A lot of things go hand in hand with fitness. What to eat, where to work out, which muscle group to train that day, the list could be endless.
Another superstar in the fitness world is the good ole scale. What can be so great about the scale is that it’s seemingly unbiased, immune to how you’re feeling that day, doesn’t care if it was Jesse’s birthday over the weekend, it tells you like it is. Kind of like that friend who you wish would just sugar coat it once in a while.
However, I’m here to point out a few problems with the scale. Now let me first add the caveat that what I’m going to say does not apply to everyone. If a person is overweight and on a diet plan regimen, you need to see those pounds drop off after weeks, months, or dare I say years of fighting back extra pounds or perhaps obesity. It’s a triumph and I think the reason why scales are helpful.
But let me share some reasoning why the scale may not be the best for every circumstance, and to do so let me rewind a little bit. My family traveled a lot when I was younger, and through the elementary years I needed to learn how to make friends quickly. Chances were I might be in that city for only a few months or maybe a year or two. I didn’t have time to fart around and hope someone would walk up to me to be my friend. So quickly, and these habits remain today, I would walk up to anyone I thought seemed nice, and frankly asked, “Wanna be friends?”
One particular round was when I landed in a Seattle suburb called Redmond in the 5th grade. The girls I made friends with were beautiful, sweet, and outgoing as well. We sat together at lunch, played on the playground, and somehow I became the liaison between the boys and these girls, e.g. “Hey, do you think Christy likes me?” and such.
Things were going just fine. Then one day after lunch, we made the stereotypical trip together to the bathroom, myself and two of the girls. The 2 seemed to have some sort of agenda, and quite honestly I just followed along because I didn’t want to stand around in the playground by myself. Christy went into one stall, and Carly went into another. Not knowing my position, Carly jumped back out and told me, “Hey, you have to watch the door!”
In an effort to pardon my gaffe, I quickly shuffled over to the door, switched the latch locked, and leaned my back against it as a final barrier to prevent another’s entrance. This is when I heard a sound I only recalled from winter nights in Texas when the temperatures were near 0 and my little brother was sick in bed. The cacophony of dry heaving followed by small splashes of vomit filled the bathroom, like a revolting chorus as one girl, followed by the other, seemingly in sync rid themselves of that day’s pepperoni pizza.
A long few minutes later, Christy came back out and said, “OK, your turn. I’ll hold the door.” I stammered for a moment. If I said no, the girls would feel judged, and I might lose my friends.
I stalled and babbled a cross between, “I’m not that full,” and “I don’t know how.” Carly took that as her cue to teach, and pulling my wrist as playfully as she would to bring me to a dance floor, she pulled me into the stall. She taught me how to stick my finger in my throat just enough to cause a gag reflex. After a few failed tries I not-so-triumphantly was able to bring up the peanut butter and jelly sandwich my Mom had packed for me that morning.
Pleased, Carly let me know that was enough, just so long as I got rid of some calories. We exited the stall, washed our hands, giggled, and somehow were more bonded than ever having shared that experience.
It was the first time I ever considered the size of my body. When I went home that afternoon, I stood in front of my full-length mirror and studied my shape. As an athletic pre-teen, I didn’t feel bad. My slender hips, flat breast-less front, and skinny long arms all stared back at me, questioning what the f*ck I just did that day.
However that was the day I learned about a completely different world that never went away, and even in my late 20’s still lurks around every corner. While I now have curved hips and thank the dear sweet Lord my breasts finally showed up, I am still confronted with – am I thin enough?
To me, that is a dangerous path that I urge all of us to run immediately away from. Men are assaulted from every corner about their size. We teach men to be strong and tall, as if the latter is something that you could possibly control. Women are shown that there is one specific body type, and that must always be the goal. Slender, waif-like, with sunken cheeks and ankle thin thighs.
These are obviously ridiculous, and the generalizations vary. Some ethnic or racial groups value different body types, but the point is always that there is ONE body type that should be celebrated.
I contest – why can’t ALL body types be celebrated? Christy and Carly were the only two girls in our class with breasts, so they were fat because of it. The pressure put on these two 5th, yes remember 5th, graders was so high that they resorted to vomiting as a norm to be shared among girlfriends. This was 1995 – could things now be worse?
My point is, fight back. I’ll give you an example of how I fought back last week. I run my own blog and ran a piece about tattoos. I had my fiancé take a picture of my back for the main image. After seeing the shots when we returned home, I was disappointed. I thought that my back arm looked too big. My instinct told me, “Well you can just crop that out.”
Then my brain kicked into gear and ordered a steady, “Hell no!” My body is not large, and even if it was, so what? I work out, eat right, and this is how I look. I’m not going to kill myself to look like something that I’m not – however it is a fight I deal with on most days.
I made myself post the picture in its entirety, baring for the world what I really look like. We must. We must show what real people look like.
Fitness, I argue, is not about being thin or ripped. It’s about being healthy. It’s about taking care of yourself and being proud of a job well done. For some, running 2 miles is a great accomplishment – for some that bar is at 26.2 miles.
So then after a good solid workout and eating right, have you ever hopped on the scale and become disappointed? All that effort and hard work went right down the pooper because you didn’t see the number that you used to be in high school, or you imagine that you probably should be?
If so, then the scale might not be for you. This happens to me and that is why I don’t weigh myself. I choose instead to let how I feel be my guide, not a number that often wavers due to salt or water. The purpose of fitness is to be healthy, not skinny. And whatever that is for you, I say you rock it. Others see that confidence, and the more people with different body types proud of what they look like may help end these ridiculous stereotypes. We must fight back, if not for yourself, but for the 5th graders watching.