“How much do you weigh?”: the question I received from a stranger in the locker room. “103 pounds”, I answered flatly. Knowing what would come next, based on her perplexed look, I explained that I was a runner and spent my time at the gym doing strength training and yoga. “Oh okay, good. Cause you don’t need to lose weight!”. “..I know”, I said flatly.
As I proceeded to do my workout I couldn’t help but dwell on the previous interaction. How this woman, for some reason, found it acceptable to bluntly ask me my weight. How I’m sick of people rolling their eyes whenever skinny girls work on their bodies, in any capacity, whether it’s hitting the gym or occasionally opting for fruit in lieu of sugar. This is because we are assumed to be a body obsessed product of the patriarchy. But this post isn’t about the woes of being skinny because lets face it, thin privilege is real; despite the fact that all women (from underweight to overweight) are affected by society’s expectations of “the ideal body”, being skinny is still (overall) more socially acceptable.
This post is about what really bothered me about this woman’s comments: the malignant misconceptions we have about exercise & fitness.
This woman was surprised I was at the gym because she equates working out with weight loss and she is not alone. I know because I use to think that way too. The problem with this idea is twofold 1) it suggests that only overweight people should go to the gym 2) It implies that overweight people are just lazy: i.e they must not workout because if they did they would be skinny. First off, everyone should try to live an active lifestyle because it’s good for all bodies and minds. It’s recommended that we take 10,000 steps a day and that number doesn’t shift with the scale. Secondly, you can be fit and fat the same way you can be skinny and out of shape.
Weight can be very misleading. Thus, the scale obsession is–more often than not–illogical. For instance, I’ve always been naturally thin and with my high metabolism I can go the whole day on just one meal (this applied more before I started exercising). I just couldn’t gain weight. When I was younger, the doctor told me it was weird that I had a high percentage of body fat even though I was underweight but it made a lot of sense–I didn’t move much and had a horrible diet. I’m 5ft tall and, up until 1 year ago, was approx 90lbs (i.e 17.6 BMI). Exercise is what helped me gain weight. Last summer I finally saw things through with my halfmarathon training and spent 3-5 days a week boxing for 2hrs (i.e footwork, cardio, shadowboxing, hitting the bag, and sparring). Most of you probably haven’t noticed my 13lb weight gain, not just because it’s a relatively small gain, but because it didn’t alter my size: it was added muscle. Gaining weight doesn’t mean you are losing fitness. Losing weight doesn’t mean you are getting fitter.
“This picture shows 5lbs of fat vs 5lbs of muscle which shows that you shouldn’t go by what the scale says but you should measure progress by how you look, how your clothes fit, and not a scale! Scales are stupid, YES STUPiD! So stupid they cannot differentiate what’s muscle, what’s fat, what’s just fluids, therefore, relying on a scale to measure your weight loss is unreliable. Our hydration levels and glycogen levels fluctuate at different times in a day so that can influence a number on a scale. How about for those who are weight training? As you can see here muscle is way more dense than fat therefore if you’re gaining muscle, you will be gaining “weight” on a scale” (Massiel Arias, Personal Trainer).
Now I’m 103lbs (20.1 BMI) and healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m still skinny and wouldn’t mind gaining a few pounds to make sure I maintain a “normal” weight but at 5ft tall it shouldn’t come as a surprise that if I’m skinny I’m not going to weigh much (due to my height). One of the most ridiculous and terrifying things I run into all to often is when a girl, usually at least 5 inches taller than me, hears how much I weight and says “I wish I weighed that much”. To which I always reply: “you’d be dead”. Clearly an over-exaggeration on my part but they’d be underweight at the least. My point is, it’s crazy and dangerous to chase the number on someone else’s scale because that’s not your body. Your body needs what it needs.
Everyone, go to the gym to build inner/outer strength not just to chase some number on the scale. If you are going to the gym just to lose 5 pounds you won’t lose it anyway (because that’s such a small number and your weight fluctuates daily/throughout the day); and you probably won’t stick around because it takes more than wanting a smaller waist line to stay dedicated.
Workout out of love for your body, not out of hate for your reflection. And pay no mind to misinformed snobs who think you are too big or too small to be at this gym.