You step on the scale, nearly holding your breath as you watch the red arrow dance along the plastic face. It lands on a number - a few points lower than usual - and...maybe you celebrate if you're part of the 56 percent of Americans trying to lose weight. Or, if you're like me and the four percent of people trying to gain, you cringe.
Either way, weight loss is more than just a number: it's a feeling. It's often the reason we eat like we eat, we move how much we do and we have a good or a bad day.
Recently, though, I've been thinking about what weight loss is not. A few days ago, I read a great article on BlogHer titled, "I've gained weight, so what?" And just like Jes Baker argues that gaining weight isn't the end of the world, losing weight isn't the key to world domination.
I know this for a fact. As my friends and family have (lovingly) pointed out, I lost a few pounds after my breakup. I'm skinnier than I like and I'm working to change that. Yet, as I hear comments - of praise or worries - about how "tiny" I am, I want to remind them that weight loss does not mean:
- I planned to lose weight.
- It is the top accomplishment on my personal résumé. In fact, I'd rather have some junk in my trunk.
- It is a factor that makes me "too small" to lift weights, play soccer or rock some HIIT workouts. That's what lower weights are for!
- Proof that my value as a person has skyrocketed
- I've lost progress in my celiac health journey. Yes, my body is physically smaller, but it still feels so much stronger.
- I enjoy comments on my size. If you're not at your ideal weight, it stings a little if people mention you're still wearing a little baby fat. The reverse is also true.
What does weight loss mean? I took in less calories than I burned, causing me to lose weight. Boom. That's it.
Except that's not how society and the media typically sees it. Whether celebrities are too fat or too thin, a magazine will call out that woman - or man - for their "transgression." And, honestly, it's hard to love your body when you look in the mirror and see something "wrong" - by your standards or society's.
But the fact is, weight does not define me. It impacts me in the clothes I wear, how often I eat and how it feels to hug me. It impacts others through any worries over me and any assumptions they make based on my exterior package of skin and bone and curves.
Yet, like Jes Baker says, change is life. Change is good. Change is growth. When I say that I want to gain weight back, I don't mean that I'm craving to return to the girl I was a year ago. Since then, I've experienced my first heartbreak, my first job, my first paid publication, dozens of insanely delicious meals, and handfuls of special memories - from Disneyland to Father's Day yoga - that I would never trade away.
Key words: I experienced. Not my body or my weight, but the girl behind the window dressing. The same differentiation applies to you, too.
I can't claim that I've come to love my pancake butt or skinny Minnie arms, but I'm trying. And the first step of that is realizing that because bodies change, the way we love them must change too. At a heavier weight, I loved the strength in my legs when bike riding. At this lighter weight, I can love the surprise on others' faces as I kick butt in a hot yoga class. And, as my body continues to change, I'll continue to find new ways and traits of it to love.
Because, in the end, one part never changes: me. And that girl - the strong, funny, creative, determined inner self - deserves to be loved no matter what. As do your inner girl or boy.
What does weight loss (or gain) not mean to you? How do you love yourself with a changing body? Comment below!