Just a Number

Time for another honest post over here. I usually like to keep things light and fun, talking about food and fitness and outfits and daily life, but I feel like honesty is really needed in the blog world and since I know a lot of you out there can relate to these posts in some way, I like to keep myself accountable and also ask y’all for some advice from time to time.

Remember this post from about a year ago? That was one of the hardest posts I’d ever had to write but the responses I got were incredible. I promised that I was going to start eating more, stop tracking calories, etc. Well, it took me quite awhile–at least half a year–to get to the point where I felt almost okay doing those things. I stopped tracking my calories earlier this year, and it’s been so freeing. I’ve been eating more than I was a year ago–I don’t know if it’s ‘enough’ but I feel a lot better, more energized.

However, one little thing is still playing with my mind…the scale. My mom bought a scale for the first time during my ED recovery so she could monitor my weight. She hasn’t weighed me in over a year and a half…but that doesn’t mean the scale’s gone unused. Oh no! Every opportunity I get (aka being home alone when I’m on school breaks or weekends I come home), I hop on that scale…and I’m always disappointed with the number. It doesn’t help that just a year ago, my BMI was fairly underweight–I was restricting (though I was eating some things that I wouldn’t touch now, because now I’ve focused my ‘restrictions’ on eating clean) and actually working out less than I am now. So now that I’ve regained to my post-ED goal weight (which, admittedly, is also slightly underweight), I feel like shit. I keep thinking, “How could I have gained that much weight in a year, when I’ve only been eating a little more and working out way more, including weight training?” It makes me mad to think that a year ago, or a few years ago when I was really struggling, I weighed less but was eating less cleanly. People talk about how easy it was for them to drop pounds once they cleaned up their diet, but for me, the opposite has happened. Don’t get me wrong, I really like eating clean, but it annoys me that I’m not seeing the results I want. It’s hard for me to look in the mirror most days, and not see a body that’s bigger than I’d like it to be.

Just to be clear, my goal now is not weight loss, but lean muscle gain. But it’s hard to see the number on the scale go up, when I have no real idea what my body composition is. Silly me for assuming I’d be ultra-lean after just a month or so of strength training. I know real results take time, but I just feel so huge some days.

I know some of you have mentioned that you didn’t start seeing results until you upped your intake by a lot…but doing that still scares me. I have no clue what amount my body needs to thrive on and it scares me to increase. I’m definitely on the petite side so I feel like I really don’t need ‘that much’, but maybe my body is crying out for more fuel, and I’m just ignoring it. I would love to be able to eat more, but it’s just so far out of my comfort zone.

I need to remind myself that the number I see on the scale is just that…a number. It doesn’t tell me how much progress I’ve made, what my body composition is, what my real worth as a person is. I know I’m more fit than I was a year ago, but my brain hasn’t quite caught up and I’m sick of feeling bad about myself because I weigh more now than I did. Some days, I know I’m far from fat and I can actually appreciate my new-found muscle, but for the days that are harder, I just need that reminder that I’m more than the number.

I need to remind myself that there's not even that much of a difference between my body a year ago and today (March 2012 on left, March 2013 on right)

I need to remind myself that there’s not even that much of a difference between my body a year ago and today (March 2012 on left, March 2013 on right)

Any advice on how to get out of this numbers mindset? 

28 thoughts on “Just a Number

  1. Aja says:

    The whole number mindset is everywhere. I think in my early days of blogging i wrote a post about how we use numbers to measure everything and that makes it hard to get rid of the mindset. I’d say don’t ever use the scale and just use the mirror. But I’m still struggling with this as well, so I can’t really be too much help.

