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Where I remind myself that scale only reports a number

by John on April 10th, 2012

I have a confession for all of y’all. No, it’s not that I’ve allowed my vision to stray while someone, with ample cleavage, bent over in front of me1. It’s not that I’ve gone a long time without sitting down to read an actual book, instead doing my “reading” through audiobooks (I admit this, freely and proudly). It’s not that I can recite the movie Super Troopers from heart (again, I admit this, freely and proudly). It’s not that I’ve cheated in logging my calories or that I haven’t been running as much as I probably should….no, I’ll talk about those things openly.

No, my friends, I’ve started stepping on a scale.

Let me take you on a journey — we’ll head back to 1998 — I was a junior in college, and I was fat. The thing is, I’m beyond six-feet tall, so not everybody realized just how fat I was. I “held my weight well” . . . except for, while tutoring at a disadvantaged after-school program2, I heard one of the kids I was working with ask another tutor, a girl who I had a pretty massive crush on, what she thought about “jelly.” And that girl didn’t need anyone to explain to her just who “jelly” was3.

Anyway, I can still remember that moment — and that’s when I decided to start concentrating on losing some weight. That summer came, and the pounds just fell off (it helped that I was barely drinking). Then, the new school year started and I found myself going to the gym every day.

There was no scale in the gym, and that was a good thing. However, I still remember, following the calorie counter on the exercise bike, figuring out just how many beers I could have . . . I would drink more beers than that count allowed, but I managed to maintain my weight through my senior year. I was big, but not quite as big . . . and my roommate, well, he was massive. So, if we went anywhere together, I was “the skinny one.”

Fast forward a little bit and I move into an apartment by myself and break up with my fiancee (this was a good thing for me, in the long term, but damn, did it suck then). And, with that, late night Taco Bell runs became part of my standard routine.

But, wouldn’t you know, single girls that you’re looking to impress are not impressed by flab and nacho cheese stains on black t-shirts.

So, I started working out when I could, and I started eating a bit healthier . . . and, again, I carried my weight well. I knew I was fat, but I wasn’t huge.

And then I met Duffy — and Duffy & I moved in together, with our dogs & cat, and we had our candy drawer and all was good. Except that we had a candy drawer, and that actually meant that things were not, in fact, all good4. When we decided to actually move back to be closer to our families, I knew it was time to propose. And, apparently, a marriage proposal leads to a wedding – and the wedding doesn’t count if there aren’t wedding photos.

So, Duffy joined Weight-Watchers and I figured out the formula, so I kind-of joined Weight-Watchers as well. And Duffy joined the gym, so I joined the gym – and I fell in love with it.

I’d wake up at 4:30 in the morning, walk the dogs, and then work out. And then I’d go to work, and head back to the gym and work out some more. I’d say that 95% of what I was doing there was cardio . . . I never even approached the weights. And the weight came flying off of my body.

I knew this, because I weighed myself each & every day.

I became obsessed. If the number decreased by 2 pounds in a day, that was great. If it decreased by 1.4, that was ok. If it decreased by .7? I needed to carefully evaluate what I was going to eat that day, because my weight should not be slowing.

I recorded every bite of every meal I took, and the weight continued to melt right off.

While most any doctor will tell you that you should aim for no more than 2 pounds per week, in weight-loss, when you’re starting with 290+ pounds, well, it’s easy to explain to yourself that you can do things differently.

Suddenly, “I wonder if I can make 250” turned into “I wonder how I’ll look at 225,” then “205 is the maximum weight to appear ‘healthy’ on the BMI scale,” then onederland, then the 180’s…

I continued to obsess.

I believe I may have been anorexic.

I stopped weighing myself obsessively. And then life came, and I started working out less . . . and I started eating more . . . and I started putting weight back on.

I’ve never approached the levels of gluttony that I had achieved in college, and in the months between moving in with Duffy & getting my act in gear, but I had slacked for quite some time.

Then I started to run, and things were better . . . but, all the while, I never looked at a scale. I’d judge my health by the way I felt, and by how my clothes fit, and by how far I could run. And I was in a good place.

