anne!!

  • Reply Janelle July 19, 2023 at 12:37 pm

    Some advice you can take or leave….
    I don’t think you’ll be happy with an IUD as I don’t think it’s indicated for PMDD and if I remember correctly that was a big reason for going on OCP? Something to talk to your gyne about for sure. I do love mine but fortunately it’s for other reasons.
    You don’t have time to add another workout but what if you subbed a run for strength training? You said yourself you were in the best shape when you were doing strength training and it can definitely help with running too.
    I’d focus on prioritizing protein but not really changing anything else diet wise. I think you said you were going to work with Megan Featherstone? If not that’s a good idea!
    I’d also throw away my scale! Gretchen Rubin says ‘you manage what you monitor’ (I think) and if you aren’t monitoring your weight maybe it wouldn’t weigh so heavily on you?? This won’t help with clothes not fitting though… that would be annoying to me too!

  • Reply Kari July 19, 2023 at 1:02 pm

    Thought experiment: would you care had you not seen that number on the scale? I have been following your blog for a long time (10+ years) and it seems to me that in recent months following your work transition and with your more concerted running training you have been overall very happy. It seems a shame to me to potentially jeopardize that joy for a few lbs. let’s say you’re able to shed those pounds but something else has to go in it’s place – eg: your OCP, impacting your mood; your speed training, impacting your running enjoyment; your ability to enjoy a meal out with Josh/family from time to time; your well-controlled migraines. Do those feel like worthwhile trade offs? Is just ditching the scale an option?

    I really relate and struggle with the same thought patterns, and walking through some of these ideas has helped. If I feel awesome in my skin one day and the next day something makes me feel terrible – a scale, a pair of pants, etc – I try to think about getting rid of the object rather than changing my body/lifestyle/habits to fit that object.

    I saw a comment in a review on a pair of pants online recently that described them as allowing for some “body fluidity” and it struck a chord with me. Our bodies are fluid! They change over time!

    Also just want to note that as always I am very impressed with the quality of the discussion in the comments. Thanks, everyone!

    • Reply Kari July 19, 2023 at 1:14 pm

      Also – just a thought re: progesterone IUD (family physician here, can’t help myself):

      “ Progestin-only methods including the progestin-only pill (POP), levonorgestrel (LNG) IUD, etonorgestrel implant or depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) have the potential to negatively affect mood symptoms for women with or without baseline mood disorders, including PMDD. Careful counseling and close follow-up is recommended for patients with PMDD seeking these contraceptive methods.”


      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 19, 2023 at 1:55 pm

        oh wow. that is a potential dealbreaker for me. thank you so much for sharing!

    • Reply Ashley Chambers July 19, 2023 at 4:49 pm

      I love your point about :getting rid of the object rather than changing my body, etc”. So freeing!

  • Reply Noemi July 19, 2023 at 1:58 pm

    Just wanted to say THANK YOU for writing this. I have been dealing with some shitty body image stuff that I have not written about because I’m ashamed that I’m still thinking this stuff even though I know I shouldn’t be. And I write anonymously!
    I was a certain weight for many years and I felt fine at that weight and didn’t have to think about what I ate at all to maintain it. And then during the pandemic I lost weight because of anxiety stuff and starting strength training for the first time and I lost like 10lbs without really realizing it (at one point I had lost 15lbs and I did not look good). And now I want to keep that 10lbs off and when I’m back to my old stand by weight I don’t like how I look or feel. It sucks, because after a blissful decade of not caring about what I ate or worrying about my weight (the ONLY decade that was the case for me, I dealt with pretty disordered eating in my teens and 20s) I am back at it and I HATE it. It f***ing sucks and I would give anything not to have lost that 10lbs during the pandemic.

    Also, I gained a ton of weight when I was training for the one marathon I ran in my life. It’s really real.

  • Reply Daria July 19, 2023 at 2:26 pm

    I am SO glad you are bringing this up… All my life I have been 123 lbs,.. Had two pregnancies and two kids, breastfed for a year each one, and back to 120 lbs from about 145 lbs. Then, over the past year, went up to 130 lbs with no exercise and regular eating. Could be the Lexapro (not willing to give it up) or perimenopause? Like you, I feel like I have to make peace with my new weight now. maybe this is 42 after all…

  • Reply Bee July 19, 2023 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve run two marathons and have a similar body type to you in that I am petite and lean. I also get exercise-related migraines, I think tied to blood sugar and hydration levels on my runs. In training for my first, I definitely gained more weight than I would have liked. I was constantly hungry! Some of this may have been muscle/water/glycogen, but not all, for sure.

