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Study: Women Don't Notice Weight Gain--Do You Agree?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I read an interview recently with Kathy Ireland, whom many of us know best as the Sports Illustrated cover model. Ireland is now 48 and a successful entrepreneur worth more than an estimated $300 million. I didn't know that about Ireland, so I read a few more articles about her online.

A few years ago, Ireland realized she had put on 25 pounds in as many years--without really noticing. I was not making enough time to take care of me," she told People magazine after successfully and safely losing the weight in 2009.

At first I was surprised. Twenty-five pounds is a good deal of weight--that's the size of a toddler! How could you not notice? But then I thought back to my own weight gain of almost 50 pounds, and I understood exactly what she meant. If you gained 25 pounds overnight, you would notice, but when it creeps on slowly, we tend not to notice.

I didn't gain 50 pounds overnight. I gained 10 my first year of college, yo-yoed another 10 until graduation, then another 10 the year after college, and 20 in less than a year after that. I didn't really think about the weight gain until those last 20 piled on. I was working second shift at the newspaper, going out with friends most nights, eating takeout (and huge portions!) for dinner on a regular basis, and not exercising. Moderation was not in my vocabulary.

If you've never gained weight, it's easy to doubt how people can seem oblivious to their gain. But if you've been there, you can relate--and a recent study bolstered those claims. A study of 466 women over 36 months found that 1 in 3 didn't notice a gain of 4.5 pounds in 6 months, while 25% didn't notice a 9-pound increase during the same time period.

And in 2010, a study found that 4 in 10 overweight women believe themselves to be of normal weight.

These studies certainly flout the stereotypes that most women are hyper-aware of their weight and that most of us believe we're fat.

What do you think? Do you have trouble perceiving your true size?

We often hear from members who have trouble recognizing the person in the mirror after losing weight (I struggle with that even today at my fittest and lowest adult weight), but we don't often talk about the other end of the spectrum.

When I started to gain weight and noticed, I liked my body. I had curves--and people noticed. Then one day, I realized that I had ventured from the upper end of healthy to the lower end of overweight. I knew it was time to do something about it.

Throughout your own weight-loss journey, how did you feel? Did you have trouble recognizing that you had gained weight, or did your struggle with body perception begin after you lost the weight?