I started a new job, and, next door was a Planet Fitness . . . and while this job had demands that meant that I couldn’t work out in the morning, every morning, I could, at least, work out over lunches. So I did — and I avoided stepping on the scale.

Going to the gym, I no longer just looked to justify as many beers burn as many calories as possible . . . I wanted to make myself stronger, and all-around healthier. I started mixing weight-training in with the workouts — and the work outs . . . .well, let’s just say that I get very sweaty and push myself pretty hard.

Then, recently, I started stepping on the scale again. I don’t even know if I really know why I started – but I did.

The number was 245 pounds . . . more than I thought I would be at the time (I was anticipating a number around 220), and a full 66 pounds heavier than I was at my lightest.

Since that day, I’ve recorded my weight every Tuesday (sometimes, I’ll step on the scale at the beginning and then at the end of what I know will be a huge workout, just for shits & giggles) — I’ve seen the number drop to 240 and then, today, it jumped up to 243.

I ate like crap last week . . . and last night. I knew the number would go the “wrong way.”

What I’m doing, however, is reminding myself that the weight is only a number. While I’m tempted to sit down and just run & cycle & elliptical myself until I’m little more than a gathered collection of sweat and hunger, I’m not going to.

I’m going to concentrate on the fact that I bought myself new jeans a year ago, because the old ones were falling off . . . and these new ones are quite loose. I’m going to concentrate on the fact that I can see definition in my arms, for the first time, ever. I’m going to concentrate on the fact that my running, while I’m running far less than I once did, is coming easier — my splits are far faster and I need little recovery after a big run. I’m going to believe that any time I see a sideways glance at the gym, or walking down the street, that I’m being “checked out,” and not glanced at in wonder as someone tries to figure out how I walk upright. I’m going to revel in the fact that I can place my kids in my arms and walk them upstairs to bathe them without winding myself. I’m going to remind myself that I have dimples . . . and I’m seeing them for the first time in my adult life (even when I was super skinny, they didn’t come out).

Sure, I’m going to give careful consideration to what I eat over the next week (candy might not be my friend, and booze & I have been overdue for a little bit of a separation), but I’m, truly, going to only consider weight a number. If I lose the 3 pounds that I put on since this time last week . . . great. If I drop another pound or two, on top of that, super. If I can a pound or two — well, I’ll take a long look in the mirror5, and if I truly believe that I made healthy decisions all week, I’ll accept that my body wants the extra weight and that muscle weighs more than fat.

I’ll remember that the scale is only reporting a number.

1 I have — and admit it, you would, too.
2 What? I do good deeds sometimes.
3 It was me — because my belly jiggled like a bowl full of jelly.
4 Also, right around this time, snack makers started selling a combination of pretzels & tortilla chips & corn chips & cheese-doodles all in the same package! We’d go through one large bucket of this delicious concoction a week.
5 Every now & then, I do a double take when I look at myself in the mirror, because I still picture myself as I’ve always looked — chubby, clean shaven, with a haircut that parts on the right and curls if you let it get too long . . . now, I’m less-cubby, bearded, and bald.
  1. Bratmom permalink

    You can do it. Take it from someone that took the easy way out with gastric bypass. Dont let the mirror play tricks on you or the scale. I’m pulling for you!

    PS The pretzel snacks are the freaking best! 🙂

    • I actually considered gastric-bypass a long-long time ago, before I met my wife. While I had well over 100 pounds to lose, I was declined from my insurance company. Apparently, in the doctor’s report, there were questions about whether I’d be able to stick to the diet afterward.

  2. I used to not care about the number; for a long time we didn’t own a scale. I can’t tell you exactly what I weighed in college or the day I got married or how much I weighed when I got pregnant with my kids.

    Now? I know. And I worry about it too much. And I don’t know what happened to flip the switch this way; I wish I could flip it back. I’m not in a bad place clothes-wise or fitness-wise or (I don’t think) look-wise, yet the number isn’t what I want, and that’s not right 🙁

    This is a good post. I can guarantee I’m going to think about it a lot the next few weeks.

