I remember every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning being woken up at 6am, told to empty my bladder and put on a gown. I was then to line up behind a whole lot of other girls and wait to stand on the dreaded scale.
The number on the scale, regardless of what it was, was going to impact my emotions, my day and how much time I was allowed to spend outside the four walls that I was living in.
I know this sounds like most girls worst nightmare and for me it was. I was 16 years old and in a treatment facility recovering from Anorexia Nervosa.
You see, while most of the time I was committed to my recovery (took a few years till I was ready) and regaining my health, it was also very difficult to stand there and watch the numbers climb. All the hard work I had been doing trying to feed my severely underweight 32kg frame was going to become apparent. It was a complete mind explosion. Weight on the scales was rewarded with the most precious commodity –time with my family and friends outside the facility.
It was never predictable; you may have been eating your best all week only to gain 0.2kg, which basically meant you had to prepare for a lengthy meeting with the dietician, and a really boring weekend of in house movies and board games. Or if you had managed to successfully gain 1-2kg you could get your social calendar out and start planning some well deserved adventures.
Over the time that I was hospitalised, I witnessed some of the most peculiar behaviour when it came to morning the weigh in. From the standard method of water loading to the weighted objects placed in girl’s underwear so that they would gain for the week.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Scales clearly don’t hold fond memories for me and although we used to hang out frequently we certainly didn’t develop a friendship. This is exactly why I don’t keep them in my house and never voluntarily weigh myself.
In fact, if I am required to be weighed for some reason (when I used to Dragon Boat race or before an operation), I usually stand on backwards and don’t find out the number because I just don’t want to know.
I know how my body feels when I have gained weight, I know by how my clothes feel and my reflection, the photos that I am in. I don’t need a number to rub it in.
I read a great quote a few days ago that said “the scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it. It cannot measure character, beauty, talent, purpose, possibility, strength or love.”
The hard part is believing it.
While the logical part of me says this is so true, the emotional side sometimes can’t comprehend it.
I know for so many women who weigh themselves daily, it is a ritual, every day they jump on the scale. They know their weight to the exact .1 of a gram. Everyday it impacts how they see themselves, every day the number on the scale gives them approval to love their body or not.
Smash the Scale!
I would love it if they just stopped making them to be honest.
Just over 2 years ago when I started my quest to run a ½ marathon I was reading a lot of blog posts. One of them suggested that you do a DEXA scan to monitor and gauge changes that are occurring to your body composition.
The exercise scientist in me thought this was fascinating and so I did my research on where I could get it done. Off I went to get my first Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scan.
The data that comes from this painless scan is priceless. There are a few key things it tells you:
1. Body Fat Percentage - All the fatty tissues in the body including those found in the organs and under the skin.
2. Lean Body Pat Percentage – Measurement of all muscle and soft organ tissue.
3. Bone Mineral Density - Measurement of the bone mineral found in the region.
4. Bone Mineral Content - Sum of all skeletal tissue found within the body.
5. Body Mass Index – Measure of body fat based on height and weight.
They can then take away this information and calculate the amount of energy you burn per day and recommend a range of calories you can eat to loose or maintain weight depending on your goals. But as you know, I do not recommend counting calories, but interesting non the less.
Last weekend, there was opportunity to have another DEXA. But this time I was intrigued. It has been a year exactly since I traded in my long distance Mizuno’s for my Reebok CrossFit shoes.
My training has looked very different, from 18km long runs to 18min AMRAMP’s (As many rounds as possible). From lifting no weights, to being able to press 50kg over my head. From being a daily cardio queen to learning to listen to my body and take a pilates or yoga class when my body was telling me it needed it.
In that time, my diet hasn’t changed all that much. Still gluten and grain free with short stints with and without dairy (as I tried to establish some gut issues). I have probably relaxed a little and realised too that a good role model for my kids is not just showing them how to eating healthy all the time but also allowing myself to enjoy treats with them like an odd sorbet if I feel like it.
I had no expectations other than I hypothesised that all my numbers would go up due to increased muscle mass. I was also hoping that my bone density was still looking as good as it was in the first scan.
So lets see what happened:
Fat Mass - percentage up by 1%
Lean Mass - up 3%
Bone Mineral Density (BMD) and Bone Mineral Content (BMC) - remained pretty much the same, which is great news, no signs of osteoporosis.
How do I feel about it?
Relieved that my bones are in great health, that despite not running for a copious amount of hours a week my body composition hasn’t changed all that much and the constant plantar fasciitis that I had in my foot, that made walking difficult after long runs has gone.
While the numbers have gone up slightly, I am not worried. It certainly didn’t leave me wanting to change my diet and start running ½ marathons again.
So what am I going to do now? Continue to listen to my body and train how I feel.
Look around for the next physical challenge that tickles my fancy.
If you are interested in getting a scan done and learning more about your body, you can get them done at ‘Measure Up’ – www.measureup.com.au. You can claim them if you are in a private health fund.
I would recommend them maybe 2 times a year, that's it. The aim of them is to gain information and reconfirm that you are on the right track with your physical activity and nutrition.