It’s Just a Number

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So I went to the doctor this week.  The visit was related to a cold I haven’t been able to shake that has blossomed into a sinus infection, but that isn’t the point of this post.  This post will discuss the thing that commonly happens when you do visit your doctor.  The weigh-in.  The dreaded weigh-in, for many out there.

You take off as much as possible for common decency in public so as to keep the number lower.  Shoe removal is a must, of course.  I always crack a little joke with the nurse, like “here we go again…” with a roll of my eyes.  Anything to break the tension that I am feeling inside.

You’d think that, with my past as an athlete and the knowledge that I am a pretty healthy person who eats primarily natural, real food and works out around five days a week, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the resulting measurement.  But I do.  

And I hate how it makes me feel.  I hate how the number can ruin my day, make me feel negative about myself.  Make me feel inadequate and unlovable.  The power I give to it is ridiculous.  

When it comes down to it, I am just built differently.  Well, we are all built differently, no two people are the same (something we should all keep in mind).  I just put on muscle easily and have been lifting a lot at the gym lately to try to improve my strength, posture, metabolism, body composition and overall health.  Muscle weighs more than fat after all.

So why did this little episode at the doctor impact me so strongly? Well, societal pressure and feminine norms is one thing.  A personal past with disordered eating and weight obsession is another. I have always struggled, especially as a teenager, with fitting into what society as a whole considers “beautiful”. But why should I care so much?  Isn’t the main thing that matters is that I think I’m beautiful, just the way I am? You betcha. Thankfully today there are a lot of beautiful, strong women out there who are great role models to the female community.

Also impacting me is the commonly held idea that weight directly determines health. But for me and many athletic girls out there, that’s just not true.  Weight is just a number, not the be all end all indicator of health.  It is an important one yes, but not a number that should be considered all by its lonesome self.  

Even worse is the measurement of BMI, which is calculated by taking your weight (in kilograms) and dividing it be your height (in centimeters) squared.  It does not take into account body composition at all.  A teenager recently wrote an essay to her gym teacher explaining why she wouldn’t measure her BMI for a homework assignment (see article about it here!).  She’s an athlete and the first time her BMI was measured in gym class she was labeled as obese.  Her letter went viral.

So what measurements do matter?  Well, lab tests that measure what’s going on inside are pretty significant indicators of health.  Someone may be skinny but also have high blood pressure and be pre-diabetic (commonly known these days as “skinny fat”). Waist measurement is also helpful.  This helps to measure visceral fat, or belly fat, which is the really bad stuff.  If your weight stays constant over a span of time but your waist circumference decreases?  Well, that means you are losing fat and gaining muscle.  Win!

When I step back and really think about it, what would I tell a friend who came to me with these feelings?  Well, I would tell her to not ever let a number dictate how you love and feel about yourself because you are so much more than that.

At the end of the day, weight is just a number.  It should never make you feel bad about yourself, shameful or unworthy.  Use it as a tool in conjunction with other things to work towards a better, healthier life, but don’t let it define you.  Because we are all beautiful just the way we are.

Peace, love and health,

The Yogi~Foodie

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