My Year Without a Scale

I’m going to do something that I normally really dislike doing. It’s something that I very actively and purposefully try and not talk about both on my blog and in real life, and there are a number of reasons why. This topic-that-shall-not-be-named revolves around an issue that we, namely females, inevitably think about all too often, whether we like to our not.

What we weigh, how we look, and the changes we think “need” to be made to our bodies.

As runners, these are issues we face in a somewhat different way than the average female. Fortunately, I think most of us know that we need proper fuel, and we understand that our bodies are only going to work most effectively if they are fed and fed often. However, at the same time, we want to maintain a lean, strong physique so that our speed and endurance stays high. So, although our activity level typically allows us to concentrate a bit less on being uber-healthy all the time, and more on extra pasta consumption, we are still faced daily with “body thoughts.”

And to be frank, I really don’t like body thoughts, and I don’t like that this topic seems to be all girls talk about when they get together.

I will 100%, totally admit to being victim of the looming thoughts of what if I gain weight, what if my jeans look tight, or if I should really have another piece of candy. I’m not going to pretend that I’m somehow past all these tendencies, and in fact I’m far from them. However, this does not mean that I think we, as women, should be incessantly, communally discussing these things.

I think constant body talk between women is one of the most toxic scenarios we can engage in, and it’s a slippery slope to go from simple talk about workouts and favorites foods into diets we “should” be doing and why we’re somehow not up to par with the perfect arms, the perfect stomach…you get it. I think it’s way too easy for women to get caught up in these discussions (myself included) because unfortunately we are hardwired (Thanks, every women’s magazine on the market) to think them each and every day, and when we’re offered an outlet to free these thoughts—we jump at them. Conversations of substance and self-fulfillment are completely drowned by our tendency to jump on “What I Ate Today” talk, and personally I very actively avoid fostering these conversations.

I have been around them, I have vehemently participated in them, and I have realized that I no longer want to be around them. This is one of the biggest reasons I don’t tend to talk about these things on my blog, and I try and surround myself with people who would rather talk about margaritas and fro-yo than diets and losing 5 pounds.

I haven’t always been this way though, and I do still contradict myself. But I am making very purposeful strides in surrounding myself with people, both in real life and in my virtual readings, that focus on all the great things going on instead of all the things they wish they could change.

So, with all that said, I’m going to delve a bit into this topic I dislike so very much. But I promise, it will have a dignifying ending and it will be chalk-full of lessons I’ve learned myself and I think other people could benefit from as well.

Yesterday marked a one-year anniversary, and one that I am quite proud of. It has been exactly one year since I have stepped on a scale. That seems NUTS to me! I’ve never been super intent on weighing myself, however I can guarantee I have never gone this long in my life without any precise knowledge of what I weigh. Well, in my post-pubescent life I suppose. I remember the last time I was on a scale so precisely because it was at a doctor’s appointment for my hip injury, and I can conscientiously remember at that time thinking, “If I hate getting on the scale, why do I always look at it when I’m at the doctor?”

Now, in no way am I shaming anyone who likes to keep tabs on what they weigh. For a lot of people I think it has some good accountability effects, and it helps keep their fitness goals in check. However, I am willing to bet that there are very few females out there who have a “healthy” relationship with the scale. One number off from where we’d “like” the reading to be can throw us into a panic attack about what we’re doing wrong, what we should be doing more (or less) of, and essentially all the reasons why we are failures. We step on the scale hoping for justification, either a number at or below what we imagine to be “ideal,” because if that number appears we feel justified and successful.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with feeling a sense of success if you are actively trying to lose weight and there’s a certain number you want to scale to read. However, for the rest of us, those of us who eat healthy enough, exercise frequently, and try and maintain an at-least somewhat healthy lifestyle, I think the scale can be your absolute worst enemy.

If you are proactively living a healthy life, why should you need some number to define that success? If you feel healthy, if you feel good, then that should absolutely suffice as a means of self-satisfaction. Scales are completely variable, and the number can be altered by any assortment of factors; how much water you’ve recently drank, when your last meal was, when you last went to the bathroom, how much sodium you have in you, etc., etc. I could weigh myself on two back-to-back days and the scale may say something entirely different depending on the number of chips and guac I ate, or simply the clothing I’m wearing.

{The number of chips and guac I consume in a sitting can most often be defined as “all of them,” if you need some clarity}

The point is, the scale tricks you, and you are a much more reliable source of information regarding your current state of self-content. Many people think that numbers on a scale are more tangible and specific than, say, the way our clothes fit or—gasp—how we feel about ourselves. Thanks Cosmo, Women’s Health, Shape, and every other “credible” health news source for constantly berating us with this memo. I believe that it is the thought that you are only as good as the number on the scale that has completely given numbers and scales all the power, and I think this mentality is completely backward.

I remember when I was in my mid-to-late teens I would sometimes ask my mom how I looked, if I looked like I’d gained or lost weight, etc. Now, there were definitely times when the real answer was, “Robyn, you are a freshman in college and you’ve been living off alcohol and dorm pizza for a semester, what did you expect?” But, my mother, bless her, did not say this. In response to my pleads for if I looked like I had gained weight, she replied, “Well, how do you feel?”

And this is the question I still ask myself, as an alternative to stepping on a scale—and it has become a much healthier and freeing way to live. When I finish a long run, and I’m caked in sweat and salt and desperate for a huge bagel, am I thinking about what the scale says?

Hell the F no.

