I’ve had countless days where I would put my clothes on in the morning and think, “Wow, these pants fit really well today.” Then later I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think, “Hey, I actually don’t mind what I see today.” And then later in the day I would decide, you know what – I feel really great, I’m going to step on the scale and see what it says…
…And the number on the scale would NOT reflect how I was feeling about myself. And immediately I would notice that actually my pants did feel a little tight around the waist. And I would walk by the same mirror and all I could see were my imperfections. I wish my stomach was flatter. I wish my arms were more toned. And all the negative thoughts would come pouring in. And the rest of my day would be consumed with me telling myself “you’re not good enough.” I was a SLAVE to the scale.
For a little background, I grew up living a very active lifestyle. As a competitive gymnast, I spent most of my teenage years at about 100lbs soaking wet with rocks in my pockets! Late in high school I was diagnosed with thyroid issues that resulted in a good amount of weight gain. I did not handle this well. I spent my days obsessively weighing myself, telling myself that if I just ate less and did more cardio I would lose the weight. This obsession continued into college and there were times that my self-esteem was so low that I would stay home alone instead of going out with friends because I was embarrassed to be seen. (Those of you who know me know that I’m very extroverted and being alone was only making matters even worse!) I wouldn’t eat in front of other people because I thought they were judging me. I was embarrassed to tell people I was a personal trainer because I thought they would wonder why a fat girl thought she had any right telling other people how to workout and lose weight when she clearly couldn’t do it herself. I was a mess – and the only way I could imagine ever feeling better was if I could just lose 15 lbs.
It wasn’t until I really immersed myself in strength training and shifted my focus to strength goals versus weight loss goals that I started regaining my confidence. Every time I could do an extra pull up or add more weight to my deadlift I felt fit, accomplished, and happy. But inevitably, each time I felt that happiness, I also felt the need to validate my happiness with the scale. I would literally hit a personal record on a lift, immediately run to the scale, see a number I didn’t want to see, and completely forget about the great feat I just accomplished. I wouldn’t weight myself before the lift because past experience told me that once I saw the number, I would lose all my motivation and take on a “why bother” attitude for the rest of my workout.
To some of you this all may sound really crazy, but to many of you it sounds like exactly what you’re going through right now. I don’t normally share such personal stories about myself, but other leaders in the fitness industry (like Molly Gailbraith for instance) have me realizing that it isn’t something to be ashamed of, and if I can save just one person from going through what I went through, it will be worth it.
Throughout this time in my life, I started learning more about body composition and how the number on the scale was not the only indicator of how healthy and fit you are. I learned about body fat percentage and how you can be 150 lbs and 40% body fat versus 150 lbs and 18% body fat and look COMPLETELY different. I knew all of this, but I still struggled.
It wasn’t until I took a step back and saw other women going through the same struggle as me that it started to really sink in. I would train women who were getting amazing results in the gym, and when other people would point out their progress they would shrug it off because the number on the scale hadn’t moved. I would get so frustrated because I wanted them to be proud of themselves and to see in themselves what I was seeing in them. I would watch them step on the scale and walk away with tears welling up in their eyes and I would want to scream at them that it didn’t matter! That their success, beauty, and self-worth could NOT be measured by a scale! The problem was that I hadn’t yet fully bought into this notion myself. I still had moments of weakness where weighing myself resulted in tears and a long run to try and sweat off the pounds. I had to change my own mindset before I could help anyone else.
So one day I stopped weighing myself. I went a solid month without stepping on the scale and I focused solely on getting stronger and eating healthier (which did not mean eating less but rather eating better quality foods.) It was probably one of the hardest things I ever did – especially considering there was a scale in my gym that I had to walk past every day. I didn’t know how to feel the first couple weeks. Some days I felt like I was looking better, but then I would second guess myself because I didn’t have anything to base it on. Sure my pants were a little looser – but did they just stretch out? My stomach looked a little flatter – but was I just imagining it? It was a constant battle…
…But then things started to change. After a few weeks I started forgetting that I wanted to weigh myself. If someone complimented me I started taking it as just that – a compliment. I didn’t spend time in front of the mirror scrutinizing myself. I felt happier and more confident after a good training session in the gym because I didn’t have the constant reminder at the end that it wasn’t good enough. I didn’t know how much I weighed, and for the first time in my life I didn’t care.
This is what I want for you. For those of you who are struggling like I struggled for so long. I want to free you from the awful death grip that the scale has on you. I want you to measure your success by your accomplishments in the gym, and by how your clothes fit, and by how you feel. I want you to be able to take a compliment without thinking about what deeper meaning it might have. I want you to know that even those of us who seem like we have it all figured out still have our moments of weakness. It won’t happen overnight, but I hope that my story will help expedite the process. You are strong and beautiful and I hope by reading this you can start believing that.