Battle with the Scale

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always considered myself overweight. I was always a little “chubby.”

My obsession with attaining a certain number on the scale didn’t start until I joined the Marine Corps though. One of the first things that happens when you talk to a recruiter is they pull a scale out and weigh you. In my case, I was 7 or 8 pounds over my max allowed for me height. This should have been okay since I had a few months before I’d be heading out to boot camp. I could easily lose that weight with a bit of exercise and eating. (Note: I ate atrociously as a child/teenager).

However, one day, I was at home playing on my computer, and the phone rang. It was my recruiter. He asked me if I wanted to leave in two days. I wasn’t doing anything, and I wanted to get out of my house. I jumped on the opportunity. I was still overweight though. For the next two days, I ate next to nothing and sipped on water to “quench” my thirst. My recruiter took me to the gym to exercise (i.e. do lots of cardio) and sit in the sauna. I remember wearing plastic bags underneath sweat pants and shirts to lose as much water as possible. At the time, I didn’t know any better. I just did whatever my recruiter said. I managed to squeak by for my weigh-in at MEPS.

For the next five years, I struggled with the number that appeared on the scale. For every weigh-in, I stressed about what the number would be. In the Marine Corps, there were harsh repercussions to being even a pound or two over your max weight. If you were over, they would then pull out a tape measure and measure the circumference of your neck, waist, and hips if you were female, and your neck and waist if you were male. These measurements, along with your height, were plugged into a formula, and out popped your body fat percentage. Anyone who had to go through these knows that they are horribly inaccurate, especially for females who have what would be called “child-bearing hips.” For me, if I had to get tape measured, there was no hope of passing.

I would do everything in my power to make weight. I would not eat, drink fluids (or drink very little), and exercise for the days leading up to a weigh-in, sometimes even a week before depending on how far away I was from making weight. Despite my efforts, I’d sometimes be over my weight. I got punished by having to do two PTs a day, one in the morning with the “fat bodies” and then again in the afternoon with my platoon. I’d get talked to about going on calorie restricted diets. I’d get yelled at, made to feel ashamed because I was two pounds overweight. I took supplements that were supposed to burn fat. I obsessed. It had a huge psychological impact on my sense of self worth.

In the years after I got out of the Marine Corps, it still affected me. I still obsessed about my weight. I went up to 160 pounds and freaked out. I fluctuated a bit, but then finally ended up settling at around 145 pounds. This was an okay weight for me; it was only 3 pounds over my max as if I were still in the Marine Corps.

Then, I began taking testosterone. Within three months, I gained 15-20 pounds. But, this didn’t have the same psychological effect it would have had in the past. I saw my body composition change. As I put on more weight, I saw my body become more muscular. But even then, I still wished I could weigh less, but not because I wanted the number to go down, but because I wanted to lose the fat that I had before I started transitioning.

I think testosterone has broken a lot of the negative associations I’ve had with the number that appears on my scale, but I’d like to break away from relying on my scale as a measure of self-worth at all. It still nags at me from time to time. Last weekend, Stephanie from stupideasypaleo.com came to my gym and talked about nutrition. Later that night, she posted an article about how to love yourself instantly (which basically involves throwing out your scale). I’ve known for a long time that the number I see on the scale doesn’t reflect anything about my health, but I’ve never been able to take that step of throwing out my scale.

Starting tomorrow, I will begin the Whole30 challenge. I measured my weight this morning, and I will measure my weight again at the end of the challenge. I’m hoping by doing this, I will finally be able to convince myself that it reflects nothing about how I look or feel and especially not about my value as a person.

I started a blog on Tumblr to kind of document my Whole30 experience to not flood this blog with complaining about how I want to eat a certain food but can’t, etc. Please check it out if you get a chance!

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2 comments

  1. I almost commented on your earlier post about body fat, so I’ll throw all my thoughts in here. I’m not sure about how T affects this, but it is really hard to put on muscle and lose weight at the same time. It is as if you are sending contradictory messages to your body to lose and gain weight concurrently. I don’t think your body can spot reduce fat only.

    In my experience, it is better to lose weight (by diet or stairs/treadmill/elliptical) first, and then put on muscle. Unfortunately, it is slower. It is like starting from a swimmer/runner build and going to weight lifting from there (I wish!). And not pay any attention to the scale (muscle weighs more) – my jeans fresh out of the dryer are more accurate.

    Lastly, you may want to think about what the positive aspects are for you to carry the extra weight. For me it hid my curves and made me feel more substantial. I don’t think you would still be carrying it if it didn’t have meaning. Being overweight is pathologized in our society – and we have enough of that as LGBT already – so take it easy. Good luck on your Paleo 30.

    1. Thanks for your input!

      I agree that it is really hard to both lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. That’s the reason why body builders go through bulking and cutting phases.

      I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Whole30. A lot of people see body fat loss while still having gains in their strength. I’m not sure if they necessarily get bigger muscles, but certainly stronger muscles. I’d definitely be okay with that. If that doesn’t happen, at least I’ll be eating better, non inflammatory foods.

      I probably won’t go out of my way to do cardio alone just because I find it to be extremely boring which means I don’t do it consistently, but I will continue to do my 5 days a week of CrossFit. =)

      I think it’s really hard to think of my extra fat in a positive way, especially since the majority of my fat is carried in traditionally female areas which makes me curvier than I’d like to be. I’ll try to work on that over the next couple of weeks and see what I can come up with!

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