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I don't notice 10 pounds (sadly I know this from the vast amount of experience I have on gaining the first 10 pounds over and over gain), but at 20 I notice and think "darn it! I did it again! After all the work to get rid of the weight and here I am again!". Because I'm so mad at myself I'm not in the mindset to lose the weight so I go into denial and gain 10 more. Usually by then I'm forced to acknowledge the weight and decide to do something about it (hopefully) Report
I gained weight the same exact way as listed in this blog! I didn't notice it until clothes started to be a bit snug. It still wasn't "that bad" until I started to see pictures of myself. Now I'm disgusted with it and taking steps to become healthier and more comfortable and fit. I completely agree & understand how people don't realize they're gaining weight. Report
I notice, but my denial is tremendous. For me, it has been realizing that I no longer take what I consider to be flattering pictures. I look fat in those pictures because I AM fat. Ouch. I have decided that once I reach my goal, I am going to continue to weigh in weekly. If I go up ten pounds I'm going to start monitoring what I eat until I go back down. I simply can't rely on my ability to pay attention to subtle changes in my body, or fully acknowledge how much I eat when I eat too much. Report
How I can relate ..... At first it was just a 5 pound gain. No big deal. Clothes still fit .... it will come off. Then, 10 pounds .... ooops .... again, no big deal. clothes somewhat snug, but it came off before, so what ??? And, then, a total of 15 pound gain on the scale .... realized I was chosing clothes to adapt to weight gain !!! Gradually, I was back to my old unhealthy eating habits. Report
Like you I did not notice the first 15 but the next 15 I did....
I never notice until one day I will look in the mirror and go, "Whoa, these clothes didn't look like this when I bought them!" I had gotten used to my weight and felt comfortable at 175lbs (I'm 5'9"). At the time I was in a long-term relationship of two years. When we broke up, I stepped on the scale and was stunned to see 189lbs! 14lbs in two years! After that, my life started to go into hyper speed and I was working 10 hour days 4 days a week and I was on my feet all day and moving boxes and I would forget to eat or I wouldn't have time. It was about two months later that I stepped on the scale and saw that I was down to 152lbs. I hadn't noticed that either. That was 3 years ago and now I'm all the way up to 192lbs. I don't notice it until one day I'm just like, "where did this extra half of a person come from?!?" I think a part of the problem is that women are often distracted by other things in their life (relationships, work, people, stress) that they forget to stop and assess how they feel, how their body is coping, etc. Inner reflection and awareness is key to noticing weight change. Report
I really started noticing when I gain ten pounds. That is when I stopped thinking I was pretty and began called myself fat. Report
Looking back, I didn't really notice all the weight I had put on. I was always overweight, so becoming obese just was. There was a point where I decided I was tired of buying bigger clothes, but like you said, it was put on slowly so I didn't notice. Now I look back at pictures and wonder how I didn't notice, but I didn't. I weight myself daily now so I do notice when the weight starts to go up just a little, but I adjust. Report
When I gained weight it took me about 30 pounds to really notice. At first I just felt a little "softer" I knew I had put on a couple pounds, but I never would have guessed it was 30! Report
When I was younger I was very slim but at the time I did not think of myself that way (hmmm, what was that all about???). Just recently I found a picture of myself during those years and was shocked at how skinny I was. Over the years I have gained weight but nothing that was potentially a health issue. But during those years my clothes size increased and I just accepted that as "getting older". Now, I, know that I am not "fat" but I am also not the weight I should be. So in order not to have to buy new clothes (either larger ones or smaller ones) I am going to become more comfortable in my present clothes. So tell me, why is this journey taking so long! 8) Report
When I was young I was very skinny. At the time I did not think so (???hmmmm what was that all about) Report
We don't want to know we're gaining weight. The clothes that no longer fit tell the truth. As for people thinking their weight is "normal", maybe "average" is a more accurate word. Average these days is NOT normal, it's overweight. Report
Yes, I notice every ounce I gain - whether temporary (water weight) or more permanent. Of course, like many others, I ignored it or blamed it on age so now I have a hard row to hoe to get back to a reasonable healthy size! Report
When I was 50 years old I married my third husband, and I weighed 123 pounds. We decided to start our own business shortly after that and with the long hours we put in most of our meals were in a restaurant. It wasn't long until I had gained 25 pounds. I didn't really notice as my blouse size didn't change, and I suppose I went up 1 or 2 sizes in my jeans, I can't remember as that was years ago -- but I did not really notice. Back in those days I was not obsessed with the scale, so I didn't weigh myelf that often. Now I do it on a daily basis. Report
I was always a skinny kid and adult (105 lbs) until after my 4th child then I began gaining weight. I was so happy to not be skinny any more that I didn't care about the weight. Now that I have health issues I have to get busy losing the weight. Report
In answer to the question, how can you not know that you are gaining: Everyone's body is different. I am one of those people who doesn't gain weight in one area, but a little bit all over. It's really easy for me to gain an extra 5 pounds if I'm not paying attention. Honestly I could probably gain 10-15 pounds and 90 percent of my clothes would still fit.
Since I've started loosing weight I've noticed that my ring size has gone down 3 sizes and my shoes fit more loosely. Some people because of their frame will notice weight gain imediately and some people are like I was.
When I gained my weight it wasn't that I didn't know that I had gained some weight, but I had no idea how much I had gained even though I stood in front of the mirror everyday.
I have had to learn how to pay attention to my body so that I would never be in the position to where I could just gain 10 or 20 pounds and not notice. Report
I so agree. It seemed like I had awakened and there it was, extra weight!!!!
Did not see it coming! Life took over and I was not in tune with me. Being older
has helped me focus on myself. We must always remember to take care of us first and family second. They need us to be healthy for them too! Report
If I'm working on losing weight and have a bad week or month and gain, I definitely notice. But when I'm not purposely trying to lose weight and I just eat what is my normal eating habits, then I don't notice the weight gain as I am blessed that I typically gain weight slowly. I always have been a fairly healthy eater and have never been very heavy. Most of my weight gain that I'm trying to lose now happen over 7 years and was mostly due to going from a fairly active lifestyle to a very sedentary lifestyle, mostly because of my job. I used to be a person who did a lot of walking, hiking, biking, etc. Then with a career change, I now sit for 8-9 hours a day and am more tired in the evenings so I hadn't been getting out as much and slowly gained about 5-10 pounds a year, which wasn't noticeable at first. So, I can believe with some people they don't notice it. I think it depends on how quickly you put on the weight and how it's distributed across your body. Report
I can gain a few pounds without noticing, but anything beyond that I'm acutely aware of. When you're 5'1", you notice weight gain quickly! Report
Same thing happen to me. I did not gain my 42lbs over night. And usually carry 3-5lbs during my cycles each month. That I do notice but as I got older did less about it thinking "Oh it will come off when my cycle is done." Silly on my part because one month it did not, and so on and so on and so on and so on...poof 42lbs later. Report
a woman might not notice a 4.5 gain in six months because some women (like myself) can "gain" at least 3-4 pounds in a day from water retention. Bloating can cause a woman to gain upwards of 10+ pounds and we know how regularly woman can bloat. So, I can see how many women might not notice a weight gain if they think it's water weight.

