Hey everyone, and Happy Monday to you! I know Mondays are the “accepted” day to drag your feet and be a bit mopey, but I say let’s take charge and choose to be joyful, productive, and positive. Not always easy but still, I believe, a choice. One of the things that can make or break a Monday (or any other day of the week) is stepping on the scale and seeing a number you weren’t expecting (or wanting).
Keep in mind that I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, or weight loss expert; the following are simply my thoughts as a personal trainer, a woman striving to live a healthy lifestyle, and a person seeking balance in how I live.
As someone in the fitness industry, I am constantly surrounded by images of health, muscles, scales, and eating plans. The truth is, most of us are surrounded by – indeed, bombarded by! – these images, and it gets hard not to compare yourself to those images and think that the standard for health or fitness is looking like this:
Now there’s nothing wrong with both bodies! But for someone in the fitness industry, I’m more apt to think that I should look like Zuzana (check out her workouts – they’re insane and give you that “perfect hurt!”) with the amount of activity and attention to eating that I practice. But who’s to say that’s the only definition of “fit?” On the other hand, who’s to say that being a bit softer is more “healthy?” We could go around in circles talking about who has a “healthier” body, but the reality is that every body is different, and that’s a beautiful thing. We all have different genetics, different strengths, different weaknesses, and different definitions of what it means to live well.
Which brings us to back to the idea of being ruled by your scale and letting the outcome of your emotions be dictated by a number. What prompted these thoughts was a recent email from a friend last week who writes (with her permission):
“I’m still learning some of the things you seem to have already grasped. Like you, I love to run and eat healthy (and eat tasty treats too), but too often my reasons for these ‘healthy habits’ are tied up in the ‘need’ to look and feel a certain away, and then they become more of an addiction than a healthy habit. I feel like I’m doing the right things for the wrong reasons. I know very well that my identity is found in Christ alone, not what I do or what I look like, but it’s definitely a struggle, especially in the society we live in. Perhaps you can identify with me?”
Friend, I most definitely can identify you! It’s flattering, although also funny, to think that others might perceive me as someone who doesn’t struggle with things like weight gain, maintenance, and unhealthy habits because I definitely do – just ask my husband (he is the best sounding board and hears it all – thanks, Mikey!). 😉 The truth is, I’m still learning what it means for me to be healthy, because I always seem to be comparing myself to others. There are so many people to compare yourself too, and with social media and online interaction being so easily accessible, it’s even easier now:
- Comparisons to others from our past (hello, Facebook!)
- Comparisons to others in our fields (my mom is a personal trainer too, and man is she in good shape and double my age! 😉 Love you, mom!)
- Comparisons to other healthy living bloggers (who provide so much motivate and support, but sometimes it’s easy to think your healthy should be like theirs)
- Comparisons to people in our different communities
- Comparisons to yourself: 5 years ago, last year, yesterday…
- Comparisons to images as seen on TV, billboards, advertisements, and the internet.
And playing the comparison card is a deadly game. So yes, I do struggle with comparisons and am continually needing to remind myself that I am valuable and precious in Christ’s sight, not because I weigh a certain amount or don’t.
Furthermore, this struggle to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle strikes me as very common, especially in people who desire to live healthy, balanced lives (ironically enough). I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read on other healthy living bloggers’ sites that outline their fight against their knowledge of how to live healthy and the practical application of living that out all while achieving a state of balance. It can be easy to get thrown off balance and be too extreme either way (“I know I’m not going to keep this exercise routine up. What’s the point of even doing it today?” vs. “I cannot believe I just ate those 3 cookies! I better weigh myself to make sure it doesn’t have an immediate effect on my weight!”).
As my friend said in her email above, it can become all too easy to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. If I think back to 2008, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I can remember how much I weighed and look back at the pictures of my defined abs with some longing. I weigh about 6-8 lbs more than at that time now, and that much weight on a 5’2” frame is more than it might seem. No matter how much I work out or am mindful of my eating, I can’t seem to get back to that weight. But is that necessarily a bad thing, like I’ve made myself feel it is? When I look back to 2008 and think about what was happening in my life at the time, I’m hit with the realization that: we’d abruptly moved from Washington (state) to Calgary, we moved in my in-laws, Mikey started chemo treatments and I was working my first personal training job starting at 5 am through the evening. TONS of unexpected change occurred drastically and in an instant our lives were forever changed. It’s dawned on me in recent days that perhaps the stress that I thought I managed so well was actually impacting me and contributed to my quick weight loss. I was working out often, running in between clients at the gym, and not eating enough for the amount of activity (although not for the sake of weight loss). I was unaware at the time of how thin I was getting until after that period of time when our lives changed again and things “settled down” more. It was then that watching my weight climb slowly after different trips or other changes in our lives through daily weighing proved to be a negative thing for me.
I realize now that maybe I’m supposed to be this weight, or at least at this point in my life (in fact, I was surprised that my “happy weight” via the Happy Weight Calculator is what I weigh today! Click here for more on why this formula works and for other good thoughts from Self Magazine). There will always be transitions in life and my body will always be in a process of change. My fitness regime will look different in different times of life, my eating will be somewhat dependent on where we live and what’s available to us, and my body cannot and should not stay the same forever. I’d like to say that I live with this balance all the time, but I don’t – it’s a conscious effort to keep things in perspective. For me, what it boils down to is knowing that my identity is not set in things that will change, a weight that will fluctuate, or muscles that will ebb and flow. My identity is set in being a beloved child of God, with whom he is well pleased, regardless of what I ate that day or if I got my workout in. it sounds crazy to think that I’d evaluate myself based on such trivial things, but they can become the focus and take over the true perspective that I strive for. I’m here to love God and love others, and in the process take care of my body so that I can be used by God and be effective for his glory, not my own.
So when I’m struggling with negative self-talk, I remind myself of:
- who I am,
- think about the people who love me,
- realize that I’m more of a harsh judge on myself than others are, and
- just strive to make my next meal a healthy one and get some type of sweat in every day – just stay active without becoming obsessed about my exercise.
And the scale? Well, I still use it, but not every day and not after a night out or a weekend of over-indulgence – it’s not worth it to me. That’s still a challenge too, but I’m getting there. How do you define yourself? Do you struggle with achieving this healthy balance? What are your go-to tips when you’re having a “bad” day with your thinking? I think this is a hard topic to dialogue about because, like my friend, many people view trainers or health professionals (or people who simply try to live a healthy lifestyle) with the assumption that this isn’t a struggle for them, often because many of them are in fairly good shape. But it’s so refreshing to be honest about the things we all struggle with and encourage each other with the Truth of who we really are, underweight, average, or overweight as we all might be.
So let’s continue to let the conversation be transparent, share honestly and accept, live in moderation and balance, and help each other get there. I’m so glad that I don’t have this balance down, because it forces me to look to God for my value and worth and reminds me that I need him and other people in my life. So here’s to another week of living well and in freedom! because you are worth the effort. Enjoy your workout and that cookie today. 😉
Edited to add: check out this post, “I Used to be a Skinny Person” from Eat the Damn Cake. Also, this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (in the States), and a great organization by Caitlin, Operation Beautiful,is a featured organization. Check it out this week for survivor stories and eating disorder tips!