For the longest time, my main goal for working out was to stay skinny. As long as I had slim thighs, a flat tummy and arms small enough to wrap my hand around, I was happy.
So, as I got older and had to stop relying on school sports to keep thin, I ran, biked, swam and elipticalled – that's a word, right? – in order to maintain my figure.
But soon, my slim legs started getting thicker, and my booty started getting bigger. Running and biking were indeed doing the opposite of keeping me slim. I was building muscle, and this was causing me to gain weight.
So, I freaked out.
Why was the scale saying I was heavier now than I was before I started running nine miles per day? Why were my pants getting tighter?
Not only that, but I was hungrier... much, much hungrier. So naturally, I started eating more.
Pasta made me run further. Meat made me feel strong. And those veggies were great, but eating only veggies with my meat didn't keep me full like it used to.
It was as though working out intensely was doing the opposite of everything I wanted it to.
But little did I know, I was becoming strong.
I voiced my concern to my body-building husband – OK, he's not really a body builder, but anyone who spends two hours in the gym every day is a body-builder in my book – and he informed me muscle weighs more than fat. So by building more muscle, I will burn more calories throughout the day and during my workouts.
So, I decided to take my husband's word for it and up my workout game to another level.
I added in weights. I cut down those nine-mile per day runs to just three miles per day.
I added in a solid gym workout to go with my cardio. Each day was devoted to a different muscle group, split between lower body (butt and legs) and arms, shoulders and chest.
After just a week or two of adding in weights, my body fat percentage went from 14 percent to 12 percent, and my muscle percentage went from being in the 30s to the 40s.
But my overall weight went up.
Little by little, as I gained more and more muscle, my weight crept up. I was painfully aware muscle does indeed weigh more than fat.
But I didn't let that stop me.
Slowly but surely, I was able to use heavier weights, and doing things like running and biking became even easier. A hilly mountain bike ride used to have me huffing and puffing, but now, I feel energized, ready to take on the next hill without pausing to rest.
Throughout the day, I feel more awake. I don't slug through my work day anymore, waiting for the coffee to kick in.
Instead, I let the endorphins in my body do their thing. I feel like I can conquer the world... or at least conquer a huge pile of laundry.
Since I started weight training, I've been crushing my goals: both life goals and body goals. The lazy side of me is definitely still there, but it doesn't come out as often.
I feel happier, and weirdly enough, I find myself laughing more.
Even my husband has commented on how happy I am now that I've started weight training.
I also started only supporting workout brands that promote being strong and fit, as opposed to skinny. I tossed my Victoria's Secret workout clothes and made room for brands like Calia by Carrie Underwood and Senita Athletics, which focus on empowering young women.
Having your dream body shouldn't be about getting skinny, or getting down to a certain number on the scale.
In fact, it's probably best if you toss your scale in the trash. Throw those tape measurers away: Don't focus on a number.
Focus on becoming the strongest, best version of yourself you can possibly be. And no, becoming strong doesn't mean you're going to look like a crazy ripped body-builder.
It just means your body will be toned and have definition. It means you'll be able to open that jar of pickles without having to ask a man for help.
So don't strive for skinny; strive to be strong.
In just a short amount of time, your body will start thanking you.