It’s the first of the month and I’m standing on a scale while holding a body tape measure. My laptop screen glows with an intensive spreadsheet behind me.
Two years ago, I decided to start taking monthly body measurements to track the various changes my body experiences throughout the year. While it may seem like a dangerous idea, every month proves to be successful for a variety of reasons worth sharing.
Before we begin, let’s establish what this article is not covering: I’m not going to tell everyone to love the body they have, that’s for each individual to manage. I’m also not equipped to discuss various body dimorphism disorders, which can be difficult and scary and worth a conversation with a doctor when experienced.
The decision to take monthly body measurements started in 2019 with my word of the year: Growth. My goal was simple: End the year bigger (ok, buffer) than I started. I didn’t have specific numbers to hit as I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment, and I just started monthly measurements to see how I would do.
Turns out, I learned more about myself than I expected.
Our bodies tune to the seasons
As the seasons change, so does the world around us. It’s easy to notice when hot summer afternoons become cold winter nights, and we see nature go dormant just to spring back to life a few months later. However, we don’t spend much time understanding similar changes happen within us. Sure, we may change our hair for a season, and our clothes certainly reflect the weather outside, but our bodies change, too.
Noticing this ongoing change within me helps me connect with nature in a new way. It’s no longer me vs. nature, where I live in a controlled environment roughly the same temperature all year long while the outside changes. Now I feel more connected than ever to what’s around me, knowing that as the trees change, so do I. The food I eat, the amount and way I move, and my response to temperature shifts with the seasons. Nature and I are in this together.
Our bodies adapt
Staying active changes meaning throughout the year, and bodies adapt accordingly. My legs get larger in the summer to allow me to hike, (at the expense of everywhere else), my shoulders change in the autumn and spring for climbing and lifting, and everything gets a bit soft around the holidays when I become mostly booze and cookies. Nonetheless, whatever I throw at my body, it finds a way to adapt to it. Tracking these changes monthly allows me to practice gratitude for this crazy meat mech my consciousness somehow pilots.
Strength is mental as much as it is physical
A good workout is a great mental boost. You feel like you can take on the world, and lift things that seemed impossible in the past. When I’m exercising regularly I just feel stronger, and therefore I assume I look as strong as I feel.
Turns out, it’s not like that at all.
Sometimes I go weeks without a meaningful workout (especially in COVID), and other times I workout more than ever before. But whenever my monthly measurement comes up, the numbers rarely change much. Now — it’s important to remember that the numbers DO change, and can trend positively or negatively, but the change feels more dramatic than it shows.
Now I understand workouts are more mental than they are physical, and missing workouts doesn’t result in immediate loss, as much as immediate workouts don’t mean immediate gains. Everything takes time, and while your body can do a lot, it requires patience. More importantly, I understand the mental benefits of a workout far exceed any vain gains.
My 2019 growth chart allowed me to achieve more than I expected, and I continue using it in 2021. Monthly measurements, which started as a simple tracker and opportunity to collect some interesting data, grew into something so much more. Now it is almost a meditation practice, allowing me to connect with nature, myself, and my needs — and most importantly, an opportunity to practice gratitude for the body I inhabit.
While we are all on our own journeys when it comes to health and wellness, body measurements are a useful tool for me to be my best. Maybe they can be for you, too.