I feel fantastic, I feel accomplished, and I feel healthy—all completely independent of whatever number the scale would say if I stepped on it. By deciding to not weigh myself, I have started to regain the power over my self-satisfaction and established a valuable understanding of how to be my own judge.

Are there times when I’m curious what I weigh? Sure. Having gone through two marathon training cycles, I am marginally interested to see if there’s been any affect. But that interest is rooted in the part of me that still subscribes to Women’s Health and thinks about how I could probably afford to stop eating desserts every night. Instead, I prefer to think about it like this:

I have legs that can run 26.2 miles in a row

I have arms that can do more push-ups that any Barbie-arm girl could ever think of.

I have a stomach that always enjoys cookies, beer, and bread baskets.

I have feet that look like a car ran over them, and all semblance of pedicured toes has been gone for years. But it’s because they’ve spent hours stuffed in running shoes, pounding on the ground, and carrying whatever-it-is I weigh up and down hills, through the snow and rain, and over hundreds of miles.

And guess what? I love these things about myself. I love them more than any “ideal” number on a scale could ever say, and whenever I start to think that there’s a certain standard I’m unable to reach, I remind myself that the body I do have is the one that has given me so many more rewards and accomplishments than I could have every hoped for.

My year without a scale has also been a year when I became a marathoner, when I started to rid myself of toxic conversations and acquaintances, when I started a blog, and when I realized that if I eat healthy, stay active, and focus on the positive—why should a certain number of pounds matter? I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think that by letting the scale rest in the metaphorical cobwebs, I have begun to unlearn the self-deprecating habits that unfortunately hold almost every female in our society captive.

It is this new mentality that has made me very adverse to discussions and blog posts regarding weight loss, weight gain, and body talk in general. Again, I’m not immune to it and I probably have at least one “I wish this was different…” thought every day. But, by ridding myself of the scale and focusing on what my body can do as opposed to what it’s not doing, or looking like, I feel much more free and in control.

So, what is the underlying point to all this? Well, I’m not telling you to stop weighing yourself or to throw your scale in the dumpster (although such a move would be epicly super-female-empowering-movie-esque, and you should send me a picture). But, I am encouraging all my lady friends, relatives, and readers out there to concentrate more on all the things we do have going for us, as opposed to all the things we wish was different. Because this much I know is true: The way you “think” you should be is frequently not your opinion at all; it’s the opinion we have been forced to believe with every goddamn ad, magazine, movie, tv show, and photo out there. If you are living a healthy life, you are exactly the way you’re supposed to be, and that is absolutely something to be fist-pumping proud of.

Sometimes I get really You Go Girl about things, and this is one of them. If you disagree with some of the things I’ve said, that’s totally fine—I realize a lot of these thoughts are my opinion and you’re welcome to think differently. But, no matter what you believe, allow me to please encourage you to think about how you measure your self-worth. More likely than not, you’re going to discover the unfortunate reality that we rely very heavily on pop-culture “information” as our instruction book for self esteem. This isn’t right, and I think we owe it to ourselves to regain the power in the battle each of us faces every day. Because we do have that power, and it’s our’s for the taking if we choose to redirect our energy and attention in more constructive and positive lights.

 

Have you ever broken up with the scale? Do you think there’s any value in them? Is there anything to be gained by discussing our body issues with our female friends? This is the only time I’ll ever ask these types of questions, so speak loudly!

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “My Year Without a Scale

  1. lbbroker

    Great post. It’s always nice to see that something you did as a parent actually stuck 🙂

    P.S. You look as good as you feel.

    Reply
  2. Lauren

    I’m a little conflicted on this one. Of course, I agree with you that the # of pounds one weighs is not as important as one’s health. However, I feel like a lot of running bloggers promote a quantity and quality of eating that isn’t sustainable for an average person, or even someone who runs 20 miles per week.

    Instead of a dichotomy between “margaritas and fro-yo” versus “diets and losing 5 pounds,” I’d prefer to see discourse that talks about maintaining and fueling a healthy body. Sometimes that does not mean running 20 miles and then drinking 6 margaritas … it means eating small portions of greek yogurt and quinoa.

    Not that I’m an authority on that! But I have been consciously trying not to eat Dairy Queen immediately after every long run, with the rationale that “I just worked out so hard, I deserve it.”

    Reply
    1. runbirdierun Post author

      I totally know what you mean, and I think I was just trying to show the contrast between conversations that are about self-deprivation, and those that are about enjoying a more relaxed life. I think I have a jilted mindset about it because I’ve been fortunate enough to be educated on what proper, healthy fueling should be—therefore it’s comes more second nature to me. And amen! to greek yogurt and quinoa…two of my staples 🙂

      Reply
      1. Lauren

        Yeah, I think it would be a great topic to cover! Because Eat Birdie Eat doesn’t necessarily have to be cookies the size of your face… but not all running bloggers appear to have realized that.

  3. runkaylarun

    Bravo to you! I love this post. There are far too many girls in my life that obsess over the number on the scale (I’ll admit I used to be one of them!). We only have one life-might as well enjoy it 🙂

    Reply
  4. runkaylarun

    Bravo to you! I love this post. There are far too many girls in my life that obsess over that number on the scale (I’ll admit I used to be one of them). Life is too short 🙂

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Friday Favorites: Naughty Books and Cheeseburgers | Run Birdie Run

  6. Pingback: 1 Year Old! | Run Birdie Run

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s