  2. I know that YOU know this, but please remember–you need to focus on eating more, and fueling your body with the calories it needs. If you are still technically underweight, that is probably an indication that you need to up your caloric intake. Of course, I am NOT a doctor, and won’t pretend to be, so if you truly want the most accurate advice, I am not the person to ask:) But I will say this: even though you say that your goal is “lean muscle gain” don’t forget that your body still needs a good amount of fat on it to help protect your vital organs, keep you insulated, make your hair and skin healthy and shiny, and give you more energy. I was definitely at a point once when I was dangerously underweight, and have gained twenty-plus pounds since then. And guess what? I feel SO much better. I am still definitely on the small side, and am still trying to gain more, but I am not technically underweight anymore. I know that increasing your caloric intake is quite difficult at times; I had to go through months of forcing myself to eat even when I wasn’t hungry. But it has all paid off, and I am so glad that I am in a healthier place now. Even though my goal was never to lose weight, I took the whole “clean eating” concept way too far–and paid the price. Forget about the number on the scale, and focus on nourishing your body. If you ever need any help/encouragement/ideas of food to eat in order to gain more weight, I am more than glad to help:) But again, I am not a physician and can only offer my limited advice. Every person is different, and I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong suggestions. For you right now, gaining weight is NOT a bad thing, and you are anything BUT fat. You are a special, unique, and important person, and I want the best for you. I know that the whole process of recovering from ortherexia is a long and tough one, but I want you to know that there are many people out there–like me!–who are willing to support and help you.

    • Thank you SO MUCH for always taking the time to leave such thoughtful responses! They always make me think and reconsider things I’ve been doing. Sometimes I just need a reminder that eating is more than about weight–and I really need to nourish the other parts of my body that have been neglected! I would really appreciate any advice you could give me, if you feel okay with that!

  3. Well,you need to remember you cannot BUILD anything if you don’t gain weight.
    I know it is SO hard to accept the number on the scale,but you know what helps? Not weighing yourself. Ban the scale. Tell your mom to hide it somewhere.
    You NEED to realize the number has nothing on you,Ashley. And that will only be possible if you stop depending on knowing it so much.

    • This makes so much sense, thanks for the reminder girl! Like you said, the number is unimportant and I just need to completely stop relying on it. I’ve gotten a lot better about ignoring it, but I still have a ways to go.

  4. Hi Ashley! My best advice for getting these numbers out of your head is getting rid of the scale. Just tossing it completely. When my ED first started at 13, all I focused on was the number on the scale. I started weighing myself constantly and my only goal was to make the number smaller and smaller. Of course, I wound up extremely ill and was hospitalized for a while. My parents made the decision to get rid of the scale. And even though this was extremely stressful for me, I learned to move on. But ditching the scale didn’t fix me… a couple of years ago I wound up severely underweight and in the hospital again, without ever weighing myself or knowing what I weighed. It wasn’t about numbers to me anymore, it was just about starving myself. I really strongly recommend throwing out the scale or having your parents hide it from you so you can’t use it, but you also need to work on building a healthy mindset about your body. The number truly truly doesn’t matter! Always remember that muscle weighs more than fat. Even though you may weigh more now, I honestly can’t tell from your pictures. And the people who drop weight from eating cleaner, they had weight to lose, which isn’t true for you. Just focus on how you feel. If eating clean and strength training makes you feel good, that’s the most important thing. There’s absolutely NO way that eating as clean as you do and exercising will make you fat or overweight or anything. I know it’s super easy to rationalize that kind of thing when you have an ED, but try to remember that it’s just not possible. I know you will be able to get through this. It will probably take a long time, but focusing more on proper nutrition and how you feel is much more important and helpful in the long run than a number on a scale.

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words! I really appreciate them, because I think we come from a similar mindset and you’re right that it’s so easy to slip back into that thinking but I would rather be healthy and happy in the long run than a smaller number on the scale, which really says nothing anyway!

  5. The same things were going through my head today during boxing!!!! I felt like my thighs were so big but everyone kept complimenting my shorts and I was like “don’t they think i’m too chubs to wear shorts?” I’m a bit the opposite of you since I’m really tall but in my head it just puts more pressure on me to stay thin because I don’t want to be a “big girl”
    And I was also thinking to myself that I’ve put on weight since starting boxing… And I was thinking about quitting boxing so I could lose the muscle in my legs and just have lean legs…. such a dumb thought, I know, but I like being honest….
    And I also used to eat less clean, like I’d have a croissant and a granola bar for lunch and now I have a salad with whole grains or whatever and some nuts and it’s definitely over-all a bit higher in calories but its good calories.. We need to think ahead, I guess. Because what you eat doesnt only determine your weight but it will also help with shiny hair, strong nails, less wrinkles when you age, more muscle mass as you age, less disease, a sharper memory.. All those things need to be taken into consideration!

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences here, they’re definitely not dumb at all and I can completely relate. I think it’s hard to see weight gain, even muscle gain, and not freak out, but we both have to remember that we’re getting fitter and healthier and that’s what matters!

