“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.”
As you all know, the past 9 weeks the hubs and I have have been participating in a “Get Fit Challenge” through our local gym. While I may have joined simply to be supportive, it has not spared me from the torment of the weekly “weigh in”. Normally I am not someone who ever weighs myself. I don’t need a scale to tell me when I’m getting a little soft and fluffy. I do live in my body after all. Getting dressed in the morning is enough evidence of any changes going on. For example, I don’t need a number to know when my derriere is getting huge. All I need is a mirror. (Thanks cycling!)
However, being required to weigh myself every frickin’ week has given me a preoccupation with my weight that is entirely not welcome. I know my biggest issue with training is not eating enough, and yet the thought of that dreaded weigh in has me in fear of eating. At least it did initially. Then the hubs and I went on a vacation. I think I literally ate my way through the whole week. While I tried to stick to healthier options, I still ate french fries and carbs when I wanted them. My only exercise consisted of running with a cumulative total of 20 miles for the week. Guess what happened! I didn’t gain an ounce.
After that I decided to focus on trying to eat MORE. Instead of trying to be strict about only eating clean, I tried to work on getting enough calories (while still trying to make healthy choices). The result was that I actually lost a little weight.
It’s hard to believe that with all the mileage I pull in a week, and that fact that body is frequently starving for calories (why does healthy food have to be so damn low in calories anyway?) that some number on a scale could still make me feel, well, fat. I am only 5’4″ and my weight fluctuates between 139 and 140. I am the heaviest I have ever been. Yet I still fit in size 0 and 2 dresses.
That is until I went to a bridal salon recently to get my bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding. Now I am familiar with the sizing of bridesmaid dresses. I went in totally expecting the sizing to be off. I never could have prepared myself for how much off they were. The last bridesmaid dress I purchased was about a year prior and was a size 4. By the time of the wedding, it had to be taken in. I was expecting, because these were “designer” dresses, for my size to be a little higher. I think my jaw might have dropped when they told me I needed a size 10.
They asked me if I had any questions, so I inquired whether this size was already adjusted for the possibility of pregnancy. They told me no. They actually recommended I order a size 12. Then the sales associate proceeded to explain that I required I larger size because I “have large hips” (ahem, they are called quads and glutes… thank you very much). I wanted to ask whether they were planning on putting the zipper across my ass, but held my tongue out of courtesy for my future sister-in-law.
By this point my head was reeling in confusion as if I were in another fashion dimension with completely different sizing (and I was). I asked what size the sample dress was for a point reference. She went to look. It was a size 10. Oh, the dress you had to clip me into because it was so huge it was falling off? That is the size I need for my ENORMOUS thighs? Thank you so much for clarifying. I feel much better about myself now.
At this point I was contemplating asking to see what a size 2 or 0 dress looked like just to see if a human could fit in it, but I was pretty sure they couldn’t manufacture a dress that microscopic. I told my sister that they should offer prozac with the receipt along with a note reading “Congratulations you are not only fat, but broke.” I wanted to cry. Then I wanted to diet. Ultimately, I just got angry. I could only imagine how other women feel being told their size was a multiple of more than 5 times the size they normally wear. This is why I’ll never buy designer clothes. When you are paying that much money for an article of clothing it should build your self esteem, not deflate it.
So here I was already feeling insecure thanks to the scale with my worst weight insecurities confirmed by the bridal salon and pissed off that I live in a society where these things seem to matter. That is when I decided that these things may matter to society but they don’t have to matter to me. I have worked hard for every ounce of muscle on my body, and I’m not about to be ashamed of the fact that some snooty designer doesn’t think women should have curves.
As far as the scale, I have stopped caring about that too. I would rather focus on how much I’ve improved at swimming or how far (pun intended) I have come with running. I can deadlift my body weight and do unassisted chin ups. At our most recent weekly challenge (<– see photo) I beat my former-marine-husband’s time by over 4 minutes both times (18:35 the first time and 15:15 the second… with FULL chest-to-ground burpees…sometimes being short ie. low to the ground has it’s advantages). The point is that I can do things with my body now that I never could have dreamed of or accomplished when I was just “skinny” and 20 pounds lighter. I don’t care if my BMI is at the upper limit of normal. I don’t care if I don’t fit society’s unrealistic visual standard of beauty. I don’t care if my muscular legs give me big hips or my shoulders get “bulky” or “manly” from pull ups and swimming. I appreciate my body for what it can do. Societal Approval not necessary.
You may have noticed a cropping up of articles and blog posts recently about body acceptance and keeping it real, notably this article by Laura Fleshman (for a more graphic look I’d also check out this post by Molly Galbraith). As you may have guessed, I LOVE what they ladies have to say. I think it is great that women are creating a movement of whole body acceptance. It is refreshing to see both super fit and everyday women flaunting their imperfections unapologetically with the extremely appropriate hashtag “keepitreal”. To that I say WOOOHOOO!
Now let me tell you a secret. This past Saturday I finally let my trainer measure my body fat percentage. It was 13.3%. With the margin of error that puts me at 13-16%, which is in between Essential Fat and Athletic on the ACE chart. That basically means, I don’t have any weight to lose. If my body fat goes any lower, I may stop menstruating and have difficulty conceiving a child. Despite this, I still have cellulite and love handles. I still have rolls on my stomach when I slouch, and I don’t look even remotely chiseled. Yes I have a muscular build, but it doesn’t look anything like the fitspo propaganda floating around the internet. If my body fat percentage is in the Essential range, I can only imagine what number those people are at (or how dehydrated and photoshopped they are). Whatever percentage it is, I am pretty sure it’s not sustainable and not a number they live at 365 days a year… something to keep in mind when these images are telling you to work harder for the body of your dreams.
From now on, I’ll be looking at that kind of fitspo in a new light: a definition of beauty that is unattainable by most and unsustainable for nearly anyone. Sure, there are female body builders and fitness models who diet themselves down to even lower body fat percentages than mine, but the majority of the time that involves dropping the weight before competitions. They don’t live at that number all the time. Then we see photoshopped images of them and think that’s how they look 365 days a year.
In reality, short of going on a strict eating plan or totally dehydrating myself, this is the fittest looking (not the same as fittest in general) I am probably ever going to get. I don’t think I could cram in anymore training without injuring myself, and I wouldn’t want to anyway. There are things I want to do in life beyond just my fitness goals. My athletic pursuits are meant to enrich my life not define or rule it. If I get six pack abs in the process that’s great. If not, I’ll just be a little more cuddly when my husband squeezes my waste. I think I can live with that.