Were we born just to be a number?
From a young age, we are taught that the numbers will define you to an extent. Our scores in school has to be high and we need to strive to be at the top of our class. Then we hit puberty and the dreaded scale becomes a tool of obsession, so does dress sizes, jean sizes and what not. As we age, we are told by society that we should worry about our wrinkles, when we hit 30 our metabolism will just stop and other heinous stories that may have some truth but has been exaggerated to the point that we have become anxious around milestones that have to be celebrated. We miss out on life’s biggest and precious moments.
It start with school.
I have this vivid memory of me as a 10 year old, crying my eyes out. My mother reads to me from the bible that no one is born perfect. My first ever test in which I got a 9/10 at school. This is evident that since a young child, I’ve had this notion towards perfectionism, never feeling adequate or good enough, for me, my parents, society, THE UNIVERSE?
Test scores assist us in finding our calling, an indication of our IQ/a good education. Of course I am grateful for the opportunities my academic results have given me. Top performer in primary school, struggling through high school but still got that damn distinction and then studying hard into the small hours of the morning during varsity to achieve great results. Results that will help me afford my education but can only be achieved through hard work. Something I have never been afraid of.
As an adult, I see the above as the potential start of an unhealthy thinking pattern which may just be part of my genetic make up but it sparked a fire in me. The irony of this post does not escape me, I am after all making a living off crunching numbers. I’ve always been drawn to the logic and pure truth that numbers may present. How magical it is to use many methods but to get to the same result, to analyse and interpret trends. I’ve always said “I understand numbers, people not so much”. Quitting my day job won’t be an option. I have too much passion for it.
Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter?
Strange enough, getting older has never bothered me much. I truly believe that as we age, we gain more wisdom and perspective. Society and the media around me wants me to believe otherwise though. They want me to have fun and not settle in my 20’s (Sorry not sorry, I did JUST that), have a husband, kids and white picket fence in my 30’s with a successful career and then not have any signs of ageing ie a life well-lived when I’m in my 40’s and beyond.
What atrocity is this? The tick boxes and lists of achievements, do’s and don’t’ that come with every decade is exhausting, melodramatic and quite frankly bullshit. If you are living your happiest life, wrinkles and all, there is nothing wrong with every year that goes by. My laughing wrinkles are reminders of every single smile, sight and happy memory. It reminds me to be grateful for this life, my experiences, the challenges and shit I’ve been through. A good heart will always trump a perfect face. So fuck conformity and pressure, your miracle anti-age cream and your expectations of me to have children.
Can a healthy lifestyle really be tied back to the numbers?
Here we get to the real meat of this conversation and probably the most confusing part of all. Marketers try to sell us the ideal body, sizes, weight and promise to deliver that within an unrealistic time frame or even worse pressure us to achieve results that are clearly not true. We are fed this dream of a perfect exterior without even thinking of the consequences it has on our internal bodily functions, never mind the pattern of thinking it breeds too.
Weight, BMI, Macros, Recommendations, Water Intake, Hours Slept, Calories Burnt, Pace, Number of days a week, Number of hours a day. All packaged perfectly in that fitness tracker we got for Christmas. All quantitative, valid and useful measurements but will it give you the key to a happy and healthy life? Or is it the cause of an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and perfectionism?
When one embarks on this journey to lose weight when you’re on the brink of cardiac problem or the converse where you need to pick up weight so your body can revert to its normal functionality, then this tool should be used. But what do you do when you get to that goal weight? The maintenance of your health and goals. With the rise of social media, this can be a real mind fuck. The rising trend of throwing away the scale brings relief though. When you’re a chronic scale climber, it is very difficult to let go. I found myself in this exact situation a few months ago and slowly making peace with the number on the scale creeping up as I get stronger.
I tried to count macros in the middle of last year sometime. At that stage I wanted to loose the 2kg that I had put on after a few months of strength training and 2 weeks of holiday. The app told me I should be eating 1200 calories a day to reach my goal and gave me the split. That kitchen scale came out and so did the obsession, the counting and an awful lot of meal prep and precious time spent stressing about what goes into my body. To the point where my body could not heal an injury fast enough and I fainted. Borderline ED behaviour. Orthorexia perhaps? I recognised that something was not right and asked for help. It all came down to the numbers and that scale once again. Until the doctor told me that it is okay to have the damn piece of chocolate.
I don’t have the answers or formula to solve this problem and my mind still confuses me when a sporadic thought of obsession pops in but I know I need to be patient with myself. Right now being in a recovery cycle as well as a fresh start to a new year, I am trying to reduce my anxiety around the numbers that “define” a healthy lifestyle. To strive for that elusive thing called balance but also an increase in self-acceptance and self-love. I’ve grown and learnt a lot over the last months through my yoga practice which taught me the art of reflection. I may not have that balance spot on yet, but damn I will work hard to truly find and live it.