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Many women have a number in their minds. It is that weight at which we feel the most self-confident, when we rock that bikini or skinny jeans, and feel healthy, beautiful and in control. In pursuit of that number, I have at various times dieted, counted calories, counted points, worked out to Tae Bo videos in a cement basement, cross-trained in a gym, competed in a triathlon (post-pregnancy weight loss plan #1), and completed a marathon (post-pregnancy weight-loss plan #2). Most of these weight loss efforts were successful. But with the passage of time, and the demands of life, kids, career and family, that number became illusive.
Another exercise shake up was in order. So, borrowing a page from my old weight loss playbook, last year I signed up for the New York City Marathon.
The first time I trained for a marathon, the combination of youth, breast feeding and training my body to move for 26.2 miles worked to melt off pounds at an astonishing rate. This time, the marathon weight loss plan was, well, a little less dramatic. The training was reshaping my body and improving my overall stamina and health, but those pounds, those damn pounds, were stubborn this time around.
Still, the daily weigh-in habit persisted, and I dutifully and optimistically stepped on the scale every morning to see whether there was any progress. That is, until the day my bathroom scale emailed me (yes, they do this now) telling me to “step it up” and “find time to be active” since my weight had been stable for two weeks.
This, on a Monday after I completed a 7-mile run on Saturday and a 13-mile run on Sunday.
It was beyond absurd.
And so, after a few choice words on my part, my scale and I broke up.
To women out there who did not have to sign up for a marathon to learn that the weight on a scale is just a number and is not an infallible measure of health, I applaud you. For me, it took the experience of die-hard, sweat and tears, long-distance training before I could come to understand this truth.
Shortly after my falling out with my scale, I was asked whether I would want to be 20 pounds lighter or be able to run 20 miles. Hands down, I would rather run. More to the point, I want to be healthy. I want to be strong. I want to hike with my kids, and crawl around on the ground with my nephew. I want to be able to run through the airport without losing my breath to catch a plane to travel to unexplored places. I want to ride my bike to the farmer’s market and walk the dog with my husband. I want to live actively. And I have finally, at long last, recognized that I do not need to chase a number on a scale to take me there.
Elizabeth Ewens juggles life as an attorney, author, wife, mom and runner, and proudly finished her first NYC Marathon in 2015. You can read more about her journey at midliferun.today or follow her on twitter @elizabeth_ewens.