What to focus on instead of the number on the scale

I haven’t weighed myself for one week.

That’s not saying much but for someone who has been obsessing about dropping fat, the number raising on the scale was worrisome.

Then I re-realized I was being foolish. The number reflects gravity’s force on the ground. The number doesn’t mean I’m fat or skinny for fuck sake. It can’t tell the difference between fat, water, or muscle. All it knows is how much I’m pressing against it.

I started reading about Intuitive Eating because this problem stems from some serious misbeliefs I’ve held about food. I’ve never been a diet jumper but I do get a little too preoccupied with what’s on my plate.

When I was in grade school, I ate whatever I wanted without thinking about it. I used to have brownie and ice cream every night for a solid year. I didn’t think about gaining weight. Granted, things have changed and I likely had a faster metabolism than I do now at thirty.

As I got older, I became more aware of how my body looked compared to other girls and women on screen. I didn’t want to be flabby or soft.

I wanted to look “toned.” That stupid fucking word we still use to mean to have a slight definition of muscles and no flab. Being “toned” doesn’t come naturally for me. Lately, I’ve been wanting to look “stacked.” I want to look like I lift and not like how men in The Tour look: emaciated.

Why the fuck does this matter? It doesn’t.

When I briefly hired a registered dietician last year to eat better for performance, she asked what were my goals. Among “enhance performance” was “14% body fat.” When she asked why that number, I had no other reason than “vanity.” I wanted to look good. I wanted to look healthy. I wanted to look like I could throw a tractor tire across the parking lot.

I’ve never been called “fat” or told I need to lose weight. And if someone ever said that to me, I’d tell them to fuck right off. I only allow myself to call me fat, to point out where my sides slip over the edge of my pants, to poke and pull and pinch anything my hands can grab.

It’s exhausting.

Worrying about what will cover fat, what won’t exacerbate the flab, and checking the fit of clothes constantly takes a ton of mental energy.

And I have to ask myself: what’s the point? Why am I so obsessed with leanness? If I don’t love and appreciate my body right now, will I give a shit about it when I reach this elusive 14% body fat?

Probably not.

With this kind of mentality, I’ll never accept my body for what it is and what it can do.

I know I’m not the only one who thinks this. I hear men and women wish themselves lighter, to improve their watts/kilograms, and drop the flab.

Focus on healthful food instead

The number on the scale does not entirely reflect your health. I could be the same weight but have a diet consisting of donuts and Diet Coke. Take the scale as an indicator but focus on the foods you’re eating.

Work with a professional if you’re unsure. I try to stick with real foods as in, it either doesn’t have ingredients listed because it’s the only one (veggies and fruit, for example) or there are minimal ingredients listed and I recognize them all. I’m not perfect and don’t always stick to this but 80% of the time, this is what I do.

As I learn more about intuitive eating, I’m teaching myself that food is neither “good” nor “bad” but “healthy” and “not healthy.” I’m also remaining conscious of how foods make me feel. Are they giving me more energy? Are they sucking away energy? Do they make me feel like shit?

That means slowing down to notice.

If you focus on real foods, you’re likely to start feeling better. You may have more energy to workout or move around more and maybe you’ll lose weight that way because you aren’t stressing over diets and what you can and can’t eat.

When I focus on healthful foods, I know that I’m a pretty healthy person. Someone who’s taking care of her body and preserving it for the future.

Focus on what your body can do

My body can ride 120 miles back-to-back days. It’s not easy by any means but I’ve done it. If I didn’t have my strong body, that would be impossible.

I ask my body to wake up at 4:30 AM Monday through Friday and do 90 minutes on the bike. Tuesday through Thursday I also ask her to lift heavy things. During the summer, I ask her (okay, I tell it) to win races. I make her climb 14’ers, stay upright riding over boulders, and lift more things. I ask her to take 10,000 steps every day. I make herwalk in place to reach that number.

How do I reward her?

By shaming her. I shame my body into doing more things because my mind thinks it can always do more, do better, do bigger.

We forget how amazing human bodies are. I don’t have to remind myself to breathe and make my heart pump. My body just does it. It’s fantastic.

I’m lucky enough to not have a physical disability and sometimes I take that for granted.

Instead of focusing on the “muffin top” or “thunder thighs,” think about all the things your body is capable of doing. It’s fucking amazing.

Focus on your mental health

How are you feeling? Check on your mind frequently. Some of us use food to deal with our feelings. This leads to unhealthy weight gain and making us feel even crummier.

A simple thing to start incorporating is listing three things you’re grateful for. Obviously, this doesn’t replace a licensed therapist but if you’re just having a bad day, start listing people, things, etc that make you a little bit happier.

Another useful tool is meditation. There are loads of apps out there, most notably, Headspace, that guide you through a short meditation. It doesn’t have to be a twenty-minute long, crossed-legged, candle lit session. Taking a minute to focus on feelings in your body, tuning into your body, and sitting with whatever comes up without resistance can help change your day around.

Taking time throughout the day to check in on yourself is a great way to see what’s bugging you and gives you a minute to relax. We’re all so busy going going going that we forget to tune into ourselves.

Focus on your movement

Moving your body does wonders. It helps with seriously everything: your mind, your body, and your overall health. It doesn’t have to be something you hate doing. Don’t “should” yourself into running on the treadmill if you hate it. Do activities you enjoy. Walk, hike, swim, bike, box, lift weights. The options are limitless.

I know it can be a struggle developing a habit or routine of getting movement in every day. Go easy on yourself and start off small. Take a short walk at lunch. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Do bodyweight squats, jumping jacks, modified push-ups, walk in place while watching Netflix.

With more movement, you will start feeling a little more energized. Eventually, you’ll get motivated to do more. You’ll eat foods that make you feel good enough to move more. Maybe the scale will go down if that’s a goal.

I hated working out for the longest time. I dreaded going to the gym and I counted down the thirty minutes I spent on the treadmill. That was until I found cycling. I love it. I’d do it all day if I could.

Find what you enjoy and do that.

Focus on your sleep

How much sleep do you get a night? Being tired can lead to eating more throughout the day. I’m guilty of cutting my sleep and I can feel it the next day in my workouts and sitting at my desk, about to nod off.

Sleep is personal as the number of hours each person needs varies. Some need more and some less but typically it’s recommended eight hours. And if you’re increasing your training or working out more, your body will need more sleep to recover.

Skimping on sleep causes more health problems than simply nodding off at improper times. Start making sleep a priority. It’ll improve your mood, you’re likely to snack less, and you’ll have more energy to workout.

Your “health” is more than what the scale says. Focus on other aspects of your health when you start obsessing over the number on the scale. You’re more than your weight. So many factors play into being healthy that you have to look at the whole picture, not just one aspect.

What'd you think?