I visited a partner in the corporate wellness world recently and was invited to get scanned on their shiny new body composition analysis tool called InBody.
While I did shed my 5" heels, I quickly tried to calculate in my head what my largish necklace and dress weighed. I guess the answer depends on what the scale says, right? At least two pounds, give or take.
So there I was, nervous as hell, considering I haven't stepped on a scale in many months. Nothing has changed per se. My diet has been consistent for the last three years, and I am getting a hardcore workout in 2-3 times a week. To be honest, there was a little part of me that was actually excited about seeing what the magic number was.
Except the number wasn't AT ALL what I was expecting. So much so that I toddled backwards off the machine, amid beeps and grunts as the next step in the process of saving and printing my stats was thwarted by my pained response.
Crap. I hate this feeling.
When I left, I immediately texted my girlfriend Sonia the stats and very convincingly informed her that I likely would never eat again. She was working, so I knew I wouldn't be helped by her supportive girlfriend response. I was on my own for this very weighty (pun!) tidbit to settle into my brain and gather acceptance.
While I had decided to denounce food in general, there was no better time for a glass of wine, so I poured myself a glass and sat on the couch to determine my true feelings about THE NUMBER.
Flashback: On my honeymoon almost four years ago I was 126 pounds, hanging in a bikini in Hawaii and making my sweet hubs miserable with my obsession of my appearance.
I was skinny fat, soft, back rolls and all. My efforts at the time were focused primarily on limiting calories and flouncing around the house now and then in a desperate minute of squats or a few yoga poses before I was straddled like a horse by my 3-year old.
Nothing was pretty except for the number on the scale which I was proud of for my 5'9" height. It was my high school weight. A huge accomplishment, right? But I couldn't have been more disappointed in how hard I had to work to keep myself there, much less what it looked like on the outside. If I wasn't consumed by my appearance, I was consumed with thoughts of all the food I wasn't eating.
Fast forward to present day and I am deeply appreciative of the mindset we are gifted when we turn 40. I care a wee bit less of my appearance (as in the back of my hair sometimes doesn't get addressed before I leave the house, or yes, I have indeed worn these pants three days in a row), BUT I also got super smart about fitness and nutrition and finally see the payoff I had been working so hard for the past 15 years.
I have been walking around the last few years with an air of confidence in my physique, talking to groups about nutrition, prevention and wellness or teaching fitness classes and generally feeling like a million bucks. Am I really going to let this number on the scale take that away from me? That feels unrighteous. And pathetic.
Actually, I kind of feel like the scale is prejudice. It generalizes in a way that is completely unfair and unreasonable. But let's be honest, it's not really this flat piece of equipment that is at fault. It's our obsession with a number that is so much more complicated than we give it credit for.
-Exchanging muscle for fat doesn't necessarily mean you are going to "lose weight". Losing body fat is so much more important, but often goes unappreciated because everyone insists that in order to be successful in weight loss or healthy living, you must see a reduction on the scale or achieve a certain number you are fixated on because it seems appropriate.
-The scale doesn't account for muscle mass or how good you look in your jeans. I am not going to lie, my husband tells me almost daily that my "back side" is the best it has have ever been. I tend to agree.
-Are you going to shame your organs for adding to your total body weight? Your left lung likely weighs well over one pound. Did you want to donate it to get closer to that target number that exists in your head? Should you insist on eliminating all of that unused brain mass to further your cause? (yes, this is a ridiculous comparison, but work with me. I'm making a point.)
-We don't lead with our weight in anything other than the lie we tell on our driver's license. It isn't blinking on our forehead, people don't automatically assign you a number when they meet you.
-The clothes you shop for aren't listed for your weight.
The truth about numbers is that what 125 pounds looks like on one person's frame is usually very different on another. If you hear that Gisele Bundchen weighs 125 pounds, do you want the number or the body that goes with it? Kim Kardashian weighs the same and I think we all agree their bodies are quite different, including 8 inches in height.
For me, the only way to achieve anything near 125 pounds would be severe calorie deprivation and getting rid of all this lean muscle mass. No thank you.
The bottom line for me is that skinny fat was a miserable way to live. Not to mention extremely unhealthy and a possible precursor to disease considering the increase in visceral fat.
Often our goal weight is completely unreasonable. Who you were in high school mentally is just as different as comparing your body then and now. You have a history, an evolution, and if you are like me, a womb that changed the entire course of your being.
So in my I-know-better state of mind, I let all of these truths wash over me again. I focused instead on the fact that I also scanned at 18% body fat and at 41 years of age, this is a really good number. I celebrated the fact that these past few years have allowed me to truly SEE success in my body, the changes I craved for years when my efforts at extreme fitness or calorie restriction NEVER resulted in anything good. EVER.
I was even so bold as to post a picture of me post workout, inquiring on my SollusFit Facebook page what people thought I weighed. The responses ranged from 128 lbs to a whopping 170 but only 17% of the guesses were accurate or higher than my true weight. If this wasn't an eye opener in and of itself, I don't know what was.
Sure, in my head my weight isn't necessarily all that comfortable to grasp in our society's obsession with numbers (calories, grams, pounds, what have you) BUT the results of focusing on the right equation of nutrition and exercise has allowed me to appreciate what this number means to me and my health. I don't live life hungry or food obsessed, I have a raging metabolism, fill my body with all the right foods and happily indulge when I feel like it.
Having lived on both sides of the fence, the skinny/higher body fat, miserable and obsessed versus fit, fed and confident, I just wish I would have known what I know now, back when I became focused on the wrong efforts to modify my physique and the number on the scale. Even more important though, I continue to celebrate teaching my three daughters the appropriate focus for a healthy life, physically and mentally.
As I drained the last bit of wine in my glass, I realized I had been distracted for some time thinking through the very literal ups and downs of my weight over the years. I was running late. It was time to make dinner. Case closed.