I posted an article yesterday encouraging those on a fitness journey of their own to smash the scale, explaining that the scale is an unreliable way of tracking your progress and, in the long run, can lead to eating disorders, body image issues, and at the very least, immense amounts of frustration. The main reason the scale is so unreliable is the number of factors, having nothing to do with fat loss, that can affect the final number. In an effort to illustrate this, I posted a picture from my April 2015 weigh in at 125 pounds.
What I was attempting to explain with this photograph was that the only way I made 125 pounds with my frame and body composition, was by ending my lifting program to reduce my muscle mass, eating a highly restricted diet consisting of no more than 1200 calories worth of foods that specifically manipulate body fat loss and water and sodium levels in the body, and then by severely dehydrating myself for several days leading up to the weigh in. I manipulated my weight loss so the scale would read 125 pounds. Was it REAL weight loss though? No. Weigh ins for all weight regulated sports (and show day for bodybuilders) are essentially a trick of smoke and mirrors. The second I drank anything, my weight increased. The moment I ate salt, my weight increased even further. As soon as I ate real food, my weight increased once more. Most fighters weigh anything from 10 to 30 pounds heavier the next day for the fight. Yes, 30 pounds. This is when I really started understanding that the number on the scale means nothing in terms of fat loss, health or progress toward my fitness goals.
However, due to website links on social media displaying a photo with the link, this picture ended up leading to a lot of misinterpretations of my message. I received a lot of comments congratulating me on my physique, my accomplishment of what the person assumed was a personal fitness goal, and compliments of "Looking good girl!". While I appreciated the good intentions behind the comments, I was disappointed that my message was completely buried beneath our appreciation as a culture of superficial aesthetics. This wasn't health though. Sure some people find the abs and low body fat percentage attractive, but in this picture I was dehydrated, depleted of nutrients, and much less muscular than my normal build. The comments I received reinforced my fear that as a society we are more concerned about looks and numbers on the scale than we are about health.
Here is another example from December 2014 when I weighed in at 125 for the first time. Hopefully it will make a better point. The week leading up to this fight I was extremely sick and was in bed with a high fever for days changing everything I normally do to make weight. Come the day of weigh ins, I was still running a fever and my weight cut procedures were very obviously taxing me far past the point of what would be considered a healthy weight cut resulting in black outs and needing to be carried at certain points.
The level of dehydration for this weigh in was even more than the weigh in that would follow four months later, which you can see from the extent my ribs are showing. I had far fewer people congratulate me on this weigh in because I think the lack of health is obvious in my body, my face, and the lack of energy surrounding me. Can I make 125 pounds (the beginning weight suggested for a woman of my height)? Yes. Can I sustain that weight. No. It is a wonder I was healthy enough to compete the next day against a very game and aggressive opponent in a four round boxing fight that I was fortunate enough to walk away from with my hand raised and no brain injuries from how severely I dehydrated myself.
If truth be told though, my health has not been the same since that weight cut. It was the first of several very unhealthy attempts to compete in the featherweight division. Which leads me to another reason you should steer clear of the scale. I have lost count of the number of people that have described their yo-yo dieting attempts to reach a number on the scale that just wasn't realistic for their frame. A yo-yo diet is any way of eating that is only temporary because it is not a sustainable lifestyle. We humans LOVE to justify behaviors that aren't necessarily good for us but that result in getting what we want and yo-yo diets are just that. Once we learn we can lose a few pounds by following a temporary restricted diet, we tend to justify that week of unhealthy eating habits telling ourselves we'll just diet it off later, or we undergo a yo-yo diet in preparation to justify a period of binge eating such as over the holidays. I could write an entire article about the woes of yo-yo dieting, and perhaps some day I will, but for now let me just say that yo-yo dieting can severely affect your metabolism and hormones in a way that is contradictory to your health and goals and often result in a period of binge eating afterwards that puts all the weight lost right back on with typically a few additional pounds as well.
While I have known this for years, I have spent the last year being taught a lesson of sorts. Allow me to detail what has been going on with my body since that first unhealthy weigh in at 125 pounds in December of 2014. Following that fight, I experienced a sort of head to toe edema, where I had obvious swelling throughout my entire body. However, it only lasted a few days and I chalked it up to a possible shell fish allergy, as sushi is something I reward myself with after every fight and I love the rolls that have soft shell crab in them.
