I love being a woman. But there are parts of it that drive me crazy and the top of the list lies the body image war that seems to come along with the territory. Last week, I got to thinking about just how many female friends I have who are either hating their bodies obliviously, hating their bodies and hating that they hate them, or actively learning to or at least trying to love their bodies.
I was listening to an old episode of Barbell Shrugged last week that really got me thinking on this girly specific body issue stuff. If you’re not familiar with the podcast, their own description should serve as enough background information to catch you up to speed (but it’s worth listening to if you’re into CrossFit):.”Every Wednesday the Barbell Shrugged crew sits around and talks the sport of CrossFit, Strength, Conditioning, Weightlifting, potty humor…. you name it.”
Anyways, the episode I listened to was episode was about weight loss myths and getting lean for CrossFit and started out with some talk about where the guys have been in terms of their “weight swings” (as they called them). What came up for me wasn’t “God, these guys are yoyo dieters” but “Wow, they’re talking about losing and gaining 50lbs like it’s on the same level as dying your hair or moving from one city to another.” There was no association with their self worth. There wasn’t the same sense of judgment that goes along with me talking about gaining or losing x number of pounds. When one guy mentioned daily weigh-ins and tracking his weight for years, I was amazed at how unattached to the number he seemed to be. He talked about keeping track so he could monitor things like his performance in respect to his weight. I couldn’t help but appreciate this acknowledgment and (neutral) curiosity.
Pictures like this one with the sentiment of “scales are for fish” are one of my favourite ways to remind myself that the scale isn’t a measure of my self worth.
Just like not hating our bodies is an option, not being controlled by the number on the scale is clearly also an option. Strangely enough, those guys who were talking about getting leaner gave me a serious appreciation for detaching the moral judgment that goes along with losing or gaining weight. Rather than a reflection on self worth, it’s clear that for them, the number on the scale is just a number.
Along the same lines, I gave some thought about how this might carry out in our day to day lives. The thought of my boyfriend and his friends sitting around and talking about how scared they are that their pants won’t fit if they keep squatting more or talking about eating a cupcake like it’s a sin against God is far fetched. I don’t see very many guys I know talking about food being “indulgent” (the only term I can think of that might be problematic is cheating, but there’s not the guilty pleasure or good food bad food kind of chitter chatter so many gals I know seem to fall into). A couple of guys standing around and lamenting over the size of their thighs at the gym seems highly unlikely and I can’t help but be comforted by the fact that if it’s possible for the guys I know to look at their bodies and their weight in a different way, it’s possible for all of us. Call me silly but if a boy can do it I have all the more desire to want to do it to prove girls can too. I look back to when I started to get into the slippery slope of cutting weight for wrestling in high school and while I’ve heard of guys who have wound up with disordered relationships with food, the number of girls I know who have cut weight for wrestling or rowing or boxing and struggle with lingering issues way down the road from when they leave the sport is mind boggling. What is it about being a gal that makes it so hard to give up this obsession?
I used to weigh myself all the time. Daily, sometimes more than once a day. And I would let that number dictate how my day would go. For a long time, the scale played a big role in perpetuating the crazy obsessive cycle of disordered eating and exercising I was stuck in. Given that, I think giving up the scale was absolutely necessary and the right thing to do. But there’s also something to be said for being confident enough to know what you weigh and to own it and not use it for unhealthy or obsessive purposes somewhere down the road. So maybe scales aren’t for fish. At any rate, what I’d love to see is less women (people) using the scale for crazymaking, period, whether they weigh themselves or not.
Last week I wrote a fitness column in the gazette about getting outside your stereotypical genderized comfort zone at the gym. Maybe this is one way to start changing the way we look at our bodies. I know from personal experience that moving away from endless cardio and a focus on the aesthetic to the (traditionally male) realm of lifting things and focusing on getting strong and being functionally fit has been one of the best things I’ve done for my own relationship with my body. Maybe along with this comes a new way of looking at weight as something that really is just a number. That sounds oh so refreshing and the more that I am able to take the power back from the scale—to actually be able to see the number at the doctor’s office and not wish that I hadn’t because it brings me down (or makes me feel good, whatever)—the more I realize that weight really is just a number. It reflects things about us, but those things don’t determine our self worth or our beauty or our value as a person, plain and simple. That, more than any number on a scale ever could, makes me feel light.
What does your weight mean to you?
Do you weigh yourself? Why or why not? If you do, how often?