Weighty matters

A few years ago I made a New Year’s resolution that I would stop weighing myself for a whole year. I decided to do this because prior to Xmas there’d been a lot of discussion about what size ham we needed, and it occurred to me that since I wasn’t a ham, I shouldn’t keep worrying about my size and whether I was a few kilos heavier or lighter.

Like most women, I have spent a lifetime worrying about how much I weigh, and making new promises to myself that I would lose those extra few kilos that make our trousers a bit uncomfortable. I’ve never been very overweight, but I’ve never been as slim as I’d like to be except for a brief period after my second child was born. I was going to exercise classes three times a week and mysteriously lost all my baby weight over the course of six months or so.

I’ve always thought that weighing myself was a bit of a waste of time because when the scales go up, I feel really bad, and when they go down, I eat more because I figure I’m allowed to.

Anyway, a whole year went by and I felt a lot better without the weekly weigh-in (always on a Monday morning with as few clothes on as possible). The following New Year’s Day I jumped on the scales and found that I weighed almost exactly the same as I had a year before, so clearly the weekly torture was pointless in terms of helping me control my weight and no impact on whether I was fitter or healthier.

I know that for some people, weighing themselves regularly is very motivating, so I’m not giving advice about what you should or shouldn’t do, I’m just saying that it didn’t work for me.

For many people, how much they weigh is inextricably linked to how they feel about themselves, but lately I’ve been trying to think about this differently and I think it’s working.

One thing that has had a big impact on me is my pilates teacher. She’s about 40 and incredibly strong and fit. I don’t think I’ve seen many people with better core strength. And before you say that this is because she’s a fitness instructor, I should mention that she’s actually a high school teacher and she teaches pilates because she loves it. As well as being super strong, she also has very solid thighs (like me). When I look at her, I realise that this is just the shape she is, and that no amount of exercise is going to change that.

Unlike my instructor, I’m not very fit or very strong, but this is something that I am working on. Every week she reminds us that strength and stability (and especially good balance) is critical for avoiding the falls that so often lead to hip fractures, so I practice standing on one leg while the kettle is boiling and try to remember to stretch after sitting at the computer for any extended periods.

Life is short and I don’t think denying myself a piece of bread and jam is going to make me a happier or healthier person, but I hope that in a year’s time I will have sorted out some of my back and hip issues so that I can enjoy being retired. I figure it’s never too late to be fitter and stronger and I don’t really have any excuses for not trying to improve my health.

13 thoughts on “Weighty matters

  1. I haven’t weighed myself in ages, and I agree with you that it is rather pointless, for me, although I know that doesn’t apply to everyone. But I’m glad you did that year long experiment – that is so interesting to know how it worked out for you. I’ve had to really change things with the pandemic in the US – because I can no longer go to a gym, which I really loved to do. I’m trying to re-invent my exercise practice at home, which has been difficult because of self-motivation, among other things. But I agree that strength is so important. The other thing I’ve noticed is, I’ve latched onto a video series called Essentrics that I just love. I’m not recommending it for everyone, it just happens to work for me, and the reason it does is, I’ve never encountered an exercise routine quite like it. It somehow makes me love movement, and after I feel so good. I have to augment it with more rigorous aerobics, it isn’t enough on its own, and I also love different kinds of strength training, but this particular kind of movement – she is a former ballerina and has a program called Aging Backwards on our PBS – just makes me kind of fall in love with the process and not care so much about the end result. So I think it’s good if we can each find the type of routine that we really “take” to, if you know what I mean.

    1. I like the look of the essentrics program! Lots of stretching and strength training which I think is really important. I agree that you really need to do something that you mostly enjoy, otherwise it’s hard to keep motivated.
      The best thing about my exercise class is having coffee afterwards with my friends, but at least that keeps me going back every week.

    1. Wouldn’t it be great if we stopped measuring ourselves and calculating our self-worth based on how much we weigh? Easy to say, but hard to do…

  2. “I’ve always thought that weighing myself was a bit of a waste of time because when the scales go up, I feel really bad, and when they go down, I eat more because I figure I’m allowed to.” So true! I’ve always “treated” myself when I lost a pound or two…well, you know how long that lasts! I have become better about focusing on fitness rather than weight. I want to feel good enough to exercise each day, and to exercise because I know it’s good for my health, not because I know I’ll burn XX calories. In the last two years I’ve embraced Ashtanga yoga and most days I will do a backbend and a headstand. I like doing that because it feels good for flexibility and spine health, and as I age I know that’s going to be important.

    1. I would love to try yoga again. The last time I went to a class I was so bad that the instructor actually laughed at me (and not in a good way) and I was so embarrassed that I never went back.
      I’m envious of your flexibility! Good on you.

  3. My weight goes up and down like a yoyo depending on my all or nothing, saint or sinner, personality. I would love to find some sort of equilibrium both in terms of diet and outlook on life!

    1. I hesitate to recommend a book but I know you love self help books, so I’m going to ask if you have ever read any of Geneen Roth’s books?

  4. I haven’t changed weight much in 20 years but I have changed shape. My resolution this year was to improve my strength and balance. My gym class is for seniors and closer to 70 than 60, I am one of the youngsters. However, some of the true seniors are tremendously strong but even better, are mentally alert and engaged with life and other people. Perhaps this is a better reason to stay fit than weight control.

    1. Yes I think we do change shape and I guess that’s just the way it is. It’s like getting wrinkles!
      Working on getting stronger I’d a good goal.

  5. Very wise advice Margaret! Have just finished Trent Dalton’s new book and am now reading Richard Flanagan’s new one – I recommend both. Cheers Penny

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