Four months later after weighing in at 125 again, I experienced a similar issue that lasted a full week. However, while it was much more severe, I had taken my chances with the same sushi rolls again and only used the experience to confirm in my own mind that I was indeed allergic to shell fish.
The following month I was supposed to fight again and while I had to withdraw due to injury, I had already made weight once more at 125 pounds. The edema that followed that weight cut was the same as the previous two experiences, but seemed to last a few weeks. I began to get a little suspicious since that time I had steered clear of shell fish and my food allergy explanation was no longer relevant. However, each time my weight always returned to normal and as the fight offers came in I quickly forgot about my weight problems.
My last weight cut was perhaps the worst nutritionally speaking and involved the most unhealthy approach yet to manipulating my weight as I was juggling too many responsibilities by trying to manage the event I was attempting to fight on, so I answered the problem of working too many hours and training few hours by restricting my calorie intake even further. I failed to make weight, but didn't fail to push my body over the edge of whatever was happening after my recent weight cuts. I weighed in on October 8th at 137 pounds and by October 12th I was 173 pounds, 18 pounds over my normal "walking weight" of 155. The amount of swelling throughout my body was so severe that my skin hurt to touch. After a month, it was painful to walk because of the pressure in my feet. I was in Thailand at the time and the edema was so bad that while accompanying a friend to the hospital, the doctors took one look at my legs and feet and immediately grabbed me to run tests for kidney failure or deep vein thrombosis (all of which came back negative). Since that day I have not been able to get my weight below 171 pounds, despite the fact that I was training three times a day in Thailand and at a low enough percentage of body fat that I was showing definition in my obliques.
While I have been working with my doctor here in Colorado to try and find out what is going on with my body, I haven't been able to get any answers yet. However, what I have been able to do is completely unchain myself from the scale and learn just how empowering that can be. I have detached from any notions of what I should weigh that have been placed on me by that archaic height and weight chart, by society, or by coaches in my past. I quit weighing myself regularly months ago, not out of defeat but in acceptance that the number means even less now until I can figure out what is going on with my health. As a result I have embraced my body and become more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been in my entire life. I am not a petite woman. I have large legs and a large butt; my breasts are certainly not tiny; I put muscle on in my arms and shoulders fairly easy. For the sake of making a point, I weighed myself again yesterday after posting my article about smashing the scale.
As of right now I weigh 183 pounds; that's 58 pounds more than what I weighed in the picture from my April 2015 weigh in. In the past I would have panicked over this, but today I don't care aside from what it means for me in a weight regulated sport if I wish to return. When I focus my attention inward and listen to my body, I realize that while I certainly have body fat I could stand to lose, I feel strong, powerful and healthy. I feel energetic because I'm not deprived of nutrients on a restricted diet. I am simply eating and moving in a way that feels healthy while I wait to understand what else is going on with my body to cause the weight gain. Now that I am not focused on a number on the scale, I am free to set athletic goals without worrying about increasing my weight, something that has always been a concern because I put on muscle mass fairly easy. I have forgotten about the stupid scale and instead have been able to focus my attention on the reality that I was blessed with a powerful frame to chase my athletic goals with, but I am also a woman DESIGNED to store a feminine layer of fat in order to support a pregnancy. Many women seem to have forgotten this fact as they beat their heads against a wall trying to chase a low number on the scale and their own definition of "skinny".
The truth is, this is me and no number on that scale will change that.
In a society where yo-yo and fad diets are more well known than actual health facts, it is my hope that we will all start turning our attention inward and listening to our bodies and learning how we need to eat and move as individuals to feel healthy, energetic and comfortable in our own skin. It is a very empowering journey actually once you can unchain yourself from your scale and start focusing more on health and less on aesthetics. In the end, it will all work out and you'll have the aesthetic perks that naturally come along with eating and moving in a healthy way, but you'll only maintain those aesthetics if health is your main priority reached through making lifestyle changes rather than temporary changes.
As always, it is my hope that by sharing the ups and downs of my own journey, I can help others in theirs. <3
A lover of words, magic, and the idea of changing the world by encouraging the pursuit of one dream at a time. Living the dream myself as a professional boxer, kickboxer, and MMA fighter.