I gained five pounds the week I turned 30.
To be fair, the first two pounds crept on over the holiday season, as that pesky festive weight gain always does. (Although two measly pounds in exchange for Christmas morning cinnamon rolls is a trade well worth it, amirite?)
No big deal, I reassured myself. I’ll get it off in January.
Except I didn’t.
I increased my running mileage, resumed calorie counting, and lifted weights like a boss.
And still the scale didn’t budge.
Two pounds, you may be thinking. What’s the fuss over two pounds?
Sure, in the grand scheme of things, two pounds is hardly enough of a gain to signal any trace of concern.
But when you’ve spent years of your life at a weight you’d like to forget, even the slightest tip of the scale is enough to send you careening back into the well-worn ruts of shame and despair.
I’ve always struggled with weight, but I hit my highest personal number (pre-pregnancy, of course) during my freshman year of college. Fresh out of the shower one early spring morning, I stepped on the scale I’d been avoiding and was shocked by the ample three digits staring back at me.
And something inside me snapped.
I lost nearly 30 pounds over the next six months, mainly by extreme calorie restriction and obsessive exercise. (I’m one of those people who actually loves to work out, so I figured if two hours in the gym is good, four hours is better.)
I realize now that I simply traded one unhealthy habit for another (overeating for overexercising), but at the time I had shrunk to a size 4. My triumph was palpable.
It took a few years to find a happy balance, but by my early twenties I’d finally figured out how to maintain my fitness level without spending every spare moment in the gym. (Though in interest of transparency, I confess I still spent a lot of time there.)
Love, marriage, and two baby carriages soon followed, and still I remained at that happy number. (We won’t discuss the saggy midsection.) So as the “big 3-0” approached, I wasn’t worried.
Alright, so the two pounds haven’t come off, I reasoned. But they will eventually. Just stay consistent.
My birthday came. And it brought another three pounds with it.
Cue the downward spiral.
Competitive vs. Healthy
I spent another few months obsessing over my weight. I pulled out all the old tricks I’d previously relied on for weight loss, and I watched in dismay as the scale still flashed the same number back at me, morning after morning.
And finally… I had to admit that my weight was the least of my problems.
I’m a thirty-year-old, Jesus-loving, healthy and active mother of two beautiful, innocent little girls. And I’m kidding myself if I actually believe that my preoccupation with a number doesn’t, at the very least, reveal some major issues with self-esteem, identity, and self-worth. (Not to mention the havoc I could potentially wreak in my daughters’ hearts by crying silent tears of defeat every time I step on the scale.)
So instead of beating myself up over my weight gain, I began to truly explore the issue. What had changed besides my age? Was there a reasonable explanation for a 5-pound weight gain? Did it really even MATTER that I’d gained five pounds?
And here’s what I realized: My weight gain began shortly after I started homeschooling my children.
When I sacrificed the little bit of free time I’d previously enjoyed, when my husband began working two jobs to pay for our co-op membership and curriculum, and when I no longer had the freedom to squeeze in workouts whenever I wanted, the number on the scale began to creep upward.
And is it any wonder?
The weight at which I had become so comfortable (and in which I had so foolishly planted all my self-worth and identity) was my competitive weight. It was the number my body reverted to when I had plenty of time for lengthy runs at the track, extended strength-training sessions, and kickboxing drills during my two-year-old’s daily nap.
And the weight where I now reside? Well, it’s my healthy weight. Because yes, the number on the scale still falls well within a healthy range, and I still enjoy grueling workouts whenever I can fit them in. But my fitness is no longer the top priority of my day. It will always be a priority in my life, because I’m a better wife, a better mama, and frankly, a much more pleasant human being when my heart and my body are strong. But there’s a difference between a strong body and a rockin’ body… and at this point in my life, the time required for a rockin’ body just isn’t available.
(And who are we kidding? It took me 30 years to realize that there are plenty of things I would rather have than a rockin’ body. Things like good books and the time to read them, good meals and the freedom to enjoy them, and good workouts for the purpose of staying healthy – NOT for maintaining my pre-baby weight at all personal costs.)
So I’m at a crossroads.
My trajectory has shifted over the past 12 months, and it’s up to me to decide whether I will embrace my new course or return to a life of restriction, shame, and self-imposed standards.
If I choose the latter, I will no doubt look and feel great. But at the end of my life, I’m pretty sure my daughters won’t say, “Man, our mom was the best. She always had the flattest belly and most sculpted biceps.”
I’m pretty sure they will say, “We wish our mom could have just loved herself as much as we did.”
If I choose the former… well, my new number will be here to stay, along with my slight muffin top and my cellulite-dimpled thighs.
But at the end of my life, I hope my daughters will say, “Our mom took care of herself and taught us that fitness is important. But she showed us that a beautiful heart is more desirable than a beautiful body… And that it’s okay to choose healthy over competitive.”
Maybe I’ll hit that competitive weight again someday. Maybe I’ll run that half-marathon I’ve been dreaming of. But for now, there are two little girls who need my time and attention and are so worth five extra pounds.
So if you’ll excuse me, there’s a denim sale at Maurice’s.
Mama’s gone up a size. And she’s gonna be just fine.