It’s January, and with the start of the new year many pledges to lose weight are made, and fitness journeys begin.
Any effort towards making positive lifestyle changes are fantastic, and should be applauded. Problems come, however, when there is an obsession with the number on the scales.
I know, I’ve been there.
I had struggled with my weight, with confidence, and with self-esteem throughout most of my life.
I’ve tried many diets, and slimming clubs. Calories in and calories out became a preoccupation. The weekly weigh-ins were a huge source of anxiety. If I had lost a decent amount of weight, jubilation! If I hadn’t lost as much as I had expected (or gained!) I felt like I had failed, and would berate myself for not trying harder. As a comfort eater, that was especially challenging. I was unhappy with myself, and had a low opinion of my appearance and achievements.
A healthy mind is equally as crucial as a healthy body: an obsession about what you eat and what you weigh can be detrimental to that.
It has taken me a long time to realise that I needn’t obsess about the number on the scales.
So, what changed?
In February 2016 I joined a gym and engaged a personal trainer because I wanted to achieve a certain weight in order to be granted fertility treatment.
A fertility doctor had told me to ask my GP to refer me to Slimming World. Another baby, after the death of my baby son Hugo, was something I so desperately wanted.
But I knew that approach was not right for me.
The aforementioned self-esteem issues intensified after Hugo’s death: he had been born 16 weeks prematurely because I had the rare, life-threatening pregnancy complication HELLP syndrome. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I blamed myself for Hugo’s death, and hated my body for what I perceived as failing quite spectacularly. Anger was a permanent emotion; and combined with comfort eating, pounds piled on.
The weekly weigh-ins at any slimming club would have provided an additional stick to beat myself with, leading to increased stress and yet another big fat vicious cycle.
So I joined a gym instead. At our first session my personal trainer, Matt, had told me he didn’t care what my weight was. I found that strange: everything I had known about health and fitness had been about weight. You get weighed at the doctor’s: they love their BMI charts. Slimming clubs are all about weight loss. Magazines and various health fads promised to help people lose a certain amount of weight over a certain period of time.
With Matt, I have been doing resistance, HIITs, boxing, and body weight work to reduce body fat and build muscle. To my surprise, I really loved it:…I was rubbish at traditional school sports because I am not quick, and I am pretty uncoordinated, but finally I had found something that I enjoyed doing, and smashed the workouts. I even looked forward to going to the gym!
It didn’t take long for my workouts to start yielding results: in six weeks, I lost 7.5 inches across my body. That was incredible, but it was the weight loss that provided the most significant revelation…or rather the lack of weight loss.
In that time, despite the massive inch loss, I lost just half a kilo.
The funny thing was, I didn’t care: I was seeing the benefits not only to my body but to my mind, too. The workouts (boxing especially!) were helping me manage my anger. Anger is a result of excess stress, and a key symptom of PTSD. Excess stress also contributes to weight gain because cortisol, the stress hormone, affects the metabolism. Crucially for me, excess stress impacts fertility: the body figures if life is really that stressful, it’s not a good time for the body to make a baby.
Admittedly, not caring about the weight took a while to get used to.
But it does makes sense to me, now.
Look at the two photos below, for example. They are both of me, taken six months apart. In the latest photo, taken a few days ago, my waist is more than seven inches smaller than it was in June. You can see my tummy is tauter, and my legs are more toned. Not everything is smaller, though: thanks to endless squats and lunges my bum is bigger (just perkier!).
My body has toned up; I have gained self-esteem and confidence.
According to the scales, during the same period I have lost about five kilos…I say ‘about’ because I no longer weigh myself regularly. That’s the point. I gave up regularly weighing myself a few months ago when I realised that it was getting me down – why wasn’t the bloody number shifting in accordance with my inch loss?
The weight on the scale is irrelevant.
What is important is that I am losing body fat (especially visceral fat, the really bad stuff around your internal organs), and building muscle.
I watch what I eat, but I do not calorie count. Instead, I try to eat foods that are as natural as possible, and avoid processed food. I try to think: “what will this food give my body?” and focus my meals on lean proteins, good fats (hello, avocado!) and veggies. I have the odd treat when I fancy it. Working out is such a mood booster I am now less inclined to comfort eat.
Enjoying working out, pursuing a healthier lifestyle for their own sake and for myriad benefits is better than focusing purely on my weight.
And guess what?
Last summer I was delighted to discover I was pregnant! Completely naturally. No need for fertility assistance (Hugo was conceived with fertility assistance). I couldn’t believe it! There are many factors involved with fertility, but I felt certain that my healthier body and mind were significant contributing factors.
Sadly, I had a missed miscarriage at around six weeks. About a quarter of all pregnancies end in miscarriage – it is no one’s fault.
And being able to say that, after HELLP syndrome and Hugo’s death is a momentous development.
I’m not anywhere near physical perfection (who is, really?) and while I still have my body hang-ups (who doesn’t?) I am proud of what my body has achieved, and what it can do.
I feel fabulous!
Everything that happened with and to me, and to Hugo put so much in perspective.
Now, I realise my physical imperfections aren’t that important. How can I hate a body that has been through so much, yet still thrives?
In the past six months I have completed the 22 press ups (and other exercises, I got bored of press ups after a few days) for 22 days challenge to raise awareness of PTSD, and posted every single video on Facebook. I completed the gruelling FitBrit challenge and in a respectable time! I have done several Facebook Live videos of my personal training sessions with Matt, and I have posted a number of workout videos and selfies on my Instagram account, too.
You know what? I have been pleasantly astounded at the overwhelmingly positive response to these posts…and people especially love the boxing ones! People have even started training themselves as a result of watching the videos.
In a society obsessed with the pursuit of an unattainable ideal of ‘perfection’ I think it has been refreshing for people to see a woman with lumps and bumps smashing a workout, enjoying themselves, and reaping psychological as well as physical benefits.
~SMASHED!~ First workout of the year – smashed! I had great fun playing sandbell Bosu bounces with burpees; kettle bell goblet squats; press ups with shoulder touches; and ab work. Thought I was going to be sick at one point and my quads were burning, but all good! It was busy @ffbedford – great to see so many people working out. If you’re wondering about joining a gym go for it – just get started. You don’t know where you will be this time next time next year just like me this time last year…unfit and thinking a burpee is like some kind of torture…which it is in a way. But fun! I’m so proud of where I am today compared to where I’ve come from 👍💪👊🏼
So that’s why I have ditched the scales. I’m not telling you to do the same: you do what is right for you. We all have have different body shapes, we all have different motivations and ideals. But if you, like me, have struggled with your weight and self-image for whatever reason I hope this shows you that the weight on the scales is not the be-all-and-end-all.
The number on the scales does not represent your worth.
Life is too short to be restricted, to be unhappy. To have your life dominated by the scales.
Physical health at the expense of emotional wellbeing is not worth it.
Yes, my achievements are the result of a lot of hard work in the gym. But there are no quick fixes (I know you know that, we all wish it were otherwise!).
It is an investment, you are worth the investment.
Find something you enjoy doing. Find your awesomeness.
Pin for later