However, if they aren't watching what they eat or they aren't exercising, then the weight can creep up fast. But, a person would notice a substantial gain over time. if they didn't, they're deluding themselves.

I knew it when I was gaining weight. Why didn't I put a stop to it ? Like many people, I got really complacent and depressed about my weight. I knew I had to do something, but figured I just needed to lose a few pounds. Little did I know that those few pounds had eventually turned into fifty.

I suspect most women really do know when they are gaining weight. They might not like to admit because we're all self conscious about our weight.

How many women would tell you their real weight if you asked them ??

If almost everyone weigh to monitor weight gain..my BFF is my TAPE MEASURE. I practically measure every single day..
...maybe due to the fact I cn control it easier than looking on the actual
Number itself.that being my obsession..I hardly can think of anyone
Not being conscious of the way they look esp if the Jeans starts to fit too TIgHt.. Report
Some people may have the luxury of only being moderately overweight when engaging in unrestricted eating. Since they don't have to think about their intake and they're roughly the size of the people around them, it's entirely believable that they would not notice weight gain or realize that they're "overweight" by height/weight ratios.

Others of us are not so lucky. I can easily gain 10 pounds in a MONTH of unrestricted eating. People like me are certainly aware when we are unhealthily large. It's hard not to know, when you're super morbidly obese. LOL

And for us to stay a healthy size takes a whole lot of vigilance and very very hard work.

I weigh myself every single morning and track my % body fat too. I calculate a weighted moving average to smooth out the fluctuations.

And I have a specific +/- 3% range defined around a target weight as a guide. If/when I stray out of that +/- 3% window I know I'm no longer maintaining and I drop my target calories (which I also track daily)

As I said, it's a whole lot of work, but it's what I personally need to do to stay this size and shape. And it's worth it. Report
I noticed, but for a long time in did not "register". I notice every pound now that I've taken some off! Report
Oh no, we absolutely notice every ounce, every pound that blossoms.

