Monday, February 4, 2008

Tipping Scales, Making Rookie Mistakes

After a tremendous week of wrapping up way too many loose ends, a bunch of bittersweet farewells, lots of good wishes, and a few too many celebratory beers, I headed to Hershey to visit my mom. This is code for: I had a big life change happen on Friday--my last day of work--so I ran home as fast as I could in the hope that my mommy could take care of me for a day or two.

And take care of me she did, of course. It was nice to be in the "Green Zone" for 48 hours, before the madness of the freelance life began in earnest this morning.

One key difference between my mother's house and my apartment is the bathroom scale. Whereas I consciously choose to never have one in my home, my mom has one in each bathroom. Save for a doctor's visit, I could go for months or years never really knowing how much I weigh.

But when I find myself in a bathroom with a scale, my curiosity always gets the best of me. And then it starts: even though I feel healthy and strong, my training is going well, my clothes fit comfortably, and my nutrition has been well in check, if the number isn't what I'm expecting, there's that small, fleeting wave of disappointment.

It's positively silly when people who are otherwise completely healthy, fixate on weight. It fluctuates up and down all day long to begin with, and for most triathletes, it doesn't tell you anything about your health or performance -- those are measured in many other ways, including most simply, how you feel. It's not to say that losing a few pounds won't make a runner or a triathlete faster -- in almost all cases it clearly will -- but there's no magic number that is going to create an athletic miracle. Hence, my distain for bathroom scales prevails.

While I was home, I weighed myself twice. The last time I had hopped on the scale and looked at the numbers, I expected it to be tragic, because it was Christmas. I had been eating mostly cookies and washing them down with beer and wine. I had taken five weeks off from all forms of exercise, following the Philly Marathon. But that number wasn't as horrible as I would've thought given the cards I had stacked against myself. You can imagine my surprise yesterday, then, following a good four weeks of triathlon training, when the scale told me that I had gained anywhere from six to eight pounds.

Six to eight pounds? Really? On a less-than-five-foot frame, I feel like these superfluous pounds must be hiding somewhere I just can't see. I've convince myself that it must be muscle mass. Because I have enormous biceps. (Does sarcasm translate in the blog world?)

After I talked myself out of throwing that damn scale out the window, I downed another cup of coffee and sat myself in front of the computer. It was time to begin my new freelance life -- all +8 pounds of me. Monday is typically my day off of training, so I decided to quickly check my e-mail before taking a shower and getting dressed.

As a work-from-home veteran, I should have known not to fall victim to that rookie mistake. Never, ever turn the computer on while you're still wearing your pajamas. You can bet your day's pay that by lunchtime, you'll still be wearing them. And around 12:30 p.m. there I was, writing, answering e-mails, and pathetically wearing my favorite flannel PJ bottoms while sipping a now-cold cup of coffee.

People often ask me why I train for marathons and triathlons. Until the day comes again that I'm forced to go to an office every morning, I can add, "Because a morning workout forces me to take a shower and get dressed before noon everyday" to the list.

And, of course, because as long as I'm training, I'll never own a bathroom scale.



Javier said...

I am convinced that bathroom scales were created by the dieting industry. What matters is how you look and feel. And you look great!

So forget the scale!

christine said...

Erin, I laughed reading this post. I have also been training more lately and finding that I weigh almost 10 lbs more than I did. I had a similar moment when I saw my numbers because I don't normally weigh myself either. I thought, "Oh no, I'm one of these people that had no idea they were gaining weight and they wake up one morning wondering why they are a size 14 instead of a 5". I felt stronger than ever yet I weighed much more. Then I learned, specifically, that five lbs of fat can be the size of a melon compared to 5 lbs of muscle being the size of a small tangerine.

Another reason I loved this post... I am trying so hard to get myself to workout first thing in the morning instead of at 1pm so that I'll get dressed before noon. I work from home and I'm always embarrassed if a UPS delivery person shows up and I feel the need to make an excuse for my flannel pj's. As they walk away from my apartment I feel like calling out "I'm not lazy, I swear!"

Thanks for making me laugh.