    For my second, I lost weight, without counting calories or carbs. What helped most was eating a fairly significant amount of calories immediately after my long runs (my favorite post-run snack was a ~400 calorie peanut butter, chocolate, banana smoothie). It really helped me feel fuller throughout the day so I didn’t have the urge to eat 3 donuts later in the day! Timing really matters. I often wouldn’t feel hungry immediately after a long run but would be starving later. I forced myself to eat within 30 minutes after exercise on the advice of other runners, and it made a HUGE impact on my energy levels and recovery also.

    I did not cut back on carbs but definitely chose higher quality carbs – sweet potatoes, multigrain breads, beans, etc. it sounds like you already eat pretty healthfully, so this one may not apply.

    Of course, I was younger at the time, so if age is a factor this may not help, but just a thought. It’s easy to finish a run and move right along to the next thing, or with just a light snack.

    Good luck!

  • Reply Ashley Chambers July 19, 2023 at 4:46 pm

    Here to commiserate, too! I’m 3 years post 2 kids, age 38, exercising regularly and eating better than ever…and still up about 5 lbs, my highest non-pregnant weight. UGH. I’ve been leaning into the strength training hard and hoping some of this is muscle. (Even though I feel like that’s what everyone tells themselves!) I alternate between beating myself up and giving myself an acceptance pep talk and allowing myself to buy new clothes. I’m a primary care doc – I know how these things work – it all changes as menopause approaches. But somehow I thought I would be immune?! ha. No advice, just here to say, me too.
    Gosh, I love all the comments! Especially this “Our western culture and the patriarchy have pummeled into our heads that we lose value as human beings once we don’t conform to a tiny ideal.” YES YES YES. Also, this confirms, I need to ditch the scale. No good comes from it mentally for me.
    You are doing great. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Ruth Down July 19, 2023 at 6:12 pm

    I love my mirena coil and it’s a very neat fix for perimenopause too because you can add transdermal oestrogen for super-safe HRT (I’m a UK health professional so I’m practicing what I preach!). I feel your pain, it’s hard to see your body changing when it’s not for a ‘good’ reason like pregnancy 🤦‍♀️. Intermittent fasting (8:16) and passing on most carbs keeps my clothes fitting comfortably.

    • Reply Ruth Down July 19, 2023 at 6:18 pm

      And forgot to say, I’ve had plenty of patients who experience PMMD get on just fine with a Mirena, so I definitely wouldn’t rule it out on those grounds

      • Reply Mary July 20, 2023 at 4:07 am

        I have the exact same set-up and it’s been life-changing. I thought I had PMDD as I was feeling very rage-y on top of all the other PMS-type emotions and symptoms but it turns out, I was peri-menopausal and didn’t realise it. The Mirena and transdermal oestrogen have sorted that out 100%. Also experiencing some annoying weight gain and clothes not fitting but I’m aware I’m also stress eating as I’m in the final months of my psychology doctorate so hard to know if that will shift again. One thing that helps me as regards the scales is to focus on the fat % and BMI rather than the weight numbers. I feel that helps me focus more on improving my health/strength, rather than dwelling on the weight as my weight fluctuates +-4 pounds depending on what I ate, whether I moved and recent bowel habits. Lastly, I also used to get frequent migraines but these drastically reduced when I came off the OCP. They have not returned on the Mirena/HRT.

  • Reply ehartung7 July 19, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks for being open and honest! This is going to make me sound like a total creeper but yesterday I re-read the post about you on Real Life Style about your virtual styling and one of my thoughts when she talks about buying things that last is always that as women our bodies change so much. I feel like that makes it harder when you invest and find clothes you love and then your body changes and it can be so frustrating that things no longer look the way they used to and then you need to get new clothes which is all kinds of frustrating. However, I have found the most peace with my body when I am wearing things that currently fit the body I have, as frustrating as it is to buy larger clothes.

    • Reply Seppie July 20, 2023 at 10:49 am

      I think that Able has some lines of clothing that they allow you to exchange when your size changes.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 20, 2023 at 11:06 am

        that is pretty cool!!

