I was watching me some Good Morning America this morning while getting ready for work, and I saw this segment devoted to this one tweet that began a “grassroots exercise movement” which “encourages women to focus less on the scale and more on overall health.”
While I am so glad this concept is getting some long overdue airtime, my question to you is, honestly — where have y’all been?!
[Just kidding but seriously, this is something I am so passionate about so be prepared to hear my rant. And yes I just said “y’all.” That’s how serious I am.]
I played sports all throughout middle school and high school, just shy of my senior year. Conditioning, two-a-days, and summer programs were a requirement; and between sports all week and working on the weekends, I rarely even had time to worry about the number on the scale. So I never did. Then senior year hit, sports got way more serious (because everyone was focusing on college), and I wasn’t. Honestly, I wasn’t even seriously considering going to college, but that’s a story for another time because thank dog I did. At any rate, I was dating someone older at the time, and I just wanted to party my face off while not having to worry about the crushing pressure my school placed on the athletes being ‘the best,’ or ‘the strongest,’ or ‘the fastest’ [because mostly I was just ‘the tallest’]. So I quit and spent the next couple years doing my own thing.
Fast forward to college: I was still not working out, still working to pay myself through, and I ended up getting a job in recruiting for my university’s football team. One day, I was out hiking with the same boyfriend I was with in high school, and realized I couldn’t keep up. I had to keep stopping, to keep catching my breath; I wasn’t coordinated enough to climb around rough areas. I knew at 19 this wasn’t good. Sure, I was skinny and had the metabolism combined with the build that didn’t require me to actually exercise to look good. But, going so long without sports or a regular work-out routine and not being able to even walk through the Cleveland Metroparks without severely struggling was actually really scary. It just goes to show that skinny isn’t always healthy.
That was the moment I decided I would be better. I talked with one of my friends who was into body building, and put together a work-out plan with him. I talked to the strength coach for our football team, showed him my plans and he showed me how to use the equipment in the football weight room to get what I needed done. Slowly but surely, I got stronger and stronger as the years went on. And initially, I started to see the number on the scale go up at an alarming rate, much to my dismay.
After a few unnecessary panic attacks, I quickly learned that muscle weighs more than fat. If you are losing fat and gaining muscle, you will probably see the number on the scale increase. When I finally moved out of my parents house not long after getting back in the gym, I opted not to buy a scale for my new apartment. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I get weighed once a year at the doctor’s office, and even then I don’t pay it any mind. I recently dated a guy who had a scale in his kitchen, and every time I went to his place I would stand on that scale. So I get it, when you have access to the scale it’s really easy to become obsessive. But I’m here to tell you it’s a trap. It fucks with your brain. The number on the scale does not dictate how healthy you are. It does not take into consideration your fat percentage. It does not see your work in the gym, and your discipline in the kitchen. It does not have any power over you.
I was lucky enough to learn this at a young age, so here I am, almost a decade later; stronger than most of guys I meet; and I sure as hell am not defined by the number on the scale.
As females, we all need to remember that our bodies are designed differently than dudes. You are not going to get bulky from upping your weights or intensifying your workouts. You are not going to get bulky from weight training period. I hear so many girls tell me they don’t want to pick up weights because they want to look good and they don’t believe that’s the right way to do it. So they spend hours doing cardio. What a lot of females don’t realize, is weight training actually is more effective in burning calories than cardio, because you continue to burn those calories long after you put the weights down. Generally with cardio, calories are only burned as long as the action is being performed. And you have to keep in mind too with cardio, there is a point of diminishing returns.
If you are afraid to pick up those 10 lb weights to do biceps because you think you’re going to start looking like a body builder, I am here to tell you you won’t. And when those 10 lbs become too easy (eventually, they will), you can and should pick up the 12.5 lbs or the 15 lbs and never stop challenging yourself. I have been training like this for the past eight years, and though I feel like in the last two years I have really upped my quality of workouts, my body most certainly does not look like a dude’s.
So to me, it’s not just about learning to ignore the number on the scale. It’s about understanding how all of this stuff fits together. Knowing your own body, your own limits, and putting the time and effort in — both in the gym and in the kitchen — to achieve the results you want. Find the balance. It is possible. And it starts with accepting that strong is better than skinny.
Strong is beautiful.
Strong is badass.
You, too, can be badass.