A few weeks ago I was at my crappy, no-frills, smells like 2-week-old socks, gym finishing up a TRX workout.
I was stretching off in a corner and just about to leave when I spotted a familiar person.
For some reason, anytime I’m in this gym I always have the honor of watching this older woman exercising using the battling ropes. (In case you don’t know what these are, imagine very thick, heavy and long ropes that someone waves up and down for a very exhausting and challenging workout)
Every time I’m there so is she. And she’s damn good at these ropes. I mean incredible. I’ve tried these things before and I even said “hell no”.
Watching her kick ass with these ropes is inspirational, but what she does in between her sets is anything but.
I’ve been watching her for at least the last 6 months and without fail, after her first set on the ropes she walks over to an old doctors scale and steps on. Some days she hops off rather quickly and returns to her ropes. On other days she stays a while and fidgets with the old and rusty adjustments until a defeated look comes over her face and she walks back to her hopes with her gaze down at her feet.
Either way, it breaks my heart.
How could someone of this age with this level of physical ability still feel the need to step on a scale only feel miserable and powerless?
On this particular day, however, she took her scale escapade to a whole new level; after weighing herself as normal, she walked over to a rack of dumbbells and grabbed a 25 lb. dumbbell. She then walked back to the scale and placed the dumbbell on the scale. She was checking the accuracy of the scale. How do I know? Well, not so long ago, my eating disorder and I liked to do the same thing.
After seeing this new level of weight concern, I knew I had to say something. So I did.
I walked over to her and began with telling her that I’d been watching her for some time and was completely inspired and amazed with what she could do with the battling ropes. She of course smiled from ear to ear and shared with me that she’s 74 years old.
“Holy Crap!” was all I could think. “I hope to God I’m as agile as you when I’m 74”, I told her.
I asked her how kicking ass with the battling ropes made her feel?
“Powerful” was the first word she said. I LOVED IT.
Then I asked her how weighing herself made her feel.
She looked at me partly shocked and partly confused. I could tell she was slightly embarrassed. She shrugged her shoulders a little and said, “I don’t know. Not too great. It’s OK I guess.”
“So if you feel powerful when you’re doing these ropes and ‘not too great’ or ‘OK’ when you step on the scale, why do you even step on the scale then?” I asked her.
“I just want to make sure I’m OK”, she told me.
“But look at what you can do with the ropes”, I said, “Surely you know you’re way more than just OK”.
She laughed. “Well, I want to make sure I don’t gain any more weight”.
“Why?” I asked, “What would happen if you gained weight?”
“Well, I’d have to buy new clothes” and as soon as she said this she laughed a little, realizing how silly it sounded. “I guess I could always buy new clothes”, she said following her realization.
I went on to tell her about clients I have at her age who only dream about doing the things she doing. How incredible she was and how it makes me sad to see someone with so much power and strength be beaten down by a stupid scale. I told her I look up to her and she’s my hero and to stop making choices that made her feel anything less than powerful. This made her smile and she agreed. I also learned her name was Mary.
A few days later I saw Mary again. She thanked me for talking with her the other day and I thanked her for not wacking my head off with one of her battling ropes. We’ve been friends ever since.
So here’s my challenge for you:
Do you still do things like weigh yourself, try on those “skinny jeans” or measure your waist just to make sure you’re OK? If you do, why do you think you do this or feel compelled to do this? How do you benefit from it? What do you gain from this behavior?
Time for some mindful self-study.
Although we typically realize using external markers as ways to determine if we’re “OK” (AKA worthy, enough, valuable) is a recipe for suffering, we may still do it anyways.
Well, look around my friend. Look at culture and look at social media. It’s everywhere.
So how do we make a change?
First comes awareness, kind of like what I did with Mary. I made her aware and that is what I hope to do for you today.
Once there is awareness, there is an opportunity for different choices to be made.
With New Years looming off on the horizon, I invite you to start becoming aware of choices that make you feel anything opposite of powerful. May be even start writing them down on your smart phone’s memo pad.
Let’s make December the month of awareness and self-study so that we can amp up to making more powerful choices in 2018.
Remember, the only person or thing that can let you know if you’re “OK” is you.