Essay: Living life off the scale

Courtesy of Leah Lakins

"Instead of counting reps, I now count how long I can hold a downward dog," Leah Lakins writes.

For most of my life, I could be accurately described as "fat," "plus-size," "thick," "real-size," and a myriad of other definitions for larger women in our culture. I spent more than a few decades crying in dressing rooms, shaming my body in overcrowded gyms and group fitness classes and torturing myself with restrictive diets and humiliating weigh-ins.

I could look at a picture from any point in my life and accurately tell you how much I weighed, but I would never define the picture staring back at me as pretty, sexy or beautiful.

Two years ago, instead of beginning the new year by committing to another weight-loss program and trying one more food plan, I decided that I would create my own wellness path that wasn't dependent on measuring the circumference of my hips or bemoaning the size of my wardrobe. I decided to stop weighing myself, and I began living my life off the scale.

Now let me be clear, I'm well-aware of my blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels -- but I was no longer going to determine my mood, my value, my beauty, or my worth based on the scale. I had wasted far too much time restricting my life because of my weight.

Instead of measuring inches, I began measuring my courage. I took on the adventure of carving out this chapter of my life in Brooklyn. I moved there in 2014 to create my own editorial company after working and living in the D.C. area for a decade.

When you are crazy enough to move to a new city and start a business at the same time, you learn just how courageous you have to be to make your rent and strategically save a few dollars for a new tube of MAC lipstick.

Courtesy of Leah Lakins

"Beyond the mat, I've also found my wings in aerial yoga," Lakins writes.

Instead of tracking calories, I now revel in my strength. After going from a lifestyle in D.C. that revolved around the comfort of my 2008 Nissan Altima coupe, it was quite an adjustment to travel primarily by foot, climb long flights of subway stairs and hold my balance on the train while juggling my groceries.

I'm incredibly proud of myself for adapting to the physical demands of living in a city like Brooklyn. Trust me, you can't tell me much of anything on laundry day after I haul two 15-pound bags of clothes up to my fourth-floor apartment in Bed-Stuy.

Instead of counting reps, I now count how long I can hold a downward dog. As someone who used to drag her body to the gym with all the enthusiasm of going to the dentist, it has been pure joy to find my body's rhythm by practicing yoga. It is so freeing to take on a physical discipline where I don't have to do anything "right." All I have to do is show up on my mat and just be.

Beyond the mat, I've also found my wings in aerial yoga. Twisting, flipping, and flying with my curves in an aerial hammock has allowed me to discover the true strength and power in my body.

Instead of dreading flights, I now count airline miles and passport stamps. Nothing brought me more anguish than my fear of being the fat person in the middle seat. I thought more about the comfort of my fellow passengers than the adventure that awaited me on the other side of my flight. In 2016, I took 16 flights that carried me to places like Houston, Orlando, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, London and India.

By the end of the year, I replaced my flying anxieties with discovering new parts of the globe, flexing my flirting muscles with cute strangers, sharing snacks with friendly toddlers and riding elephants in India.

My two years off the scale came together during a serene evening in front of a bonfire in India. My 10-day adventure in India included a trip to the Taj Mahal, two boat rides on the Ganges, a morning and evening tour through a tiger reserve, a day at an elephant sanctuary and excursions to several temples and forts all over the country. I realized that I wouldn't have been able take that trip with the same amount of stamina even a year before. 

As I took my seat during my final flight of the year from London to New York, I made a delightful discovery, I didn't need a seat-belt extender. Somehow, when I stopped counting the pounds, I stepped into a new version of my body and there was a little less of me to go around. It has been downright magical to discover that this divine set of bones and flesh is mine for living and celebrating and not for shaming.

It's now the ongoing work of my life to experience my body as a gift and not as a number on a scale.

Leah Lynette Lakins is a writer, editor and founder of Fresh Eyes Editorial Services. Her most recent work includes co-authoring the New York Times bestselling book "Jump: Take the Leap of Faith to Achieve Your Life of Abundance" with Steve Harvey. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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