Friday, December 05, 2014

No more numbers for health

Content warning: discussion of body weight, weight loss, fat loss, and use of scales.

In June of 2013, I decided to stop weighing myself. At that time, I was not particularly looking to lose weight. I think I wanted to drop a couple of pounds, maybe, to get closer to what seemed to me like a respectable number. Looking back, it was a pretty arbitrary number. It was higher than my average weight in college, but being a bit older and done growing at that point, I was able to accept that my body was probably ready to support some more body fat. I was still uncomfortable with the fact that it was "higher than ever before."

As someone who has always been relatively slim, seeking a particular weight goal is a bit stupid. If I wanted to trim a little fat, working out would probably be very effective for me. In fact, that's what happened when I started bicycling to work a few times a week. My thighs got bigger and stronger from muscle growth, but the rest of me slimmed down. I was pretty happy with those changes, but it took an entire six months of not weighing myself and not knowing how much I weighed to be able to embrace other concepts of measurable health and fitness. Throughout those six months, if I had to be weighed at the doctor's office, I would step on the scale backwards and ask that they not read the number aloud. A few nurses even commented that my project was one they might try themselves. I think it's a worthy experiment for a lot of people who find their moods tied to the scale results, but obviously if you do try and find it too distressing, it might be a good idea to reassess the project and change the goal (maybe weigh less or hey, keep weighing if that works for you). I personally just needed to detach my health from a number.

Measuring weight can be a very useful tracking tool for some people, but it is not definitive and it is not the only option. I think it is more useful to take those numbers for tracking change than it is to strive for a particular numeric goal. Doctors may disagree. They may tell you, specifically, to "lose X pounds". You are always free to tell them to shove it. While they are educated for years in many forms of health and medicine, they do not make your decisions for you and it is ultimately your choice what you decide is healthy for yourself.

If weight/fat loss is your goal, I wish you luck. I will not ask you about it, I will not comment on it, but I am happy to listen if you want to share your journey with me. If you are happy the way you are, then I am happy for you too. If you are unhappy, then I hope you can find a way to be happy, regardless of your resolution.

Over the past year, since I ended my no-scales experiment, I've weighed myself only a handful of times. My weight doesn't change much these days as far as I can tell and I don't really care to know what it is. I don't want to invite an obsession into my life because I know it's easy for my brain to latch onto something like that. I know my clothes are larger than they have been in the past and that's probably due to muscle, mostly. Since fitness is a goal of mine, I'm definitely happy about that change! These days, the only numbers I'm using to measure are weights on the barbell.