Last week, we had a scale at our CrossFit gym. We were filling sandbags and needed exact weights. It did not take long for the scale to become the center of attention.
“Why is THAT here?”
“I’m NOT getting on that thing!!”
Almost every woman who entered the front door cringed when she saw it. One simple, metal square with a tiny flashing screen was terrorizing the entire community.
I had several conversations that week about perspective. We do not encourage our CrossFit athletes to use the scale to measure their success. Muscle mass outweighs body fat; oftentimes, our athletes might not show progress on the scales to match their actual physical transformation. Paying attention to performance, body measurements and BMI can be much more accurate reflections of physical progress. Most people start to feel better and lose puffiness and inflammation when they clean up their nutrition. Their bodies tone up and body proportions shift. The changes can be dramatic.
At age 22, the girl on the left side of the picture was extremely concerned with the number on the scale. I got married that year, and 125 pounds was the body weight I deemed acceptable. While I was disappointed to no longer be the 115 pound girl I was in high school, I knew that 125 had to be my stopping point. Any closer to 130 would be too much and represent the infamous “Freshman Fifteen.” I ran a tight ship and monitored my weight very closely. Low-fat and fat-free fake foods filled my pantry. I sipped on Slim Fast, tried all the latest diet fads and joined Weight Watchers. Exercise was punishment- something I did to my body, not for my body.
Sixteen years later, the girl on the right in the picture is only concerned about the weight on her bar. That 125 pounds sounds good for a snatch weight but not as my body weight. My younger self would be devastated to know that I have exceeded her self-imposed weight limit by 13 pounds! She would choke on her fat free Fig Newtons. I do not eat a low fat diet, quite the contrary in fact, and I do not count calories. I spend a lot of time preparing fresh, real food for my family, and I take my nutrition very seriously. But I still occasionally eat my gelato by the pint and do not deprive myself. I am stronger than I have ever been and consider it a privilege to move and exercise my body. I work out five days a week, often with heavy weights, and practice yoga.
Transformation stories are a dime a dozen in this community, and mine is nothing unique. But what I would like people to take from my journey is the freedom of a new perspective. I am not enslaved by numbers or expectations that society might force on me. According to some “Healthy Body Weight” charts I found in a Google search, I am only two pounds away from the “Overweight” category for my height. Yet, I am at my highest level of general physical preparedness (GPP) to date. While I might not care about the number on a scale or the size of my clothes, I do care deeply about my physical being. We are only given one body in this life, so I want mine to be healthy, ready and capable to take on anything this world might throw my way. Just last week, I used my strength to help with the demolition of a deck in our backyard and to lift my sick mother.
Too many women I know are scared of weightlifting because they fear becoming “bulky” and looking “like a man.” And, yes, back to the scale again, muscles do weigh more. My shoulders, quads and glutes don’t fit in many traditional styles of feminine clothing. But I have worked to earn my strength and am more concerned with functionality than appearance. I happen to think muscles look good on me.
I want this freedom for every athlete I coach. Be yourself, but be your BEST self and don’t settle. What a waste for a number on a scale to hijack a person’s happiness! We should care about being healthy. We deserve to feel good and spend our years living, not existing. Our bodies are meant to be used not to remain stagnant and inactive. We can feel better and improve our quality of life without falling for all the hype. And forgive that silly twenty-two year old girl; she hadn’t yet learned that the scale can be a big, fat liar.
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