There is a scale at my gym that seems to be a smart scale. You input your height and gender, estimate the weight of your clothes... and then you (or maybe it's just me) step on it gingerly while barefoot, as if the more gently you step on it, the more gentle it will be as it sorts through calculations. It then spits out a little slip of paper with your weight and percentage of body fat.
One day I got on it and it told me I was down about four pounds from my last visit. I grinned at that little slip of paper, grateful it was reflecting all of my hard work. The next time I got on it I wanted to throw that piece of paper across the room in a fit of rage. This time it told me I was a few percentage points higher in body fat than the first time I weighed in on it, a little more than a month before. Even knowing that the scale can be off by a big percentage, I was frustrated and I couldn't help but feel discouraged and moody the rest of the day.
I've been thinking a lot about my true weight -- not simply what the scale says.
I would be a hypocrite if I said Don't worry what the scale says or Don't focus on trying to change that number. Because there is a number and a size I'm not comfortable with. And though I do think you can and should be happy no matter your size, you can also have goals to work towards.
But here's what I've decided to tell myself when I do hop on that scale:
The scale doesn't tell the whole picture.
It's only one small part of my overall health and fitness.
The scale doesn't define who I am as a person.
The weight of a woman is more than a number that flashes on a small screen. The real weight of a woman can't be measured by a machine, because it includes so much more than how much or how little fat you have on your body. Heart measures true worth.
So, the next time I get on the scale at the gym and it spits out its little slip of paper filled with data, I will remind myself of these things. And though I may be that weight or that certain body fat percentage, I'm also more.
I'm a mother. My body has carried six babies and has delivered four children. It has stretched and pulled against the weight of carrying over 11 pounds of twin babies, a nine-plus pound baby boy and an eight-pound baby girl. It has held over 30 pounds of toddler in its arms, the weight of 60 pounds of twin toddlers on each hip -- and my legs and back are strong enough to walk those tantrum-ing 3-year-olds through a store without second-guessing myself.
Photo Credit: Rubigirl Photography
I'm a runner. My heart is filled with determination that can only be measured by the miles I put behind me, whether those miles bring me tears or joy. I can run distances that I never thought possible. My legs are strong enough to carry me ultra-marathon distances.
I'm a writer. Words dance around in my heart, weighing me down, longing to be free on paper. I am an intensely reserved and quiet person, and writing allows me to share the parts of me to the world that would otherwise remain hidden behind the curtain I have put up to separate myself from others.
Here's what the scale doesn't measure:
The exhaustion of sometimes running on just a few hours of interrupted sleep because our 2-year-old "baby" still sleeps in our room. Despite this, I get out there every day and run and work out anyway.
My weight can't tell me anything about the heart and determination I put into running my first double marathon, raising money for a charity for the first time, and all the crazy high and low emotions that brought me -- from feeling like I didn't raise enough, I could have done more, to the indescribable feeling of crossing a finish line that I put over a year of work into training for. And it wasn't until the moment I stepped over the finish line that every ounce of doubt and fear was completely erased, because until that moment, though I thought I might be able to finish, I was never 100 percent certain.
The scale will never measure the heartache I carry over losing two babies. Nor can it measure the fullness of love I feel for my four children. It will never be able to tell me how heavy my heart is from the worry of: Am I making the right choices for my children? Will they forgive my mistakes when they are grown with children of their own?
A scale cannot measure your true weight, because it's in your core that you carry an immeasurable heaviness for those you love. The weight of the world on your shoulders. No, the scale will never measure your worth. The weight of a woman rests all in your heart. And your heart is something that has grown and expanded through all the years of your life, almost as if your heart takes up your whole being. It's filled with the heaviness of love, joy, heartache, regret, guilt, dreams, loss and hope.
The scale can never measure how much you are loved, by your husband, children, family and friends.
A woman is filled with scars. As you heal from past relationships, hurt, heartache and anger. Those scars add to your strength, because they are a constant reminder that you are stronger than you thought. And though time often heals, the scars weigh you down as a reminder of all that you've been through.
Go ahead and step on the scale. Maybe you'll feel good about what it has to tell you this day. Or maybe you'll get upset by what it tells you the next. But don't ever let it measure your worth. A machine will never be able to measure that.
Nicole writes about faith, family and running at My Fit Family.