Tuesday, April 8, 2014

About My Body -- The One That Won't Lose Weight

I'm Amy. I'm 33 years old and I live in Maine. I have a husband, two kids, and a big brown dog. I own a business, I drive a mom car, and I'm thoroughly convinced my quality of life with triple if I could just lose five pounds. 

And hooo boy, then there's that ten pound fantasy. Honestly--and I'm embarrassed to admit this out loud--if I could choose, I'd pick the spontaneous loss of ten pounds over an all expense paid trip to the Tahitian Islands.

So far, there's nothing about me--even that dark little ten pound secret up there--that isn't normal or socially acceptable. I'm an average American girl (who cannot bear to write the word 'woman' or 'lady' because ick, old).

Now I'll expose myself a little bit more.

So that's me on the right, running my mom in at a half marathon:

And that's me on the left, getting ready to run a marathon with a bunch of friends:

That's a picture of me making a Popeye face (maybe I should invest in some sunglasses):

And that's me holding a men's bodybuilding trophy from 1988 and wearing someone else's medals at a Thanksgiving Day 5k:

This is the point where you think to yourself, "What?! You're CRAZY. You DO NOT NEED TO LOSE FIVE POUNDS. I'M the one who needs to lose five pounds, not you!"

Or maybe, "Shut up you stupid, skinny girl. You run marathons?! And you'd give up a trip to Tahiti to lose ten pounds?! That's insane. If I looked like you and ran marathons, I wouldn't have a damn thing to complain about."

Or maybe you think, "Awww, you look cute! Stop being so hard on yourself!"

Even I look at those pictures and think, "Looking good, self....but still, lose five pounds."

Whatever your reaction might be, I'd like you to use it to help you realize that as women in America, we are ALL trained to want to lose five pounds. Or ten. Or three. Or fifty. Show me a woman--any woman--and I'll show you a person who thinks about losing some weight at least three times, every single day.

It does't matter how old we are, how tall we are, how big or small we are, how fit we are, how funny we are -- we are all programmed to believe that we need to drop a few to feel peace in our hearts. And people, it's absolutely crazy making.


At my job, I end up weighing all different people a couple of times a day -- I'm a trainer. So many times, a lady will come bopping in with a giant smile, having a great day. She was complimented at work, she's having an awesome hair day, her grandson won the spelling bee, she got a sweet purse on clearance at TJ Maxx, and then *POOF.* "What? I gained a pound? How did I gain a pound? I thought I had a good week. I swear I had a good week. Why'd I gain a pound? What did I do wrong?"

Day. Ruined.

Or, on the flip side, someone might be telling me the sad, sordid tale of their son. The one who ended up in prison and who's going to trial for robbery next week. He used to be such a great kid, and then *BOOM.* "Wait what? I lost two pounds!? I wasn't expecting that! I had three cookies this week, what a great surprise! Wow! I...I just wasn't thinking this could happen!"

Day. Perfected.

Or then there's my favorite, because you know we've all done it -- the scale shifter. They step up, they wait, they grimace because they don't like the number that just popped up. They step down. They step up diagonally, and wait, and shrug when the number pops up the same. They step down, they move the scale, on an angle, to the uneven part of the floor. They step up one more time and they lightly pump their fist in success. They just made that scale read eight tenths of a pound lower.

Mission. Accomplished.

As a female insider, I understand all three, boy do I ever. As an outsider, I think, "Wait. Hold on. You're still the same person who just walked in here. How on earth can a number change your whole day like that? This is crazy...." Because it kind of is.

The bottom line is this: Weight trumps all. Good feelings, bad feelings, intelligent logic. The number on the scale can take each of those things and dump 'em right on their heads.

And what's even weirder? This is perhaps the most mighty unifying force we have as women. Old, young, liberal, conservative, gay, straight, East, West, pregnant, menopausal, working, stay-at-home, radical feminist, traditionalist -- we care, we get it, we understand the madness. I can't think of a single topic that we all (even if we don't like to admit it) agree upon more.

Why have we let this happen?


As a trainer, I see a lot of numbers that are classic health and fitness indicators: weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat, inches, age, max reps, miles times, and so on and so forth. I do believe that they're all important, yes, even weight.

What I find baffling is our reaction to the numbers. When we find out our blood pressure is high, we've generally gotten to that place with the same exact habits that lead us to gain weight: a little too much laziness, to many treats, not enough vegetables, stress, a dash of genetics. Same with unbalanced cholesterol. But generally speaking, our reactions are so much different:

DOCTOR: Your blood pressure is high. It's really important to make some changes, even if it's hard.
US: You're right, what can I change?


DOCTOR: Your weight is creeping up. It's really important to make some changes, even if it's hard.
US [lip quivering, on the verge of tears, trying to look composed, will melt into a puddle once we get into the car]: Um, okay. Sure. Yup. I want to die.

Or then there's someone like me. This past year I maxed out at fifty push ups, learned to do pull ups for the first time, benched a hundred pounds (a lot for me), PR'd in the half marathon, PR'd in the full marathon, and dropped five percent body fat. I'm SUPER genetically predisposed to high blood pressure, and I managed to get that from borderline high, to a healthy range.

Am I happy about all of that? I really really am. Really, I am. Buuuuuuuuuuut, how much faster could I have run those races if I was at 145 instead of 150? THAT is on of the first questions that pops into my head.


So where do we go from here? Do we smash our scales and refuse to be weighed at the doctor? Do we announce our weights loud and proud to try to muscle ourselves into becoming okay with it? (LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, TODAY I WEIGH 154 WITH A BMI OF 23.4!!!! YOU ARE WELCOME).

I have no idea, because being at a healthy weight truly is important, so don't trash the scale just yet. Because seriously, thelast time I tucked my scale away for a few months, I gained seven pounds. Not the awesomest thing to have happen.

Now don't get me wrong, it's not wrong to want to lose a few pounds by any stretch of the imagination, I guess I wish we could turn down the amplified emotions we have that are connected to weight. Take it as another piece of data, just like we do with blood pressure and cholesterol, push up reps, and circumference measurements. Not have the Queen of the World or Please Bury Me in a Hole reactions that we tend to have to that digital number. To be able to stop connecting that number to our goodness and worth.


Lately, at work, I'm trying really hard to help people set fitness goals rather than weight loss goal. To stop posting a picture of their ideal Pinterest body on their fridge, and start posting a picture of the mountain they're planning to hike. Instead of a goal of 185, set a goal to do a mud run. Instead of a goal to make it to 199, make it a goal to run 199 miles in three months.

For now, it seems to be working at my little place of business. Because training for a hike, or a race, or to see a certain blood pressure reading gives us all a sense of accomplishment over something that we should really actually feel accomplished over. We don't need pictures of us posing on a scale, we need pictures of us rock climbing, or swimming across a lake, or playing soccer with our kids without keeling over.

So. Let's try to move weight down on the important list and focus on accomplishing some super empowering fitness goals instead.

My fitness goal?

Kill the Sugarloaf Marathon in May -- no matter how much I weigh.