I’d like you to imagine a scenario. You’ve embarked on regime of healthy eating and exercise. A month or so has gone by with you having the willpower of posh spice, the fitness regime of a tuned athlete and the inner Zen of a Buddhist monk. Your clothes are looser, your skin is glowing, your hair is shiny and the compliments have been flying in. You feel good, you feel foxy (or maybe if you’re a bloke you’re feeling buff and stud like), you really do feel confident and comfortable in your skin.
You’ve shied away from the scales for a few weeks because you want to wait to see the big number loss rather than it coming in wee increments, but you feel now is the time to step on up and see the magic number of how much you’ve lost in all its glory.
It’s early in the morning, after a sweaty workout, before your breakfast, you stand there starkers (clothes are just extra weight afterall) and step on up to see the lucky number that will serve as proof of all your hard work and motivation…..(drumroll please).
As you open your eyes that have been squinted shut in anticipation there it is!! Or should I say there it isn’t!!! You’ve lost zero, nada, nothing, diddly squat…..or even worse you’ve put a little on. Arghhhh – how can this be? You’ve been so good, not a date scone or snickers bar have passed your lips. Untouched bottles of Chardonnay and bags of chippies have called your name and you’ve resisted. All the staff at the local gym know your name and high five you at your dedication, and yet, what do you have to show for it on the scales but a big fat nothing.
Automatically you don’t feel so foxy anymore, in fact you feel uncomfortable in your skin and slightly foolish that you actually tricked yourself into thinking you looked better. You go to put on those skinny jeans that felt great yesterday and you’re sure they feel a bit tighter so you opt for your tracky pants or combat trousers instead. Within the space of a few seconds the number on the scale has made you go from feeling hot and healthy to uncomfortably fat and frumpy.
Does this sound familiar to you in anyway? Or is it just me that has experienced this before, because I have, more than once, I’m not ashamed to admit it and it feels like stink. I used to place way too much emphasis on the number on the scales and attach how good or bad I felt about myself on whether that number fitted with what I thought it should be, or was ideal number that external influences told me it should be. By external influences I mean, pictures in magazines, the fashion industry with its uber skinny models, Hollywood with it’s ‘E Channel’ lollipop lady lookalikes, and of course the elite distance running athletes I used to aspire to be. Plus a general compulsion to compare myself to when I was at my lightest (and therefore most prized weight).
As much as the scales would often abuse me with the number it glared back at me – I would keep going back for more. Maybe the following day would be different and everything would be ok. This rocky relationship with the scales would continue with me justifying it as being ok because it’s what kept me grounded and motivated and stopped me falling into bad (Kebab Lotty) habits again.
I’m sure I’m not the only woman who has faced this cycle of scale abuse. I see women in the gym that weigh themselves several times during one workout, or know people that weigh themselves religiously everyday with a mixed mood response depending on what the result is. The emotional rollercoaster and low self image it results in are certainly no good for us mentally or physically as any emotional stress releases cortisol which is one of the bodies fat storage hormones. So I guess you could say stressing about your weight contributes to fat storage – a tenuous link but a link nonetheless.
I’ve been thinking of blogging about this subject for a while but have not quite had the courage. You see this subject is a bit of a stigma for me – I used to liken my best physical shape to the lightest number on the scales but since having my 2 babies I’ve realised it’s far more important to aim for optimum health than an optimum weight. It’s been hard to change a mindset that I’ve habitually followed for so long. Having children changed things – it made me appreciate how amazing my body was to create my much loved cherished sons and go through the process of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. It also made me think about what sort of habits and thinking I would portray and pass to my children, but most of all it made me realise that I had been a slave to the scales for way too long and that aiming to be the healthier and fitter was a much better and more satisfying goal than aiming to be lighter.
Despite the detriment to our self esteem and body image that the scales can have they can also be deceptive and canny when used as measure in our pursuit for a better body. Go back to that scenario I explained at the start of this blog post. If you’ve been doing all the right things, eating clean and sensibly, exercising like a Spartan and can feel the benefits in your body, clothes and mind, then why let those scales knock you down? Weight is not always a reflection of your progress. You may well have lost fat but gained muscle; muscle is approximately 3 times denser than fat which means it takes up much less room than fat and hence you’ve lost inches, but not necessarily weight (in fact your weight can increase but size go down).
There are many other ways to measure your health and fitness progress other than the scales. I was reading a health blog I love to follow the other day called ‘Hungry-Healthy-Happy‘ that talked about ‘Non scale victories’. I loved this concept (thank you ‘Hungry-Healthy-Happy”). Here are a few examples of some non scale measures you can use to gauge your progress towards a healthier, leaner and fitter you that do not involve the scales.
• Set Fitness tests & goals – set yourself some fitness goals like being able to do 50 press ups, or run 5k faster, or even train for an event that challenges you. I set myself a goal of being able to do 10 unassisted pull ups – it took me 6 months to achieve but when I did I felt awesome.
• Measure the inches rather than the lbs and kgs – Use a tape measure or have a pair of jeans or dress that is a bit tight and use that as a marker of if your body shape is changing.
• Take note of the Compliments – If a friend or colleague tells you that you are looking great – accept that compliment graciously as the gift that it is intended and really take it on board. If we saw ourselves through the eyes of others we would most likely be far happier with what we see.
• Reducing your biological age – By this I mean the non scales measures that show you are healthier and stopping your body getting old before its time. For example not needing pills for blood pressure, or reducing your likelihood of getting diabetes or maybe lowering your cholesterol. You could also be avoiding the health complications that come with either smoking, drinking excess alcohol and consuming processed foods. By living a healthier life – you are also prolonging your life and that is the ultimate non-scale victory.
For me my non scale victories are that my body has given me 2 of the most precious gifts I could ever ask for and yet still I can fit my pre pregnancy jeans. I’m pushing 40 this year but am much healthier, fitter, stronger and trimmer than when I was 20. As I sit here now I may not be my lightest but I am probably near my leanest. Plus I am becoming more comfortable in my skin each and every day thanks to a supportive husband and friends, plus some soul searching and a good old dose of perspective.
Do I still weigh myself? Yes but not very often. I’ll get on the scales and weigh myself once every 3 or 4 months – (I guess it’s like weaning off a drug, I’m not totally off it but I’m well on the way). However if and when I do step on those scales, whatever they tell me, I remind myself of what I’ve achieved through my non scale victories and the improved self worth and lightness of being that has accomplished. No longer will I allow how good or bad I feel about myself be attached to that number on the scales.