Screw the Scale: Protecting Mental Health
Posted on April 13, 2017

In a previous post, I talked about my plan to quit the gym and focus on calisthenics. But after revisiting it, I realized that I hadn’t addressed the most important piece: mental health. A big part of this transition was getting over some pesky brain-blocks.

The biggest ones for me: the scale, the diet, and BMI.

First and foremost, I stopped using a scale. I have found it to be the single most stressful aspect of maintaining health. Weight fluctuates based on a variety of factors. Hydration, sodium, alcohol, even mood. You can sweat your ass off and wake up the next morning two pounds heavier. It’s not just about the calories, it’s about what your body is doing at any given time. You can swing several pounds in a single day just by, you know, being human.

And so, I stopped caring about that stupid number on that stupid contraption.

Speaking of misplaced focus, I have also stopped obsessing over a healthy diet. I despise the word diet. It has such a negative connotation these days. Fun fact: “diet” actually comes from Greek, which means “a way of life.” Talk about perverting a wholesome ideal.

I prefer the term nutrition, which better defines my relationship with food. I eat well, but not perfectly, and I’m okay with that. I always have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand. A typical snack for me is a banana or a handful of cherry tomatoes. I also eat hamburgers and drink beer, just not all the time. You know that whole “everything in moderation” thing? It’s a lot easier to follow than a strict fad diet.

Another source of endless frustration was BMI. Thus, I decided to completely ignore my Body Mass Index, that asinine height and weight formula devised in the 1830s by a mathematician who had no medical experience. It was used for general census purposes until, for whatever baffling reason, insurance companies and hospitals adopted it as a measure of health. What’s especially irritating is that it doesn’t even measure overall fat or muscle. Stressing over BMI made no sense. It was like worrying about the best way to hit yourself with a brick. The base logic was inherently flawed.

In short, my health and fitness have become a balance of generals. I opt for general nutrition, not anti-carb insanity. I opt for general fitness, not beach body bullshit. Back in my 20s, I looked at someone like Brad Pitt and thought, That’s what I want to look like. Now that I’m pushing 40, I see that same chiseled physique and think, That’s comically unrealistic. My workouts today are less about washboard abs and more about staving off heart disease.

And so, I stopped obsessing. I gave myself a mental reprieve, which in turn gave me all the motivation I needed. I eat well and exercise because it makes me feel good, not because the scale guilts me into it. I go on a hike because it’s fun, not because I need to burn off some extra calories. If my pants fit tight, I’ll pass on the second beer. When they loosen up, I’ll order fries with my burger. It’s a simple balancing act, and the load off my mind is immeasurable.

Read more:
Maintaining Author Fitness (The Physical Part)
A Year of Calisthenics: The Verdict
Reclaiming My Workout: A Home-Based Guide

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