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.