Do I even know when it happened? Yes. Probably around the time I was eleven. It was my first year as a cheerleader; the year my parents divorced. That was when I started wearing a bra before anyone else. And that was the year I started to realize I was a “big girl”. I remember standing on the scale in our bathroom and begging it not to go above 120lbs. I wasn’t flabby. I was athletic. Nothing jiggled when I went running out on the gym floor to do our halftime routine. No idea what cellulite was. But I was HIGHLY aware what my scale said, and that was what I was focused on. Eleven years old. Now, twenty years later, I look back on that little girl and I wish I could tell her to burn that damn scale. In fact, I wish I could tell myself TODAY to burn that damn scale. But here I am, twenty years later, and I’m still obsessing over that scale.
When did that number become what matters??? I was talking to a fellow blogger and very good friend, and we were discussing how to go about getting that “thin is in” chant out of our heads. We KNOW strong is sexy, and we want to BE strong. But instead of measuring success on “less jiggle” or on how much better our clothes fit or on how much energy we have now, we instead want that scale to move. And God forbid it go up – oh holy breakdown Batman – there is little else guaranteed to reduce a woman to an emotional wrecking ball than when we’ve been “watching what we eat and exercising” and that scale go up. We don’t even take into consideration that it may be because we’ve built muscle!
My friend has a wonderful personal trainer who is very good at debunking the funk in her head, and something he mentioned was that she should be eating more. You heard that correctly – MORE. But wait – we’re of the generation that heard “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. We are stuck at a certain number of calories. In fact, I read a blog this morning that was strongly worded (and awesome!) about how infatuated women are with the 1200 calorie rule. I admit, I’m guilty of keeping MyFitnessPal stuck on just that number. This concerns me because I’m an educated woman – I have a nursing degree, for crying out loud – and I KNOW better. But yet, I let myself get caught up in the myth that eating less will be what “catches me” when I can’t work out. As if starving is my best backup plan when exercising can’t happen. And now I am trying to figure out when I started gauging whether I was hungry as my idea of being productive in my weight loss journey for the day.
There are several mom friends and I who go on road trips together, and we’ve started using the phrase “hangry” to describe what happens when one of us has missed a meal. And by “hangry”, I mean violently hungry: A polite way to suggest to your lovely friend that she’s become a fire-breathing dragon. Envision the snickers commercials, only instead of a diva, your friend turns into a rabid animal with claws and fangs. It is quite frightening. And while we laugh at this, the real point is that we tend to let our meals become more of an afterthought instead of a planned event. And then what ends up happening? We half attack our friends or coworkers or kids because we’re starving. And then if you walk into the break room and some blessed soul has brought food – Heaven Hold Me Back! Then suddenly it’s “Calorie counting be damned – Hello Krispy Kreme!”
I’ve said all that to say this: You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it – Abs start in the kitchen. Muscles are built. Strength is earned. These coveted trophies of fitness are earned. We cannot earn the good genes we weren’t blessed with, but we can earn the bodies we want. Granted some of those people we want to look like actually do get paid to look like that – as in working out IS their full time job. It isn’t mine. But I could certainly find more time to spend doing a push up or ten. And odds are, so could you. But we sabotage ourselves when we don’t eat. Our bodies need food. NEED it. And they – like my lady friends – get hangry when they don’t get what they need. And you’ll know when this happens when you catch yourself eating your daughter’s two day old Fig Newtons out of the bowl you found beside the bed.
The point of all this ranting is that you need to eat BETTER, not less. A carrot does not a healthy meal make. You know what to eat. We all do. And yet we don’t. And even worse is the fact that if we work out, and we make better food choices, we tell ourselves we’re failures JUST because that number on the scale doesn’t change. Perhaps the change should be in our heads instead of on the scale. Perhaps we should start finding better ways to judge our progress. And maybe, just maybe we should start this by burning that damn scale.