Tuesday, February 28, 2012

That damn scale.

 So this blog was originally intended to showcase my latest (and Kath Eats Real Food blog-inspired, I ain't no culinary plagiarist!) healthy meals. I put together a yogurt lunch  that included fat free Fage Greek Yogurt, all natural blackberry jam (at only 10 calories a tbsp!), a chopped up banana, unsweetened coconut flakes, and organic EnviroKidz cocoa brown rice puff cereal (they look just like Cocoa Crispies and they taste like them too! which takes me back to my Thailand days when Cocoa Crispies were one of two American cereals sold in my town-the other was Corn Flakes, and I ate both of these cereals at least twice, usually four times, a day). I think there may have also been some buckwheat groats (or something like that, I got them from the self serve bins at Ellwood Thompson to make my granola balls-tehe-and I don't remember exactly what they were-they taste like cardboard but add a nice crunch!)

It was delicious and super filling.

My other healthy creation was oatmeal topped with canned pumpkin (not sweetened), a hefty spoon full of ground flax (looks like saw dust but is pretty much flavorless-but it does pack a wallop of healthy goodness), more shredded coconut, and banana all mashed up. Again, delicious and very filling.

So that was what this blog was supposed to be about, my latest healthy eats after a week of healthy eats. I posted before how I felt unhealthy and had slipped a little bit, and how I really wanted to kick start healthier eating. I've done that, been very careful about what I've eaten and about calories. And over the last week I've increased my work outs. I still work out five times a week but now at a minimum of fifty minutes (either a 5 mile run or fifty minutes on a machine at the gym).

I have busted my butt, and I felt great. I felt healthy and strong. And then after a 55 min, sweat drenched elliptical work out at Gold's Gym today I went to the locker room to grab my stuff and saw it, that devious, malicious, malevolent machine.

The scale. I understand why gyms have scales. But I both hate and crave its presence. Sometimes I can go in and out of that locker room and pretend it doesn't exist. I don't even look at it. But other times I can't help myself. I jump on. And for the last year I've been pretty darn happy with the number. Since the beginning of 2010, I've lost between 10-15 pounds (I don't know exactly because I didn't know what my exact starting weight was). It didn't happen with a diet or with a crazy resolution. It happened because I was unemployed and depressed and so I started to run to feel better. And then I ran more. And without going carb less, I began to lose weight.

The more I ran, the more weight I lost. And it all came easily then. I started to make better choices about food to reflect how much better I felt about my body. Weight came off. I got compliments (which I always deflected, all "me? no!", but secretly craved like an addict craves their next high). I went down in clothes sizes. It wasn't a dramatic weight loss, but for the first time since I was 11 probably, it allowed me this rare and beautiful thing-a healthy relationship with my body.

I've never had an eating disorder. Let me make that clear. But I also would not say that my relationship with my body has been healthy. Let's just call it dysfunctional. It fluctuated. When I tried on a size of jeans and it was too small or I was around really skinny people, it fluctuated to a decidedly unhealthy relationship. I fixated on food and weight and I went carb free and fat free and every kind of free there was. I never really changed my life. I just tried quick fixes and desperately hoped they would magically work and turn me into a size 2. 

Of course I understand the irony that when I finally did lose weight, it was because I was doing something that was not at all intentionally a weight loss program. Running was for my sanity. It was for those sweet, sweet endorphins. Because I was unemployed and just back from the incredible, beautiful thing that was Thailand and I needed something, anything to lift me out of my own black mood. 

I'm ashamed to admit how good it felt to lose that weight. How indecently excited I was every time I saw that scale number go down. I finally made it to that size 2 (and in certain stores 0! thank you Ann Taylor Loft). And I finally felt at peace with my body. I didn't think about food so much. That's the best gift that weight loss gave me, more than the number on the scale or the dress size; it was the freedom to not obsess, so darn much, about weight, to not unfavorably compare myself to every person I saw, all the time. Of course there were moments when these things surfaced, because I understand that this dysfunctional relationship between me and my body is forever. I'm never going to have one of those infuriatingly healthy and normal approaches to food and weight that some people have.