About 12 years ago, I noticed I was gaining weight. But I had been 'thin' for so many years, I took a kind of curious, scientific approach and stepped back to watch it happen. Now that I have worked hard just to lose 20 of those pounds, I am VERY aware of even the slightest weight gain. Report
We notice but go into denial because we don't want to diet like our mothers and grandmothers did. Plus most of us have always had a distorted view of our bodies and that just carries over, even when we've added 80 lbs. to our frames. When I was thin, I thought I was fat. When I was fat, I was shocked at HOW fat I look in pictures since I didn't FEEL that fat.
Changing my distorted body image is a major goal of mine. Report
No, we notice--we surely do! Report
Oh I noticed alright! How could I deny it when my jeans stopped fitting. It got to the point where I couldn't button the waist, and then I couldn't even do the zipper. At first I resisted buying new larger clothes, so I would just wear a giant shirt over my unzipped pants--ee gads! When I finally gave in to buying proper fitting clothes, I had gone up 2-3 sizes. I'm happy to say that I am now back to my original size--and able to zip and button. But I do notice even a couple pound fluctuation. Report
Perhaps it's "vanity", but I was a dancer in my youth and I tend to notice every pound. It's been a good thing for me to use an important tool as I don't tend to let things "get too out of control". Personally the scale has been my friend and I weigh once a week to keep my weight in check. Report
I don't normally know ho wmuch however, I can tell when I'm gaining and losing. My clothes fit differently on both accounts. That's when I feel I need to do something about that as weight lost and gains can be expensive. I like my clothes so I'm working on getting back in them and have never been a faddish type of person. I like things that will last, classic! Report
Interesting blog. I did not notice the weight and even after losing a lot of it I do not see it. I believe it has to do with our perception of ourselves. If you "feel" fat or unattractive you continue to do so with or without weight loss - it is more a self-perception issue than a actual weight issue. That of course does not mean there is not a weight issue. Since I have joined Spark, I have been very careful to weigh myself only once a week so that I can see the number on the scale but not allow it to become a downfall on the weeks that I do not lose weight. I think if you have a good perception of who you are you continue to have it even if you gain a few pounds. If you have a bad perception of who you are you continue to have it even if you lose a lot of weight. I think that is why a lifestyle change works for so many individuals because if you say I am going to eat healthy for healthy's sake it disconnects the loss from the perception issue. You may still have a bad perception about yourself but at least you are eating healthy. Report
It all depends on how observant your are. Before I really got serious about losing weight, I didn't weigh in regularly. And the weight did creep up. After losing weight while breastfeeding my first two kids, over the course of a year or two my weight would go back up to 175 (and I was on birth control, which I don't care what they say, it caused me to gain weight), for a gain of about 20 pounds. Then, after my last kid, I was more serious about keeping the weight off, and I got off all meds. I now weigh daily, which keeps me on track day-to-day. I've been able to keep my weight in a healthy BMI range for about 3 years now. Report
Of course I notice when I gain weight!!! My clothes fit different with every pound I gain!!!!! How could you not notice unless you are wearing something different everyday and don't look at the size!!! Report
We have to work at being aware and holding ourselves accountable. Report
I weigh myself every day in the morning, it's as ritual as brushing my teeth in the morning. I can understand why people think this is obsessive behavior, but it's THE best way to monitor your weight! The day I see I put on even one pound, I eat less the next day to get back to normal. When I go on holidays for even a few days and come back, I get scared to weigh myself again in case I've gained weight. I think it nurtures the feeling of denial about weight gain when you go for soooooooo long without weighing yourself that you don't want ever want to do it-- because it's been so long, there's a chance you may have gained 5, 10, 15 pounds, who would want to see this and find out?? If you do it daily, you KNOW you couldn't have gained more than 2 pounds in a day so there's no fear of weighing yourself. Keep a daily monitor guys, don't be scared of weighing yourself!! It's the ultimate fight against denial and letting the weight slowly pile on. Report
I didn't used to notice until my clothes were getting tighter. Now I notice when my rings are getting tighter--which is only about 2 pounds. It keeps me responsive early, when it's easier to get back on the path. Report
You notice the weight gain when your clothes get tight on you and then they areto small for you to fit in to. And when you lose your clothes become lose on you. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
I haven't gained more than 7 lbs of unwanted weight because I DO notice when I put on weight and I DO something about it before it becomes 10 lbs or more. I do not understand how someone can let 25-50 lbs "creep up". Even without a scale, I notice my clothes being tight or even feeling heavier when I've gained 3-4 lbs. How can you not? Report
Everyone's posts were great, but BeachSandPiper really stood out to me. Congratulations and also a very encouraging post. I have been on Sparkpeople for over 4 years, coming and going, but always feel safe and sure that I can meet my weight loss goals when I commit to checking in. Report
I truly believe Ms. Ireland. I look at pictures and can not believe I did not feel, did not see and did not change until a climb on the scale and a glimpse in the mirror fresh from the shower. I am not neurotic about the scale, it has however become my friend because it guides me as much as my dedication to exercise and nutrition! Report
It does creep up and as many others mentioned as long as my clothes fit I didnt notice. Whole lot harder to lose than gain Report
You may not notice it if you go from a size 0 to a size1, but if you're a size 8 and a few years lates a size 16 is tugging on you, you notice. Report
I'm a very large women, so when I gain weight, but still fit in the same size range (up to 15 lbs), I don't really notice. That being said, I've definitely been living in denial about how much I weigh for a long, long time. Despite all of the evidence, I just didn't see myself as obese or perhaps couldn't handle the knowledge. If I admitted it, I would have to give up some of my favorite drug: food. Report
Yes, I noticed as I am 5 feet and even a small gain is noticeable. Report
I defintely noticed. My 75lbs stacked on in 9 months due to my pregnancy. I walked the entire time, and according to my husband I wasn't eating enough because I was worried about gaining to much. But the weight piled on anyway. I have a job dependent on being fit. We fitness test 6 months after our delivery. For me that wasn't enough time to take the weight off and pass, so I failed pretty much putting me on probation. Being healthy is awesome, but you can't loose weight in a healthy way if you have a mandatory time limit. Report
I notice because of how my clothes fit on me. I can always tell. They feel tighter or looser depending on the weight gain even when it is small. Report
I notice now that I'm older. Every little thing adds up now! Report
I have been varying degrees of fat my whole life and I'm hyperaware of any change in my weight. The only time I didn't notice was when I lost two sizes of clothes during a brief time I didn't own a scale -- I actually thought that some of my clothes had stretched out. I'm short (about 5'0.5") so any weight gain is more pronounced on me than it would be on someone of average height.

I have had two tall friends gain 20 or so pounds without noticing. Both of them had always been thin and had never really thought about such things. I was a fat kid and no one would let me forget that I was fat, so it's something I think about pretty much constantly. Report
I always notice weight gain, even just a little bit.

But I think there are two levels of noticing. In the past I have frequently noticed it, and then ignored it and my conscious mind has behaved like it doesn't know at all. Then seemingly all of a sudden quite awhile later I have a little crisis and face up to what I actually knew all along.

I do wonder how often this is the case. That people see it happening but are unwilling to take the necessary steps to stop it, and so pretend it isn't happening? Definitely has been my problem. Report
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