Unpopular Opinion: I’m Not Doing This to Lose Weight

I had approximately three minutes to leave work, unlock my bike, walk to the bus stop, and board the express bus to meet my friend in a first-rung suburb for some much needed foot papering. In my hustle and bustle, I ran into one of the building engineers outside.

“Oh you’re riding your bike now? Pretty soon, I’m not going to recognize you!”

“Oh?” I was genuinely confused. “Why is that?”

“Because you’ll lose so much weight!”

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Look, I’m not going to pretend that this genuine gentleman meant well, because he assuredly did. However, I’ve been riding my bike to work in the summer months, training for triathlons, and generally being a bad-ass endurance athlete for a couple of years now, and I gotta tell you: I usually don’t lose any weight.

When I first started running in 2012, I gradually built up the ability to run, without stopping, for 60 minutes straight (something, honestly, I haven’t been able to do since; I generally do run/walk intervals now). And yet, I quit for a time because I didn’t lose any weight. I gained definition in my body. I built self-confidence in my ability to try new things and do hard stuff. But I quit because I didn’t do the thing I was supposed to do. I was supposed to be thinner.

If you peek under the hood of fitness/wellness culture, all the instagram posts and Buzzfeed articles, you will find a seedy underbelly; increased activity doesn’t necessarily translate to weight loss. There’s a lot of factors that influence your weight, and activity is just one of them. If it were a silver bullet, all the weight-loss pills and fad diets would go up in smoke.

But what if, WHAT IF, being active was a worthy goal all by itself? What if I wasn’t on my bike to lose weight? What if I was on my bike because I like biking? That it’s a rad way to get from point A to point B. That I like the feel of the wind in my hair and the rain on my skin. That I like being able to stop and talk to my neighbor without craning through a car window. The powerful feeling of propelling myself across the city I love, or a city I’m new to. Or if you want to be a real radical, because I’m trying to fight global warming, reduce my carbon footprint, save money on gas, etc.

Look, I’m not going to stand here and say that I don’t want to lose any weight; the complex and difficult truth is that I’d love to lose several dozen pounds. However, I also think that being active is a worthy goal regardless of the number on the scale, and that the more we equate being active with losing weight (rather than how it makes us feel), the more we miss the point. I don’t have to wait until I’ve lost the several dozen pounds to feel good. I can feel good after my commute to work (what a nice way to start your day!) I can feel good after a quick walk around the block on my lunch break. I can feel powerful, energized, and free right now.

I don’t know about you, but that’s way more compelling to me than waiting to be given permission by a scale.

What’s your favorite way to move? How does it make you feel?

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