Eight months ago I began leading groups of women on their journeys toward better health, and for the past 20ish years — until very recently when that venture began — I’ve worried that I was fat.
I’ve been so unkind to my body for so many years, all as a slave to the almighty scale. And I’m kind of done.
I remember in first grade, looking at a girl next to me in class as we sat reading, feeling self-conscious that my legs were bigger than hers. I was six.
I remember in 8th grade, we had to get our height and weight measured twice a year, and I would FREAK OUT inside my head as the day approached. What if someone in line behind me overheard our gym teacher as she told me mine? If I knew what day it was coming I would fake sick to miss it. I was 13.
In high school, as I saw what made certain girls popular, I considered if I should try to starve myself. I was 16.
In college, when friends in my dorm made late-night pizza orders, I vowed that I would only ever eat the crust, so I could avoid the fat and oil in the cheese. I was 18.
These are actual thoughts — nothing I’m fabricating — that a straight-A student with engaged parents and a strong support system had. I think to some extent many of us share similar memories: we’ve all felt the excessive pressure to look a certain way, and so much of that is centered around our weight.
I’ve always loved exercising and paid attention to what I put in my body, but I admit now that for many years it was for the wrong reasons. It wasn’t to help my body run efficiently or to feel strong, it was always to lose weight. As if losing 5 pounds would magically change my entire world. I had no problem spending an entire Saturday at the gym in a desperate attempt to ‘burn off’ what I had eaten the previous day. Makes me cringe to think about this now.
So, what changed? 3 things:
- Pregnancy. Creating a life takes your body out of your control in a forcefully magical way, and the experience teaches you how amazing your body is and all it is capable of. After having Lila, sure part of me wanted to lose the ‘baby weight’ and feel good about my appearance, but I hated the pressure to completely and immediately revert to my ‘old body.’ It somehow dishonored the amazing shit my body had just done for a year by having to eradicate every trace of it.
- Raising a daughter. I’ve become so much more aware of the words I choose to speak about myself and my activities with a tiny little gal in our world. While she’s only just starting to form words, I know how much Lila can perceive through my words, actions and energy. I want to be a role model for her and not just another source of pressure. I do not have to work out, I get to workout. I do not work out to be skinny, I workout to be healthy and strong. This is as much an exercise for myself as it’s an example for her.
- Being introduced to Beachbody programs and Shakeology. These are things that are still funny for me to admit because I always scoffed at them, but using the 21 Day Fix and Shakeology changed my life. I finally realized, in my 30s, that being strong and healthy is what matters – not a number on a scale. I can look and feel my best without being chained to my weight. The way these products have influenced my life is truly profound, and as a coach, connecting other women to them is a privilege. You see, it’s not me selling a quick fix or promoting a certain physical ideal — it’s simply helping others find the tools and accountability to feel better.
But back to why I hate scales.
Since March, I’ve led more than 100 women through the 21 Day Fix, and it never fails that every week or two I’ll get this feedback in a text or an email when I check in with people: “Hi! I feel great and my clothes fit better, but the scale isn’t moving so I’m really frustrated.”
Think about that sentence for a second. You’re essentially saying that you feel better and your body has made positive changes, but because a simple measurement hasn’t shifted, it’s all in vain?
Scales are a single measurement tool, and one that is fairly one-dimensional. Is our performance at work defined by just one metric? “Well Jessica, you’re always on time, have a great attitude and meet your deadlines, but your PowerPoint presentations are pretty disorganized, so no raise for you this year!” Do we love our friends any less if they are always good listeners, generous hosts and babysit our kids on a moment’s notice, but forget a birthday card one year? No! That would be ridiculous, and that’s how I feel about people only focusing on the scale as an indicator of success. I’m not saying we need to disregard the scale completely and go all Office Space-copy-machine on it, but just take your weight with a grain of salt. Incorporate what you weigh no more than once a week, in conjunction with how you feel and how your clothes fit, and instead track how your overall measurements are changing.
Scales don’t factor in body composition changes, like muscle gains (which can make you weigh more while taking up less space). Scales don’t consider things like sodium and hormones and drinking 8 glasses of water a day that can falsely make you weigh more. Scales don’t know how your skinny jeans fit or if your face is thinning out or if you can lift heavier weights than you could last week.
So, my friends. My point here is to be gentle with yourselves. Work hard toward your goals, but know what’s driving them and if your heart is in the right place. The scale will move when it needs to, but what I really hope for you is that your mind feels lighter as you feel healthier.
If you’re ever interested in joining one of my private health accountability groups on Facebook, comment here or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Everyone is welcome and no purchase is required, ever. And if you want to know what the 21 Day Fix and Shakeology are all about while they’re on sale this month, here’s a link to the products on my site.