Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Freedom from the scales

You’ve heard it a million times before- its not the number on the scale that counts, muscle weighs more than fat, it fluctuates day to day, fluids etc etc!!?

And we all nod our heads and agree, yes its just one tool to assist measure progress in addition to how we look in the mirror, clothes fitting, tape measurements and skinfolds. But when your aim is to lean down, after a week or so of busting your ass, just quietly- what woman doesn’t get some pleasure from seeing the scale weight decrease?

That’s why comp prep is a unique and valuable experience for me. For years, I’ve judged my progress, success and to sound drastic, value/happiness on my weight which fluctuated to its highest point at about March 2008 (68kg). I remember how I felt when I would look in my wardrobe and just know most of my clothes would be too tight. I was miserable and felt powerless to change. Sure, I knew that if I cut calories and did several aerobics classes per week I would lose weight but experience told me I could never keep it up and keep the weight off -so what was the point?

When deciding to compete; I had been weight training for a couple of years and knew I had a nice shape hidden under a few layers. But I also knew that I had many demons to slay in terms of my relationship with food before I could commit to the rigours of a comp prep diet. I didn’t doubt my ability to stick to the plan so much as I feared the onset of an eating disorder, having flirted dangerously with binge eating disorder for the past few years. So we engaged our coach about 15 months out from our intended comp (June 2008 – September 2009). He measured our progress by skinfolds and I learnt that while I would obviously lose weight on the scales as I lost fat, it was actually preferable to hold as much scale weight (MUSCLE) as possible while dropping the fat by dieting slowly and correctly. So I began to weigh myself only to record against skinfold measurements when tracking my progress.

When I first heard the weight at which I would compete I immediately thought it was impossible. But I put this thought aside and trusted my coach that if I did as I was told, things would all eventually fall into place. It was extremely exciting to see the numbers drop, especially when I broke through some barriers, eg 63kg which had previously been my ‘comfortable’ maintenance point, getting under 60kg of course and now sub 55kg. The lowest I had been previously as an adult was about 57kg- at the time I was eating 800-1000 calories a day, doing at least an hour of high intensity aerobics a day (Body Attack etc)…. and still had a pot belly!

Its only last week that I’ve truly realised how irrelevant the scale is… the batteries died on Friday and I realised I didn’t care! Its a startling relevation actually, why leave your sense of achievement on a (sometimes random) number... wouldn't you be better off making sure you eat right and exercise consistently? If so, the number will take care of itself! Meanwhile, the batteries in our food scale carked it last night and I totally flipped! (on a comp prep you weigh EVERYTHING) LOL!

In summary, It takes time to undo years of self doubt brainwashing. Be kind and patient with yourself. My maintenance goals for the offseason will definitely be on skinfolds and continuing to use the scale as a rough guide with an aim to increasing lean mass (no, don't throw them out the window just yet). I bought new jeans a little while ago when I reached the size I hope to maintain, so as long as they fit, I’m happy!


Tara said...

Amen to this post!!! I am learning this lesson this season also. My skinfolds are dropping by 5-6ml a week but not a lot is happening on the scales - they are going down but every so slowly. Thank goodness for calipers hey!

Fifi Dangerfield said...

You're totally right Steph. I think maybe I need to wean myself off mine. I've been weighing daily and I know that's not a good thing. I really do need to hide them until Friday which is my weigh in day. I don't think I'm ready to get rid of them altogether yet!

Nerd Girl said...

Totally agree with what your saying. THey are such a poor way to track your progress, but I weighed myself a few days before my competition and was shocked and of course elated that i had dropped 8 pounds since the last time i had weighed only a few weeks before. I typically weigh myself once a month though.

To answer your question, yes i do write my own diets. I go with what i know about nutrition as well as what i know i can stick it. It's not perfect, but if i can stick to it, its better than trying a perfect diet i can't adhere to!

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