When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s nearly impossible to keep a realistic view of yourself in comparison to others. I like to think at this point in the game I have a pretty solid, healthy concept of how I look, how far I have to go, and how far I’ve come. While I can’t help weighing myself a few times a week at the gym, I try and judge my progress via pictures and jeans size over a number on the scale because – as stated before – the scale is a dirty rotten bitch liar for the most part. (Oh, didn’t I say that before? I meant to. Seriously. That thing can suck it.) I was looking through some old pictures the other day that really made me stop and think. About ten and fifteen years ago – two separate occasions, as I gained and lost nearly forty pounds during that timeframe – I was at what I would consider my ideal weight. A size eight or ten, about 145-150 pounds, comfortable enough to wear shorts without fear of offending passerby. But I still remember consistently trying to lose weight, or at the very least always being conscious of my size in comparison to everyone else. My friends were almost all smaller than me, and it was impossible to see myself outside of that. I know I wasn’t healthy – I fought vegetables vehemently until this past year, had an affection for McDonald’s that bordered on stalker-like, smoked a pack and a half a day, and any and all activity was regarded suspiciously; i.e., “What do you mean, we’re going to walk? Like how far? Because no, that does not sound like fun and it’s hot out and we have a car, so really, no need.” But to most people, I looked more healthy than I do now. If you passed me on the street during one of those stretches of my life, your first thought wouldn’t be, “overweight,” “or “unhealthy.” But I was both of those things. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’d passed me on the street between 2011 and 2013, your first assessment would have been “fat.” There is no other word to describe it. A lot of people shy away from the word – to this day, when I say it, people cringe and immediately say, “You weren’t fat.” Yes, I was. It’s a descriptor. Take it however you want – it doesn’t have to be negative or positive, but it’s a real word that can describe someone’s body. Does it describe everything about the person? No. Can it be a distinguishing factor? Yes. I remember hearing someone mention me at work when I was new – they didn’t know I was listening – and said, “You know, the new girl. She’s blonde – the heavy-set one.” And despite what my mirror and growing pants size was telling me, I was still surprised. Like, wait, that’s the first impression I give off? That’s not me. It didn’t get me off the couch, however. I still had a year or so before my head caught up with me. When I finally did get my (fat) ass off of the couch, last January, I think my head was finally in the right place. I was tired. I was so heavy I didn’t want to do things, and I knew I was missing out because of my weight. I could joke about it, but the truth was there – I was getting to the point that life was passing me up, and if I didn’t make changes, my world was going to get smaller and smaller. Everyday activities left me breathless, and more than once the thought of just walking up the stairs to my third floor apartment exhausted me. (In fairness, I will still take the escalator instead of the stairs and always hope the person in front of me just stands instead of walking up them because stairs still suck. Seriously, those races to the top of the Sears Tower? I would sooner run a marathon than consider participating.) I couldn’t shop in most regular stores anymore, fighting a size 20, and had to hold onto the wall for support just getting out of bed because my feet hurt so much from supporting all of this extra weight. So I wanted to get healthy. I couldn’t even fathom being thin. I couldn’t get my head around it; it was so far out of my realm I couldn’t see it. I’ve written about how and why I started before on this blog so won’t go into it again, but mostly I just wanted to not be so unhappy, so out of place, so fucking out of breath and exhausted all the time. I had a niece on the way and wanted to be able to play and move with her, not just sit in a chair in the corner because I couldn’t even get up and down from the floor. I read somewhere that the average woman is a size 16. Then I read somewhere else that the average woman is a size 12. Then somewhere else, I read that the average woman is a size 14. About a month ago, I bought a pair of size 12 jeans. I cried, I was so happy. After fighting my way into a pair of size 20s last year, a 12 signified everything I was hoping for. Average! At last! I called my mom on the way back from Old Navy, elated. I was average!! According to some magazines, I was below average!!! After years of being overweight and out of sorts in my own skin, I was – at least according to the media – normal! Average!!! What a beautiful word! And I feel great about that. I’m not going to lie. I’m happy to be there. But here’s the thing. According to those same magazines, according to that same media, if you look at my weight versus my height, I’m still obese. Not average. Not even overweight. Obese. Based on just the numbers, I’m no better off than I was a year and a half ago. How does that make sense? How can the same scale that measures me normal in pants size call me obese by weight standards? I don’t feel obese. I work too damn hard to still have that label, right? I was talking to my sister the other day about exercising and eating well and what it means to different people. On average, I work out or run six days a week. I Iift weights, I take a spin class, I ride a bike to and from work ten miles a day. I run a 5K twice a week. I haul that bike up and down three flights of stairs every damn day. I haven’t missed a 10K step day on this damn Fitbit more than three times since I’ve had it. My diet is about 85 percent clean. I don’t eat processed foods, have veggies with every meal, skip fast food, and haven’t had a fucking potato in fourteen months. And that’s to lose maybe – MAYBE – a couple pounds every month or so. She made a point of how some people when asked if they work out might say they take a yoga class once or twice a week and that keeps them fit. We were both like, “Everything I do just barely maintains where I’m at. Can you imagine?” (So unfair. If this is what you can do, good on you, don’t get me wrong. But just know in the back of my head, I want to hit you a little bit.) What’s my point, you ask? There is no average. Everyone’s body is different. Everyone carries weight differently. Judging and basing yourself on anyone else’s standard – be it the media, your friends, your workout buddy, your husband, your sister, that girl in the magazine you wish you looked like, a number on the scale – is futile. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Your average is the only one that counts. Are you happy where you’re at? Are you healthy? Do you make good choices most of the time? If you’re not there and want to be, are you working to get there the best way you can? If the answer to the above questions is yes, then you’re okay. You are your own best average. Don’t look at the numbers, because they all tell a different story. And it’s not always yours.