Jul 3, 2015

I weigh 153 pounds, and I am not shy about it.

Throughout high school and college cross country, talking about one’s weight was taboo. Coaches tiptoe around the issue for fear of prompting an eating disorder – or worse, the dreaded female athlete triad*: reduced bone density, amenorrhea, and fatigue. Instead of confronting the problem head-on, many coaches opt for silence.

But I think silence on the issue allows unhealthy attitudes towards weight to flourish. It’s no secret that lighter runners win races. I’ve seen already-thin girls drop 15 pounds and propel themselves from unknown to star athlete status in a season. Sure, they’re at risk of breaking down from stress fractures or fatigue, but many athletes consider the benefits of losing weight now worth the risk of injury later.

The second problem with staying tight-lipped about weight is that young women don’t know how much real athletes are supposed to weigh. We see tabloid magazines highlighting low body weight right in the headline, as in “[Insert movie star here]’s 110 pound beach body diet: See inside for details!” That movie star might be a healthy weight at 5’2”, but all I see is the number, and 110 pounds is far underweight for my 5’7” height.

Anyway, I’m fine. I’ve never had an eating disorder. I don’t keep a scale in my house at all. **

Rowers are the opposite of shy about weight. Knowing one’s weight is key in selecting what type of boat to row, and you need to know your weight to qualify as a lightweight rower.

Wednesday morning, I had rowing practice as usual. Before I carried down my oars, my team captain stopped me to ask if I was lightweight. “I don’t know what the cutoff is,” I said. “Do you weigh under 130 pounds?” “Definitely not!”

Later, on the water, my coach thought we were sitting high in the boat. “How much do you weigh?” From bow to stern, each woman responded with her weight. I’m 5’7” and I was about 137 pounds last year, the last time I weighed myself. “Uhhh, 135-140?” I guessed. “Wow, I thought you were all about 10 pounds heavier!” shouted Coach. “Everyone take out one poppet,” he said, asking us to lower our oar heights to compensate for the boat being too big for us.

After being asked my weight twice in one day, I figured I should weigh myself, so when I got to work, I stepped on the shipping scale. It read 153.0. 153! I weigh 153 pounds! Even though I’m thin – I wear a size 27 in jeans! – weighing over 150 pounds was a surprise. I walked back to my desk and spilled the beans to Sriram***, who helpfully informed me that I weigh as much as a baby rhinoceros.

Here are some other animals I weigh as much as:
  • baby elephants
  • adult male cougars
  • baby giraffes
  • baby horses
  • adult male sun bears
  • baby belugas in the deep blue sea
  • adult male capybaras
  • adult female gorillas
  • present-day (not adult) Srirams

Today, I weighed myself again, and I was 147.5, so who knows what my real weight is. I ordered a bathroom scale that should be coming next week. 

*Today I learned that “triad” is also a word for Chinese organized crime, similar to the Japanese yakuza or the Italian mafia.

**I have a high-level of self-discipline, so if I get it stuck in my head that I need to drop weight, I can will myself not to eat, and THAT’S why I didn't own a scale before. I never worry about how much money I spend on food at the grocery store, either, because it’s too easy for me to reason that I should buy LESS food instead of buying CHEAPER food.

***Sriram is my cohost on The Commute: Baltimore.