The number of pounds you weigh. The number of calories you’ve eaten. The number of miles you’ve run. The number of hours you’ve spent working out. The number of inches around your waist. It appears that numbers and your health go hand in hand. Many times it can seem like being healthier is a big numbers game. Add more numbers here while subtracting some there and multiplying it all together and you get a better you, right?
Not necessarily. While it is important to know some numbers about your health, like your cholesterol, sometimes we put too much focus on them. So often we get caught up in hitting a certain number on the scale or eating a certain number of calories per meal that we lose sight of what it means to be truly healthy. For most of my teenage and young adult years, I was a slave to numbers. For me the big numbers were what I weighed and how many calories I consumed everyday.
In my mind, if I could control these numbers everything would click and I would finally get the body that I wanted and finally be happy. Make the numbers go down and everything would be alright. I would hop on the scale each morning and see if my calculations had worked for me or against me. If the number on the scale was what I thought it should be, I was happy. But even one number off of what I desired and immediately my mood would change. That’s when I realized I had a problem. If a simple number on the scale could dictate what my attitude was going to be that day, I was in trouble. Over time, I learned that the amount you weigh isn’t everything when it comes to being healthier. I started to weigh myself less and less and tried to not fixate on my weight. It was tough to let go, because it was a comfort to see the number move the way I wanted and feel like what I was doing worked. But I wasn’t totally free of the numbers. Now I turned my attention to the number of miles I ran/walked each week or how many minutes I worked out each day. I even started to take measurements once a week just to make sure I was doing everything right.
That was my biggest motivation for sticking with numbers, it made me feel like I was doing this whole healthy thing right. It gave me validation for all my hard work and proved that I was successful. It was nice to see that I could run more miles this month than compared to two months ago. It felt good that my waist size stayed the same week after week. While my addiction to these “new” set of numbers didn’t play with my emotions as much as the old ones, it was still an unhealthy relationship. And my whole goal was to be healthier, not just physically but mentally as well. My reliance on numbers was holding me back from being wholly healthy.
I am not going to say that I have totally done away with numbers, I still track how many miles I run, but I try not to let those numbers define or validate me. I don’t think that tracking numbers, in whatever form, is necessarily a bad thing. If you’re just starting out, numbers can be a helpful way to keep you on track or show progress. I just caution you to make sure that those numbers don’t become your whole world. When you spend all your time focusing on numbers you miss out on other important aspects of your health. As cheesy as it may sound, YOU are not a number. You and your health are so much more. You are a person who has so many other things that define who you are than a number on a scale or number of calories you eat. Think of it this way, when you introduce yourself do you say, “Hi. My name is Katie, I run 40 miles a week, eat 1500 calories a day, and do yoga at least 20 minutes a day.” No, because that is kind of ridiculous and I’m pretty sure most people aren’t really interested in any of those numbers. Don’t put all your worth into an arbitrary number. Work to feel good about yourself as a whole and remember that health is not just a numbers game.