Should I Rethink my "Panic Weight"?

I was inspired to write this post partially because of today’s post from The Great Fitness Experiment, but also because of the results of this morning’s weigh-in at work.  Yes…a weigh-in the Monday after Thanksgiving…and it was harsh.I’m a former scale enthusiast…as in, weigh-myself-twice-a-day-every-day kinda gal.  And when I say “former” I do so loosely because as much as I’d like to toss out my bathroom scale and never again give a flying f**k about the number it’s going to toss back at me, I still do.

I’ve gotten better over the last few months about not weighing myself every day and I’ve accepted the fact that, if I keep working out to get stronger instead of skinnier and eating to fuel my performance instead of to diminish it, I’m going to (gasp!) put on some weight.  It’s so painfully simple, but I like so many other women and girls was brought up in a world that put so much value in weighing so little.

Like anyone else, my weight has fluctuated almost daily though it managed to stay within the same 3-5 pound “window” for all of my adult life.  Or it did until I stopped spending hours at a time on the trou chariot or the treadmill and started doing Crossfit and eating Primal/Paleo.  Since then the scale has crept up about 5 pounds above my skinny-fat average, my quads are about a quarter of an inch bigger around, I have a four-pack (it’s a real six-pack, though, if I go about 48 hours without drinking any water…booyah!), and all of my clothes still fit just fine.  Many of the athletes I admire so much–and even my own coach–have a good deal more weight than I do yet look great…no wait, AMAZING.

So why should I care?  When I hopped on the scale this morning, I knew what the number would be!  What got me was two things…1) That I’m still uber-insecure about being not only weighed and measured in front of a room full of people and having that weight recorded and entered into my personal records for the quarter, and 2) I have officially met my “panic weight.”

My “panic weight” has remained unchanged since I was about 14.  It’s all of five pounds above my average weight (not a lot of wiggle room since I’m 5’8″), but was nevertheless the weight at which I would have officially considered myself “fat.”  I’ve been at this weight before, but in all my noodly skinny-fat glory I did not look like I do now.  I did not feel good.  I did not have any abdominal definition, no matter how dehydrated I was.  But then again,  none of these things were really true at my “happy weight,” either.

Because I was never at my happy weight.  My “happy weight” was always 5 pounds less than what I was, no matter how little.  I could have weighed less than 100 pounds and I’d still have wanted to be less.  Messed up?  Sure.  There’s nothing rational about my body image.  At no point in my life have I ever been happy about how I looked.

But I am happy about how I feel.  I’m proud of how much stronger I’ve gotten in such a short time.  I feel like a goddamn idiot that it took less than twenty seconds to make me forget all of that completely, to step on a scale and read a number that means so little when you consider that I look, feel, and perform better than I have…possibly ever.

So is my “panic weight” obsolete?  Should I actually be glad that I weigh more now despite being the same size?  (Muscle weighs more than fat, right?)  Even though I have a dramatically improved body composition, why does this number still mean so much to me?

Clearly my priorities need an update, but it’s hard.  Really hard.  Being able to stay on track without cutting and running from the gym (literally) and tossing every trace of dietary fat from my fridge is a daily struggle.  When I put on my jeans and feel some new tightness in the legs–even though my old muffin top is no more–my heart skips a beat and my inner skinny girl screams in protest.  Even taking a rest day involves planning and self-restraint.

But it’s further than I’ve ever gotten and even though I’m fighting a battle with my self-image and intuition, I’m still motivated by my recent success.  I’m still so proud of myself for taking responsibility for my health, for pushing myself past where I’ve felt comfortable and “safe,” for being able to do things I couldn’t when I was skinny and malnourished (my 2-mile is as fast now running 6-12 miles a week as when I was running 55-60, and I can do pull-ups!!!!).  So maybe my “panic weight” is a crock of sh*t, or maybe it’s not.  But what I can tell you is that even though I sulked in my office for a good hour after the weigh-in, I’m not writing out low-fat meal plans for the next month.  I didn’t take off on a marathon to sweat off the extra weight.  And I didn’t for a second wish I could trade in what I’ve accomplished for those extra 5 pounds.  I may not like this new number, but for once I’m going to give it a chance.

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