Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ditching the Scale

I'm not exactly sure when my body image issues started.  I know by the age of 13 I was wearing a girdle anytime I wore a skirt, even though I barely weighed a hundred pounds. I do have theories on how I became obsessed with my own appearance, more specifically, my weight, but I won't dissect them here.  What I can tell you, is that by the time I was a sophomore in high school I barely ate enough to sustain myself and weighed only 85 pounds.  At 5'3" with a naturally curvy figure, that's clearly not enough.  Although I eventually overcame the most severe symptoms of anorexia, but the battles with food haven't ever ceased.
The battle with food, led to an unhealthy relationship with the scale of course.  I've always put way too much stock in the number on the scale than I should.  I started gaining weight within the first year of my marriage.  I had stopped stepping on the scale because we didn't have one. But it was okay. I was happy, and felt loved and was cooking to impress my new husband. But within a few short months, I was having meltdowns in department store dressing rooms when what had once been a "fat" size for me, would no longer button.  And then the yo-yo of the next seven years began.  I'd gain weight, get mad, go on a crash diet, lose a little weight, gain it all back and then some and start the cycle over again. 
Five years ago, in May 2009, I took my then 14 month old son to visit my sister in Florida.  The pictures from the beach shocked me.  I didn't even recognize myself.
So I started running.  It was the only thing I could think to do with a toddler and a husband out of town all the time.  I walked/ran my first 5K on July 4, 2009. Actually there wasn't much running.  I finished at the very back of the pack in 42 minutes and wanted to crawl under a rock of shame, because I couldn't even run a full mile.  I didn't really want to run anymore races, but I kept registering for 5K's because I knew I had to keep myself motivated.  My only goal, and what I wanted desperately, was just to be able to run a full 5K, without walking.  It seemed impossible at the time, but I was going to keep "running" until I could do that.  I honestly figured I'd quit running once I finally reached that goal.  As if I had "arrived" and could then rest on my laurels. I dealt with my fair share of non-running related injuries that summer that affected my running.  A dislocated shoulder, surgery on my foot to remove a bunion, but I got back to running a quickly as I could each time always with my eye on the goal of just being able to run a full 5K.

I never planned to become a long distance runner. But within a year I had shed close to 20 pounds and had registered for my first half marathon.  It took me 2 hours and 57 minutes to run that half marathon, still carrying 30 extra pounds and plodding along at 12 and 13 minute miles.  But I kept running. When a friend invited me to run the Ragnar Wasatch Back, I had no idea what I was getting into, but a relay junkie was born.
 Six weeks after running my first relay, I ran my first full marathon.  In the 18 months since I'd begun running I'd lost some weight and gotten a little faster, but that first marathon still took me 5 hours and 31 minutes to complete.  It became clear after this initial marathon (Mesa Falls) that if I really wanted to keep running distances I needed to shed some more weight. For multiple reasons but mostly because running is harder on your body when you're heavier. 

In the summer of 2011 I started my first real attempt at losing weight the right way.  Making lifestyle changes, instead of just going on a diet.  I started by getting control of my portion sizes.  Letting myself enjoy food, but only until I'd had enough.  I cut way back on the carbs, and started saving sugar for special occasions.  And I ramped up the running.  Over the past three years I've run 3 marathons, a handful of 10Ks, a dozen or so relays and more half-marathons than I can remember (it's my favorite distance.)  And with the additional 30 pounds I've lost (making it a grad total of 50 from this point five years ago) my speeds have become quicker and my body able to take more and more miles without the wear and tear and aches and pains I always had when I was heavier. And for the first time in my running career a BQ (Boston Qualifier for my non-running friends) doesn't seem impossible.  It's a long way off for me yet, but it's actually attainable.
 The problem is, that the battle is still ongoing.  Losing weight is something of a drug for me.  Watching myself get thinner and seeing the number on the scale get lower threatens to become an obsession for me.  I find myself skipping meals because feeling hunger pains makes me somehow feel in control.  I allow myself one or two bites of cheesecake to celebrate a big accomplishment, only to tack two extra miles on a run in order to "atone" for the sin of the cheesecake.  So a month ago I made a  conscious decision to step away from the scale for a while.  I put it up in the closet so I wouldn't be tempted to step on it each morning and then be frustrated and angry for the rest of the day because the number wasn't what I wanted to see.  As long as my clothes fit and I have the strength and energy to power through the training program that will get me through 2 relays, 7 half marathons and 2 more full marathons this year, that's what really matters.  And I've been much happier ever since.


Angela S said...

Way to go! I ditched the scale years ago and it has been a great thing. I use it at may parents and in laws but otherwise never get on one. I go by if clothes fit or not. I ave found so much peace this way. Keep up the good work!

Cindy Cunningham said...

Without the scale you still look fabulous and healthy!