    • I can’t tell you how much I weighed at my absolute apex, but I can tell you that I was down to 179 pounds as an adult . . . back when I would obsess, constantly, about the number.

      I, honestly, cannot imagine myself 60 pounds lighter than I am right now.

      But, well, I think I’m on record as saying that I find you quite attractive – were I in your shoes, I’d go right back to not thinking about the scale. Ever.

  3. Fantastic post, John. I’m too often falling into the trap of being slave to the scale, weighing myself daily (or twice daily) in hopes it’ll finally settle on a number below the magical “pre-baby” weight. Of course, I keep discounting that fact that I’m already wearing the pre-baby clothes.

    I’ve got to take a lesson from you and remind myself that the scale is only a number. You remind me of this constantly, and believe me, it’s hitting home.

    • I hear in your posts & tweets how good you’re feeling about your body . . . and I take that to heart, often, because, well, I need to give myself the same pep-talk. And you’re one of the people who is doing it right (even if you get pissed off at the asshole scale, every now & then)

  4. Those people are totally checking you out because you are damn sexy.

  5. I love how much Duffy obviously adores you. #damnluckybugger

    Interesting timing of you post as I’m probably in the worst mental state about my body than I’ve ever been in my life. And it has nothing to do with the scale and more to do with the rack or lack there of. (Sorry, for that image, my friend).

    Also: I bought a scale a few years back, both to monitor my weight during my first pregnancy and to prove to Adonis that my cooking was not making him lose weight, that he indeed stayed the same weight, week in and week out.

    Keep fighting the good fight: taking care of you, for you and your loved ones. I’ll do the same.

    • Motorboats & hugs.

      We need to run together. Sometime soon. And then drink our body image worries away.

  6. Now, see? Unfair, because you touch on a lot of issues I wish I didn’t have to share with you (though I am a fan of solidarity), but also?

    That first footnote just makes me want to say, “oh, no! did I drop that?”

    • Body issues are never, ever fun issues . . . either to share or to carry alone.

      If you did, in fact, drop that . . . I might have enjoyed watching you pick it up :-p

  7. Oh so that was you looking at my cleavage, huh? ::snicker::

    I refuse to weigh myself.

    Ok, after pregnancy I did just because the doc told me to, but normally when babies aren’t concerned, I don’t check. I go by if I feel healthy.

    This was a HUGE struggle for me to come to since I was a size 6 all the way through college with a complete stick/boy figure.

    Then at 25 I randomly sprouted curves. Everywhere.

    Then I battled with the curves getting overly padded.

    Now I know I have had two babies grow in me, things will never be “boyish” again, but if I feel healthy and strong? I am good to go.

    Sounds easier than it was to come to. And some days are still hard to believe it.

    • I wish I could find your attitude – because I know the healthy approach is “go by how you feel,” rather than anything else . . . yet, I’m stuck in a rut of going by the scale. Dammit.

  8. Kim permalink

    I love what Duffy said. And thank you for this, I needed this reminder!

    • It’s an important reminder — and I need to remind myself of the same. Far too often.

  9. A good reminder, easier said than practiced – but good nonetheless. My husband and I struggle to maintain. I’m on a kick right now and he’s in a rut. I shared this with him too!

    • I hope this helped your husband . . . I’m in a bit of a rut lately, too — though only from the scale. I’m actually (mostly) eating right and feeling pretty good about myself. The problem is, if I go a day without working out, or if I make some questionable eating choices, I let that stick with me, and that really affects my “feeling good” mojo.

  10. I am looking into buying a scale (how’s that for a qualified commitment!) I’m trying to do this weight loss thing gradually and what’s happening is it’s so gradual I can’t really tell if anything is happening. A number would be helpful. I think. But it can also be a slippery slope for me. I like what you said about only weighing yourself once a week (you did say that right?) That seems reasonable to me.

    • I’ll actually weigh myself several times a day, just to reinforce that the number is purely random . . . my weight at the start of the day is very different than my weight at the start of a workout, which is very different than my weight at the end of my workout, which is very different than my weight at the end of the day.

      I only count the number once a week, on Tuesdays, before my workout.

