If I had one wish for every woman this year, it would be this: Forget about trying to lose weight; just go out there and kick some ass.
When I used to do personal training, I would always advise clients to not weigh themselves. Yes, that went against the advice of many traditional weight-loss and fitness programs, but here’s the thing: Getting on the scale is a recipe for disaster. In my experience, it only furthered the anxiety, shame and low self-worth for many women when the scale didn’t read exactly what they wanted it to (and does it ever, really?). Not only that, but because people traditionally weigh themselves first thing in the morning, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that starting your day off with feelings of self-loathing is not healthy.
When I would first meet with clients who did weigh themselves, I was shocked to hear things like, I feel fat, I don’t feel pretty, I can’t believe I weigh this much. My ______ (insert body part) is so huge. And on and on it went.
These self-imposed critical messages were really surprising to hear. Do people really say that to themselves, I thought? Our physical selves are supposed to be a source of self-expression, self-acceptance and joy no matter what size you are or what your ability is. How can people think such adverse thoughts about their own bodies, I wondered? Then I figured out that the scale was partly to blame.
So from then on, I started telling people to get rid of their scales. Don’t get on them. Ever. Instead, I would advise them to simply focus on what their bodies can do, and then the weight and everything else will take care of itself. So, we began focusing on physical achievements, training for races, working towards doing 50 push-ups in a row, being able to do unassisted pull-ups, mastering a one-mile swim or a 26.2-mile marathon. Kicking ass became the new goal. Not some number on a scale. And you know what? It worked. When people were focused on a goal, they ate better (food became a source of fuel not mindless eating), they slept better, their bodies became more of their true, natural shape and they felt proud of themselves.
The truth is, our bodies were made for so much more than being weighed or criticized for the way they look. Our bodies are instruments of power. Machines of strength. Miracles of endurance. They can run, jump, swim, bike, hike and move virtually any way we tell them. They allow us to downward dog, stand on our head, balance on one foot with our eyes closed and twist into all sorts of back bends (no matter how imperfect the result). And they allow us to have more energy and feel awesome about who we are. All without relying on a certain number to do that.
The other day my son said to me (as only a teenager would do), “Mom, your hands look old.” I looked down, rotated them back and forth a few times while studying their lines, wrinkles and (gasp!) age spots. “Yep, they do,” I admitted.
But then I went on to explain (more so to myself) that those aging hands are the result of thousands of miles spent pounding the pavement in the hot sun over the years while running. And the lines around my eyes are due, in part, to the countless times spent laughing and smiling with fellow athletes during training sessions or races. The scar on my ankle, that’s from a pretty bad mountain bike fall when I was attempting to conquer my fear with a big log jump. And that other scar on my knee? That’s from a face plant while running the trails one day and trying to beat my fastest time.
Hell yes, I have wrinkly hands and scarred appendages. But this body has gotten me through innumerable miles and life-changing experiences. Quite honestly, I care more about how it works than how it looks. My body is my temple of “doing” and that’s the way it gets treated.
What if we all did that and focused on just kicking ass instead of kicking ourselves when the scale doesn’t read what it “should”?