  6. First of all, I’m always so impressed when you open up and are so honest on your blog. It’s a scary thing to make yourself that vulnerable and I have a ton of respect for you!
    Second, I know how overwhelming the number on the scale can seem. I can honestly say that the day I stopped weighing myself (at all!) was the best day of my life. I don’t care what the number on that little box says because it doesn’t matter. What matters is how I look and, more importantly, how I feel. Gaining weight is scary- there’s no getting around that. Whether your gaining muscle or fat (or in my case, a combination of both) it always feels uncomfortable and brings anxiety. But, I promise you, it’s worth it.
    I don’t know how much I’ve gained over the past 8 months- probably quite a bit- but I feel better than I have in years and, looking back on old pictures, I know I look better too.
    It wasn’t until I upped my calories A LOT (way more than I ever thought I would need to) that I started seeing results from my weight-training. Our bodies can’t build muscle without adequate nutrition and rest. Plus, like you said, it just takes time.
    You’ve made so much progress already and I know you’re going to continue making more. Just don’t get caught up in numbers or the fear of gaining weight- it’s actually a beautiful, beautiful thing. (:

    • You have been such an inspiration to me through this, so thank you for that! I really appreciated seeing your experiences with weight training and seeing the results that come through hard work and accepting a need for more calories and weight gain. It’s so extremely hard for me to see any kind of gain as positive, but I have a real passion for weight training now and I don’t want to give it up for a smaller number on the scale!

  7. sarah says:

    Ahh, I hope you are able to find peace in all this stuff!
    Continous under-eating= a slowed metabolism + a body that’s innefficient at burning calories and holds onto everything you give it cos it’s in starvation mode. Unfortunately.
    And technically our bodies cannot gain muscle, without gaining some fat, which we DO NEED to function and be healthy.
    I’m rooting for you to make strides in your health and working on those goals:)!

  8. It’s brave of you to open up and admit that you’re struggling – it’s always super refreshing to see an honest post when the blog world seems to be full of a lot of underlying issues that most blogs try to hide.

    I remember going through pretty much exactly what you’re going through. I was eating pretty clean and exercising 6 days a week with absolutely no results – actually, if anything, I noticed myself slowly starting to gain weight that definitely wasn’t muscle. I couldn’t figure it out – I was doing everything right, so what the heck was going on? Turns out, I wasn’t eating enough to compensate for my workout, which led to my system being overly stressed, going into freak-out mode, and hanging on to every little calorie that I gave it. Honestly, it wasn’t until I started eating so much more than I thought I needed that I started to finally see positive changes.

    Was it scary? Heck yea it was. I was convinced there was no way my body would need that many calories, but it really did. I guess you could look at it this way – you’re not happy with the results you’re getting now which means that something has to change. I know change is scary, but often times it just leads to something more positive.

    • I like your way of thinking–the way I’m doing things now isn’t making me happy or getting me to my goals, so trying something new (like upping my calories and maybe taking more rest days) will help me get back on track!

  9. P says:

    I totally understand Ashley! I quit using the scale last summer…I just feel like it’s safer for me NOT to know how much I weigh since that’s still triggering for me. It’s easy for people to say “eat more” or “I wish I had your problem” but it’s a lot tougher than it seems! Love your honest posts as always!

    • I think that’s really smart, just giving up the scale all together. I’m kinda mad at myself that I ever tried to look for the scale because now that I know where it is, it’s hard to not use it. But I think I just need to stop using it, it really isn’t getting me anywhere!

  10. moderngirlnutrition says:

    This is such an honest post- I can definitely relate. Gaining weight is the most important thing to remember, but it can be so difficult with all those numbers floating around!

  11. Sweetie, To be very honest I do not see one itsy bitsy teeny tiny bit of difference.
    I say this not to make you discouraged (I get that way when people would say I look the same despit myself KNOWING I was gaining and eating better) I say that to assuage you in some way because I hear that you are uncomfortable with the weight.
    Let me repeat. Not one bit of difference.

    EXCEPT… I DO notice that on the left? You look sad, peeved off maybe.
    And on the right? Smiling.

    • Honestly, I actually really appreciate hearing that! I know we can focus too much energy on what we look like and no one else sees any difference so that makes me feel a LOT better. Especially when you said that I look a lot happier on the right, because I feel a lot happier too.

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