  11. Picture me nodding all the way through this.

    My story is different, of course. But my current peace with my body (such as it is) did not come to me easily.

    I have often considered writing about it since I figure others could see some of themselves in me; that it could be cathartic or helpful to me or my friends.

    Body issues are SO deeply ingrained in our consciousness, though. I’m not sure there is any easy way to grapple with that beast.

    Wishing you well on your fight to be physically AND mentally well, plus a big fat F.U. to scales if they make you feel bad.


    • I will say that when the scale reflects how I’m feeling (basically, if I’ve felt that I’m doing the best things for my health, and the number on the scale goes down), it helps. The issue is when I’m liking the me in the mirror when I’m naked, and I think I’m making the right choices, but the number stays the same or *gasp* goes the wrong way.

      I need to remind myself that, in those cases, it’s not a bad thing . . . I’m still feeling healthy and liking the reflection. Alas, it’s not always that easy.

      But, you’re right, I think your readers would like it if you could share any stories about body image (well, your readers would enjoy any stories you share, at all . . . because we love you like that)

  12. I use scales. I have a hard stop number. It’s my post baby weight number. I refuse to weigh more than 160. Sounds like a lot for a girl huh. But I’m 5 ’10 and people say I carry my weight well. But I know what that looks like under the clothes and 160, it ain’t pretty.

    Self esteem is hard one for me when it comes to appearances. I’m not super vain with fancy clothes and make up. But my physical body. I always feel like it should be better. I guess, I’m saying, that inner struggle…I feel ya. And I don’t have all of the answers. Let me know when you find em.

    • If I’m looking at a BMI chart, I believe the “optimal” weight, for my height, is 167 pounds. And I can’t imagine myself anywhere near that weight.

      You’ve had pictures of you up, and you’re looking great, Lisa . . . whatever you are doing, you’re doing right.

      As far as answers, I’m still nowhere near where I feel is “right.”

  13. The scale is my enemy. It has been since my ballet days.

    I have an absolute number that must be lost before. I know I’m hard on myself, but it’s what needs to be done at this point in my life.

    Thanks for being so inspiring.

    • omit that random “before” and pass me another cup of coffee, please.

    • I wonder if there is any study matching gymnasts / ice skaters / ballerinas and body issues. Because you’re not the first of my friends who falls into one of those areas who doesn’t like their body . . . yet, well, I’ve seen your facebook pictures, and you’re mighty fine looking.

  14. I try not to live by the scale either, but it’s oh-so-hard. I even made part of the life coaching I did in January learning not to rely on the number so much andmore about how I FEEL. Well, frankly, sometimes I FEEL happier when the number’s lower than when I just feel good, if that makes sense.

    Also, drinking – it is so annoying that drinking interferes so much with weight loss. I mean, really, really annoying. Especially when it’s spring, the weather’s getting warmer and a beer tastes so darned good at the end of the day. 😉

    • I went a long, long time without ever looking at the scale. It went so far that, when I went to the doctor’s office, I’d close my eyes and ask the assistant to not read the number aloud.

      The problem started when I told myself that I was no longer accountable to myself. Basically, I was cheating, and cheating badly — I was eating foods that I shouldn’t have been eating, and I was not working out as much or as hard as a previous version of me did.

      So, the scale became a bit of reality that I couldn’t cheat . . . I need to get myself back to the point where I’m not looking at the scale, but being honest with myself.

      And, if they ever came up with a wine that aided in weight loss, I’d buy the vineyard.

      I will admit that I had a Guinness after my run yesterday . . . damn, there i no sweeter taste.

  15. Bless you, dear man. Not only do we share a love of beer, but you have opened my eyes to the realization that I’m not the only one who thinks the scale is evil.

    I totally thought that was a chick thing.

    You are my new hero.

    • It’s either far from “just a chick thing,” or I’m more of a chick than I let on (I’m on so many “mommy blogger” lists that I sometimes forget about my penis . . . well, not really, I never could, but I do find myself “thinking like I think a woman might think” more often)

      I hope you continue the good fight 🙂

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