A few weeks ago, Tuesday was a doozy of a start. The prior days had been riding me hard: the scale being less than what I wanted or expected, feeling hungover from being thoroughly sick of social distancing, thoughts of marriage and what the passing of a new year meant, etc.
Every 2 weeks I take pictures of my body in a bikini and measure my legs, hips, belly button, chest and arms and send my results to my nutrition coach. It’s a practice we started in the beginning (over a year ago) to keep tabs on physical progress as plain numbers don’t always tell the full story. It’s something I agreed to do willingly, with the commitment that if it messed with my head space or with my recovery, I would not pursue it any longer. The same willingness and commitment were present this summer for my fat loss phase: if it messed with or altered my freedom and recovery, I was out. That being said, using numbers to gauge my body’s progress and state is fairly new to me, at least from a healthier and supported place. I used to weigh-in with my coach when I was competing and did for some time after that with other coaches, but my intention was very different in doing so.
Then, I was chasing the idea of having to look a certain way in order to achieve self-love. I was bound by the idea that I had to be a certain size, a certain weight, and a certain aesthetic in order to be enough. I was so empty, so tired, and so lost. Fast forward several years and my intention behind measuring myself is very different. I do it because it gives me parameters for where I want to be. While yes, I do train my ass off because I derive tremendous joy and pleasure from pursuing physical challenges, I also do it because I like to look a certain way and looking a certain way makes me feel quite awesome about myself! It makes getting dressed in the morning easier, more fun, and keeps me accountable for how I prefer to feel about myself and who I prefer to see reflecting back in the mirror.
Part of my measuring again is also a commitment to total neutrality around food and body. I don’t want to be scared of a number on the scale. I don’t want to vehemently avoid pictures of my near naked self or avoid sharing them like the plague. I don’t want to be defined by numbers, while I also know they provide invaluable information about me.
Numbers teach me. They teach me when I need more rest, or more food, or when I’m stressed but mentally haven’t registered it yet. They teach me that the work we are doing is working or is taking me in a direction I don’t want to go. They teach me the fluidity that is the body, and how precious the balance of health and vitality is. My body knows I’m stressed before I do a lot of the time, and my body knows when I need rest. Much of that shows up numerically, with inflammation and water retention and increased pounds that don’t make sense if I don’t look at the entire picture or have a holistic approach. The scale tells me “you need rest” or “you need more water” or “you can eat out and not freak out, Alison!”. Measurements also tell me “you need rest” or “you are earning muscle” or “this shit ebbs and flows”. That Tuesday cost me some sanity because of an inch around my hips – not the pounds on the scale.
What I’m continuing to find true, is that it’s the journey that’s important. It’s the sustenance of the plan and the intention behind it. Ultimately, I don’t track everything to be obsessed and crazed. I don’t follow a macro plan because I love doing math with food. Truthfully, it keeps me sane. It yields the exact results that I want: sustainable energy, flexible food choices and a lean aesthetic I honestly didn’t think I could have; ever. I get to eat whatever I want within reason. I plan ahead so my day to day is already set up and I can plan meals out with more ease than before. It gives me boundaries, while also helps me tune into what my body needs more of because I’m not fucking around with my food or guessing if I’m eating enough or not enough.
For today, this is what I do. And for today, it works just fine. I needed a moment to assess why again, detaching from the numbers and whether or not my behavior would be any different should the numbers be different. And guess what? My truth revealed itself as no. I would not do anything differently if I weighed less or if I weighed more, or if my hips measured exactly the same as they did 2 weeks prior. I would still follow my food plan and I would still eat the exact foods I planned to eat. I would still go out with Mike on Saturday and enjoy our date night. I would still go to the gym and follow my program. I would still walk. I would still go to bed early. I would still drink my water. I would still watch my sodium.
I would still show up at work and contribute. I would still honor my relationships and listen. I would still ask others how they are and receive it. I would still write and read and take stock. I would still wear the same clothes and have the same money in my bank account. I would still work hard.
This is recovery for me today: honoring better behaviors that assist me moving into love and respect for my entire self. What I weigh and how I measure is just a piece of that self, a piece of the physical self that matters a lot but doesn’t account for the entire thing. That is also recovery for me today: acknowledging that I reserve the right to pursue any kind of eating, movement and structure that works for me. I reserve the right to want to look however I want and to pursue that, so long as it doesn’t take away from the other pieces of my life: the emotional and the spiritual.
And while some days it seems pointless and stupid and stressful and overwhelming, the end result is the same: for today, I am the absolute best version of myself that I have ever been, full of compassion and experience and trust that my journey can benefit others. And most of all, it is benefiting me.
And what I think about me and what I do, is what actually matters.