  • Reply Coco July 19, 2023 at 8:38 pm

    One more thought regarding weight gain. After decades of fixing to an ideal body weight I read outlive and realize the importance of muscles for longevity and lifespan. After knowing that my muscle mass is below median, I’m working toward building muscle, which obviously lead to weight gain, and am happy about it rather than feeling bad about it. So I guess once I figured out my ultimate priority (stay healthy, improve my lifespan, do things I enjoy which requires strength and endurance), I’m happy with my weight gain.

  • Reply Irene July 19, 2023 at 9:27 pm

    Oh Sarah, so sorry you are having to spend energy thinking about this but so grateful you are honest about it. I truly admire how you lay out these thoughts that I struggle to share even with my closest friends. I’m technically overweight so not in the same boat as you but around your age and it’s really hard to lose weight. Sometimes when I’ve been around my family (I have a couple family members who are morbidly obese and it affects their quality of life) I feel discouraged- we definitely don’t have a great genetic hand when it comes to weight. I will never be a size 2, honestly never was even at my thinnest/fittest and I feel like everything else I’ve accomplished in my life has an little asterisk next to it like “achieved while at a non-ideal weight “. I have watched people go through truly horrible eating disorders including self harm and hospitalizations and I just hate how hard all of this is for almost everyone it seems.

    On your actual post:
    I also gain weight when I run more than 20 miles a week or so. I don’t love it and I am not willing to gain 5 lbs to run so I don’t. It’s a bizarre thing to me.

    I 100 percent relate to eating to stave off a migraine. This is the story of my life- I also rarely make good choices if I’m hungry and a migraine is coming on. My brain just screams SUGAR at me and well I give it that.

    I think I’ve posted this before but I can’t tolerate any kind of hormonal birth control- they make my migraines much worse. Have you talked about this with your Gyn? I believe this is pretty common and I can’t remember when you started getting migraines but I don’t think you did when I first started reading you, or not as many. If you think there’s a chance they are contributing maybe you could try an SSRI or something for the non reproductive benefits of birth control.

    I think the inability to get hungry without a migraine was part of why I gain weight when I run. I just can’t handle the overwhelming feelings of hunger- my body seems on alert that I’m going to go run 10 miles again even if I’ve replenished the calories from my last run. I know this isn’t everyone’s experience but it was mine.

    Anyway, wishing you the best.

  • Reply Bryce July 20, 2023 at 11:07 am

    Late to the party, but one additional thought. This may sound trivial, but can you just buy new pants? There are lots of times our bodies change (puberty, babies, fertility treatments, nursing, postpartum, menopause, etc) and sometimes they are slightly different shapes for a while, or forever. I have found that sometimes when I think “I don’t like how my body looks/feels” it’s that my clothes just actually don’t fit. And when I wear clothes that fit, all of a sudden it feels fine. Your weight may go back down if/when you decrease mileage. It may not. It is a pretty rare woman who actually still weighs their “ideal” college-age weight by the time they are 50. If you’re healthy (and you are almost surely healthier with the running than without), then you might really want to think hard before you spend a lot of your limited time and energy fighting against what is actually a very small change in your body, and likely a natural part of the aging process.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 20, 2023 at 2:52 pm

      I would say I’m not ready for that yet but I may end up there. It just seems so abrupt.

  • Reply Erica Sparky July 23, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t think I’m going to say anything that others haven’t. This happens to me when I ramp up mileage too. I think a lot of it is water weight tbqh, due to eating more carbohydrates. I would suggest not changing anything diet wise until after your race. You’ve worked and trained so hard to get this speed and endurance and you don’t want to bonk! I gained 6-8 pounds of water weight last year when o was marathon training and it was gone two weeks later after some milder workouts and normal appetite. You’ll be okay! i know it’s hard to accept but maybe it’s what you need to be running fast and injury free.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 23, 2023 at 3:50 pm

      I *definitely* don’t want to bonk. I feel like I have time to experiment a bit with 20 weeks to go but I get what you are saying! Are you planning on training for another one?

  • Reply B July 24, 2023 at 9:13 am

    I’m having a similar struggle too – I have gained weight recently but I’m also running some of my fastest times (also totally recreationally, looking to run a half in the fall). I know part of it is because I have seen an increase in high-calorie beverages and that obviously needs to be addressed, and otherwise my diet is probably okay. Trying to up my vegetable intake a little but carbs are good for running.

  • Reply San July 28, 2023 at 5:54 pm

    Weight loss and training do NOT go hand in hand. I think you shouldn’t change anything (unless it’s obvious that you’re indulging a little too much).

    I also read ROAR and thought there was so much helpful information in there.

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