Wednesday, July 30, 2014

You are not a number

I step on a scale once a year—when I am forced to during my annual summer visit to the doctor. I never pay much attention, but this year was different. This year I saw a number I don't think I've ever seen—at least not for a long time. And it was not a number I was happy to see.

I got pretty down about it for the next few days. Think about it. This is America, where your weight pretty much defines you. But then I reminded myself why I don't weigh myself on a regular basis—because it, alone, is not a determinant of your overall health, and it is definitely not a determining factor of your self worth.

Why, then, do we place such an emphasis on it? I feel like this has been addressed more than enough times to the media by doctors, nutritionists, medical experts, etc., yet while working at the gym I am surrounded by people constantly stepping on the scale, only to step off with the new weight of a completely unnecessary load of disappointment.

While it is obviously important to maintain a healthy weight, it is also important (but apparently less obvious?) to remember that whatever weight range is healthy for you is probably not going to be the same for your friend or any of the other people in your yoga class or out on your favorite running trail. Weight is based on so many factors, from stress to ovulation to sleep to water retention. Trying to keep it at the same number day in and day out is going to drive you crazy.

Unfortunately, the obsession with that one number easily leads to an obsession with others numbers: body fat percentage, calories consumed, calories burned, miles run, the pace at which we ran those miles, the number of pounds we can lift, the number of reps we can do with those weights, heart rate, pants size. . . you get it.

While all of these are crucial to living a healthy lifestyle, putting so much focus on each and every one sort of takes you away from actually living your life. How about focusing on how you feel after an awesome workout? The muscle tone you're seeing in your hamstrings or shoulders? The looser feel of your favorite jeans? The increased energy from healthier foods and a good night's sleep?

It's not about reaching that one number and then doing whatever you have to in order to stay there. It's about finding about a five-pound weight range and learning what foods and activities help you stay within that range while still enjoying life and taking care of yourself. Say it with me: balance.

You are so much more than a number on a stupid scale. While seeing something a little out of your range should give you a kick in your probably-too-tight pants to get yourself together, it's not something to cry over (note to self), stress or freak out about, or become completely absorbed by. 

Find your happy weight, and remind yourself of the things that truly define you.

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