Some Thoughts on Weight

I recently wrapped up hosting a three month corporate fitness challenge.

Although I wasn’t able to teach many of the classes, I performed every one of the four scheduled weigh-ins throughout the span of it.

A couple things stood out to me at each weigh-in — one, that women took their results much harder than men, and two, that the number on the scale had such a profound impact on people.

The machine I used measured far more than just weight. In addition to several detailed reports, it broke down the data into weight, skeletal muscle mass, and percentage of body fat. In several cases, people’s overall weight went up due to an increase in skeletal muscle mass. This means that participants worked hard, built muscle, and dropped their body fat percentage. This is AWESOME.

Keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat. As you displace fat with muscle, you may gain weight, but your overall physique will start to lean out and clothes will fit better.

Despite my excitement at their results and offering the same aforementioned explanation, many of them stayed fixated on the first number — weight. I could see the wheels turning and their detachment as I tried to emphasize that these results were something to be proud of.

As a child, I used to read the medical encyclopedia because I found it interesting and also to find out what was going on with my changing body. In it there was a weight table that I would study to make sure that I was within the normal range for my age. I was obsessed with that weight table.

I remember the first time I went over 100 lbs I sat on my bed with that encyclopedia and cried. I was within the “normal” range, but a three digit number seemed so shameful to me that I literally cried and hoped that shedding more tears might bring me back to 99.

Much of my obsession with my own weight was due to the comments of others. I’m a naturally muscular person. I have an athletic build and those muscles (as described above) lend me to a heavier weight than may be externally apparent.

Words are incredibly powerful. My entire life I was greeted with comments such as “what are you, like 100 lbs?” and “I bet you weigh nothing.” When I told people what I weighed, they expressed surprise and a disbelief that made me feel like I should weigh less than I actually do. If everyone thought I should only weigh 100 lbs, then obviously I was overweight at 120.

I understand that some people need the scale to track tangible goals. People who need to lose a significant amount of weight typically need more structured diets and numerical goals to work towards in their weight loss and health journey. I completely understand and support that.

For people who do not require that level of monitoring, ask yourself what that number actually gives you. I don’t own a scale. I don’t weigh myself. I see how my clothes fit, how I look in a mirror, and how I feel.

However, it’s always a process. Since I have access to the same machine on a regular basis, I will randomly hop on to see how things have changed over the months. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have the same flashbacks I did as a child and even later into my adult years. That number is too high. What can I do differently to bring it down? Nevermind that I’ve been doing Crossfit for 4 months and am stronger than I’ve ever been; the initial reaction will always be there.

I suppose the takeaway of this post is to be gentle with yourself. Think about what behaviors you may have that actually cause more harm than good.

Remember that fitness is more than your weight.

Remember that weight is made up of several factors.

Remember that you are more than the number on a scale.

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13 Comments

  1. June 12, 2017 / 9:04 am

    Good reminder.
    I had similar fears/obsessions/experiences as a child. As a muscular gymnast, I never felt like my body was “right.” I can remember one time at VBS at church sitting on the pew looking at how much bigger my legs were than my friends (uh…they didn’t have muscle) and thinking how fat and disgusting I was. I think I was 10. 🙁
    Now that my body is differnet post-baby and I’m building up some lost muscle, I’ve had to remind myself that the number on the scale isn’t 100% indicative of my health.
    Catherine @ A Cup of Catherine recently posted…Motherhood LatelyMy Profile

  2. June 12, 2017 / 12:47 pm

    I often feel like you and I have parallel experiences.

    Last week I met with an RD for part of a campaign and we talked about set point theory and how eating should be EASY.

    I’ve stopped weighing myself because I know I don’t like the number, but what I do like is that I can eat intuitively and exercise intuitively and my weight won’t change. On one hand, it’s irritating, on the other, it’s awesome.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…SeaWheeze 2017 Training PlanMy Profile

  3. June 12, 2017 / 2:13 pm

    Speaking for myself, it seems so silly that when I think of weight, I immediately think of weight as a measure of fat. I catch myself often, and I have to remind myself that the number includes the weight of our bones, muscles, organs, blood, and actually the percentage of our weight that’s actually fat probably isn’t that significant. It’s a slow process of retraining our brains to not be afraid or embarrassed about a number on a scale. But like you said, usually the best thing to do is just throw out the scale and gauge our health by how we FEEL.

    Really loved this. Thank you <3

  4. June 12, 2017 / 2:45 pm

    This is so, so important. I have never been particularly obsessed with the number on the scale myself, but of course, everybody has a ‘number’ in mind that they want their weight to be at. But we do have to keep in mind that a) everybody is built differently, b) muscle weighs more than fat (!), and c) that a thin body doesn’t equal a healthy/fit body!! Thank you for putting this out there… we all have to hear this.
    San recently posted…My niece’s first communionMy Profile

  5. June 12, 2017 / 4:25 pm

    “they expressed surprise and a disbelief that made me feel like I should weigh less than I actually do”

    Yes yes yes, I feel this so hard. I’ve been working out A LOT over the past few months, in fact, last month I logged the most minutes of working out ever in my adult life. But my weight hasn’t budged. HOWEVER, I fit into old pants that I hadn’t fit into for a long time, so I know that my body mass is changing in a good way. Also, I’m almost 35. I know that it’s going to take A LOT more work now for that number to go down or to lose belly fat than it did 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. That’s just a fact of life. I can’t get any younger. I can’t really workout that much more than I already do without overworking myself. I could improve my diet, sure, but I’m happy with the way I eat right now. So. Here I am.
    Maggie (Mag Mile Runner) recently posted…Race Report: Spartan Race Chicago SprintMy Profile

  6. June 12, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    I hate when people tell me “you must weight nothing” or “you can eat anything and not gain weight”. I like thinking of weight as just a number. I’ve been on a regular workout routine for about 6 weeks and I have noticed my pants fitting better, but the number on the scale hasn’t really gone down. It is definitely about feeling good and healthy in my body.
    Alicia @Bridges Through Life recently posted…Walk in the Woods and the best Ice Cream: MIMM 112My Profile

  7. June 13, 2017 / 8:11 am

    people forget that weight is made up of several factors, and this is SUCH an important reminder for that. fitness is more than losing weight too- fitness is fun and enhances our lives!
    Alyssa recently posted…My Anxiety + Some Ways that I CopeMy Profile

  8. June 13, 2017 / 8:31 am

    This is so true, and yet, so hard to remember at times (for me, anyway). But fitness is so much more than the number on the scale. Although I do need to lose weight for my health, I also want to be able to run my half marathon this fall, and that is a far more accurate indicator of fitness than that pesky number.

  9. August 9, 2017 / 12:45 pm

    Ugh the dreaded body fat percentage! My bf and I have a scale (probably not overly accurate) that shows that, and it took me a few frustrating weigh ins to do my research. Ladies, we’re at a disadvantage there. A man with 20% body fat and a woman with like 23-24% will look pretty identical. So don’t get too caught up in that number! I’ve started working out and dieting solely for looks, and while it takes more patience it’s pretty liberating. I’ll step on the scale every now and again, but that’s just so I can have an accurate number when I go to the dr.

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