144lbs: Why Female Athletes Should Toss the Scale and Get a New Perspective
It was the summer of 1987. I was twelve, we had just moved to a new town, and I was about to start eighth grade. I was babysitting for a new neighbor and they had a scale in their bathroom. We never had a scale at home. The only time I weighed myself was when the teachers weighed us each quarter in school, and then we all ran out to the playground after to compare numbers and brag about who weighed the least.
I stepped on the scale and waited for the fancy digital numbers to pop up.
I was crushed. It was the first time I’d ever weighed over a hundred pounds. That was it. I was fat, ugly, and I’d never be considered cool at my new school. There was no way the popular girls weighed over a hundred pounds. No way.
Recently I was working out at the gym with my fiancé and a friend of ours. We were watching my fiancé do some warm-up glute bridges and he was using 135lbs. My friend said, “You should just sit on him.” I looked at the bar and said, “Well, it’s almost about right.” He said, “135? Really?” And I replied, “Well, 144 as of this morning.”
“Nice!” he replied and put up his hand to high-five me.
I’ve never had someone high-five me for weighing over 140lbs before. I just had to smile. To me this was a validating moment. A moment that confirmed I’m hanging out with the right people. People who think it’s awesome to weigh more, because weighing more means having more muscle.
“You wouldn’t ever guess it,” he continued. “It’s all in the legs. Yeah!”
So how did I get from being horrified at weighing 103 to being unafraid to tell other people I weigh 144? Those 41lbs - and 26 years - have not been an easy or a short journey, but I have athletics to thank for the transformation. As an adolescent I thought I had inherited, and was therefore cursed with, my family’s thunder thighs. Now as an adult, and an athlete, I think, “You wish you had these quads, bitch.” (Okay, maybe not quite like that. Not quite. (Maybe a little.) And that’s a non-gender specific “bitch,” by the way.)
But one of the biggest things about this transformation, for me and the people around me – both clients and friends – is not so much that working out makes you confident or that training changes your body - it’s that people don’t even know what 135lbs looks like anyway. Since I first got heavily involved in martial arts and CrossFit, any time my weight has come up in conversation, which of course it does in competitive sports, no one has ever believed me. People consistently think I weigh about 10lbs less than I actually do.
“I’m really dense,” I tell them.
And I am, ‘cause I’m mostly muscle. And all the little charts you’ve ever seen your whole life and all the junk you’ve ever read in a magazine don’t give a crap about muscle. The chart in your doctor’s office doesn’t care what you can clean and jerk. The BMI calculator doesn’t care how many kettlebell snatches you can do in ten minutes. The women’s mag monthly diatribe about finding your ideal weight doesn’t care how quickly you can row a 2K.
This is a picture of me in 2011 when I rowed the fastest 2K of my life. I weighed 133lbs that morning. I spent weeks cutting weight from 142 down to 133 so I could compete in the lighter weight class. It was a challenging experience and one that I shared with my students at CrossFit LA. I actually cried over the thought of ice cream at one point, I trained with a genuine focus, and I saw on my own body for the first time why quads are called quads.
I got second in that damn competition and made myself so proud. But better yet - I had a student come to me and tell me I’d changed her perspective, because when she realized what I weighed she realized the numbers didn’t mean what she thought they did.
This was me at around 134lbs during my muay Thai and Brazilian jiu jitsu hey-day. To be authentic, this was pre-breast augmentation. So adjusted for boob inflation, I’d weigh about 136lbs in this shape today.
This was me at the 2009 CrossFit Games. I weighed 143lbs in this photo. And by the way, I’m 5’5” - clearly I was a good twenty pounds overweight, right? Does that look like what you think 143lbs looks like?
And this was me at the 2010 CrossFit Games SoCal Regionals. Complete with cellulite even, and weighing around 144lbs.
So, what does 144 look like?
What does 125 look like?
What does 185 look like?
Do you actually know? And does it even matter?