And so end of story right? Happily ever after? Well I thought so. Until a few weeks ago I saw that number creep up ever so slightly (and I mean slightly, 2 pounds, which for some people, not a big deal, but for others, and I suspect many, many, far too many women, is a huge deal), I felt the stirrings of this cold, clammy fear.

So I re-committed myself to healthy eating, to more exercise, nothing dramatic, just that little tip I thought I needed to get that number to go back down. And then today after my workout,  when that evil scale cast its spell on me and dragged me towards it, after this week of change and five mile runs and hour long workouts at the gym, the number hadn't gone down.

It had gone up. Still only very slightly, a pound and a half. But it had gone up.

I am deeply ashamed to admit how upset this made me. I admit it here, because 1) writing always helps me process and 2) I know that there are so many women out there who understand exactly that feeling.

It sucks right? It's this tiny bit of data, a three digit number, meaningless in any other connotation, but put it on a scale and it can dominate our lives. We are smart and intelligent and strong, and we can be brought to our knees by a digital read out. We can feel the same, wear the same size clothing, eat well and work out, and then one number can hit us like a wrecking ball, destructive and chaotic.

I walked out of the gym, sat in my car, and burst into tears. And I understand how ludicrous that is, trust me. I've worked so hard and eat right and work out, and by society's standards (non-Hollywood), I'm thin (and trust me, it was a huge deal the first time I could even think that word in relation to myself, because it's something I didn't think about myself, or even close to it, for a decade of my life). This shouldn't upset me. Fluid fluctuations could be the culprit. My family history of under-active metabolisms and thyroids could be to blame (oh how relieved I would be if this were my issue, I even made an appointment to get my thyroid checked, which is necessary because all of my female, immediate family members have under-active thyroids, but still, I know this is a little desperate and reaching).

There are so many explanations, so many rational ways of looking at that number. But that's the thing about scales-they make us irrational. They chain us (or a lot of us) to their results with iron clad fear. I realized something today. It reminded me of a saying I've heard athletes say. Winning is great. But for an athlete, the motivation to win is never as strong as the motivation not to lose. Because losing hurts more than winning feels good.

And that's true for weight loss too. And our bodies in general. We our capable of self esteem, of feeling good about ourselves, of fitting into that pair of pants and doing a little happy dance. And it feels great. But ultimately, it has nowhere near the power of the opposite reaction-of how we feel on the other side of the spectrum. Women lose weight because they want to feel good, yes. But I think the stronger motivation is because we don't want to feel bad, to feel fat or less-than.

And that's just so wrong. The opposite of how it should be. I understand nutrition so much better now after being in nursing school. I am so in awe of the human body, of how brilliant and beautiful and brave it is, every second of our lives. 

But all of that can go out the window because of a little number. One little number can turn so much fury and shame toward that same beautiful, brave body.

I'm working on it. I will be working on it my whole life. I am blessed that there is a limit to how dysfunctional my relationship with body is. It has never been dysfunctional enough to drive me to stop eating or to get rid of whatever I did eat. And I am so thankful for that, because I can't imagine how deeply those people hurt.

But it's not perfect. I think, for today's purposes, the moral to the story is this:

Unless you are in the category of people who have a frolicking through meadows relationship with your body and weight, then AVOID that scale.

Scales are just machines, but we silly humans turn them into weapons of unimaginable cruelty, weapons that we direct squarely at ourselves. The best solution is to give them a wide berth and keep on walking. 

1 comment:

Mary Catherine said...

NEVER weigh yourself immediately after a workout! Right after you exercise you weigh more than normal because of the change in water content. Plus, since you said you were working out a little harder than normal, that can also cause you to gain some muscle, which increases weight, but in a good way!

A little birdie has told me more than once not to go by the number on the scale, because that's not what's important. What's important is knowing you're active and healthy. :)

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