Displaced motivation

Ask most women why they are working out (be it running, aerobics, biking, swimming, Crossfit, what have you), and they will probably tell you it is because they are trying to lose weight.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that stems some of my motivation. My primary “eye on the prize” is being fit and healthy. I enjoy the endorphins I get from exercise. I like how it makes me feel. I like that it facilitates me living an active lifestyle. But I am lying if I say that when the numbers on the scale start to plateau, I don’t get frustrated.

Sure, they are just numbers on a scale. But how else can I measure my progress? (This is a rhetorical question, by the way.)

Even so, I’m better than I used to be. I remember getting back from vacation and seeing I had gained 8 lbs. I had been gone for 2 weeks, hadn’t worked out much, had eaten a lot of junk food. I immediately put myself on the Special K Diet in order to the drop the weight. Really, this was ridiculous – once I had gotten back into my regular eating and fitness routine, the rest would work itself out. Instead, I ate nothing but cereal (with the exception of dinner) for 2 weeks and was miserable the entire time.

I don’t do this now. If I have something planned that will mean a late bedtime, I ditch my morning workout and make up the difference somewhere else or another time. I base my workout schedules on what works for my schedule, my personal life, and what I truly enjoy. I actually work out MORE than I did when I felt like I had to fit into a specific mold or schedule.

The damage body dysmorphia does to young women runs deep, and the scars it leaves never truly heal.

There has been a blog post floating around the Internet recently, as an “Open Apology to All of My Weight Loss Clients.” In it, the woman, who “worked at a popular weight loss company for three years” apologized to all of her clients that she encouraged to eat 1200-1700 calorie/day diets. (1200 if you were not exercising regularly, 1500 if you were, and 1700 if you were breastfeeding.) Sure, this will make you lose weight. It will also force your body into starvation mode. And you can’t sustain this level of nutrition, so once you “go off” the diet, you gain it back.

A few years ago, when I was working out much more sporadically than I am now, I had a doctor berate me for being overweight. In truth, at the time, I was, and i knew it going in. I went on the scale thinking I needed to lose about 5 lbs, and when I saw the number, I winced and thought to myself, “Hm, maybe closer to 10 lbs.” My BMI was at about a 26. She berated me, she insisted that I needed to lose “at least” 20 lbs (for reference, 6 lbs would have put my BMI below 25, which is a “healthy weight”), and that to be considered truly healthy based on Prudential Life Insurance’s charts, I actually needed to lose closer to 30 lbs. And, really, I needed to watch out, because I was a “state worker” and many of her “state worker” patients were “morbidly obese.” I left the appointment and cried. And I never saw that doctor again.

I did lose the 6 lbs (and then some, actually), but I didn’t lose 20. Even now, running close to 20 miles a week, plus other aerobic cross training an additional 3-4 days a week (yes, it is common for me to work out 2x/day), plus eating healthy on most nights, I’m still not at this doctor’s envisioned “goal weight” for me. (Though, I am close.) And I am nowhere near Prudential Life Insurance’s goal weight.

I try and tell myself that I don’t think about these numbers. Yet, that’s a lie. I weigh myself daily, that’s how I know I am “close” to that crazy woman’s “goal weight.” I know what numbers put me below or above target BMI rates, because I have a BMI calculator on my phone. I do math in my head when I see the estimated calories burned on my runs, to see if I will end up with a deficit that day. I try not to obsess when I don’t, and I tell myself that I track this just so that “I am aware,” but truthfully? I am far more concerned with the numbers than I would like to be.

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4 comments

  1. First of all, I like the new blog. Second, isn’t weight a terrible thing? I wish we never had to pay attention to it at all. I’ve been more active recently, which is awesome, but at the same time I’ve put on some pounds (not the muscle kind either). It feels like a slap in the face to be trying harder and having the opposite effect. Even though I wasn’t explicitly trying to lose weight, I certainly wasn’t trying to gain it.

    1. Thanks, Alix! 🙂

      It really is terrible. I didn’t go into my fitness uptick trying to lose weight, and yet I still obsessed over the fact that it didn’t really start to happen for a couple months. And then I lost 7lbs in the course of 2-3 weeks. And then? Nada. WHY DO WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES? I’m getting stronger and faster and more fit, shouldn’t that be enough?

  2. Just wandered over here thanks to your tweet.

    I’m 5’6″ and in the past 10 years (since graduating from college) my weight has been all over the place from ~180 to ~135. I got to 135 through sheer not-eating-from-stress and it wasn’t healthy.

    So now I’m closer to the higher end of that, and while that makes me overweight I’m trying – emphasis on trying – to focus much more on “did I eat 2-3 servings of vegetables today? am I actually hungry or just bored? did I get 2-3 good workouts in this week?” instead. And since February I’ve lost about 7 lbs, my arms are gaining definition, my legs are stronger, my abs … well, it’s a work in progress. But I’d rather slowly lose 10 lbs over the course of a year based on healthy habits I can actually maintain. Sick and tired of the yo-yo.

  3. When I started my job I lost about 8 pounds, and when I realized how much of that was stress related stomach problems, I started to focus much more on my health than my weight. Could I eat this thing before court and not feel sick? It took that to happen before I truly and fundamentally shifted to making sure I felt healthy first and was skinny second. Not that I wish that on anyone, but I’m just in a much happier place both weight and healthwise.

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