There are a lot of great stories about people experiencing significant body transformations as a result of kettlebell training. Most of those stories are about fat loss. Tracy Reifkind, for example, lost 100 pounds when she started swinging and changed her diet (she shares her journey in her new book “The Swing!“). Others have similar stories, if less dramatic. If you’ve got some extra fat, kettlebells is a tool that can help shed some pounds. Done correctly, it’s a great combo of cardio and strength training all wrapped up together in one tidy package.
Weight loss isn’t the only possible outcome, though. Within two months of beginning kettlebell training, I actually gained 5 pounds. More than a year later, I stepped on the scale to find that I’ve gained nearly 10 pounds since I began training. I weigh more now than I ever have, and I have only the kettlebells to blame.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never struggled with being overweight. In college I went through a period where I was very sick, and I actually lost quite a bit of weight. I was way too thin. I gained back the weight while recovering, and reached a point that seemed good. According to the charts, though, I was still underweight (I’m sure my perception of ‘normal’ was a bit skewed after having been as thin as I was while sick). Over the span of a year or two I gained a few more pounds until my weight plateaued, and I maintained that for several years. Until now.
When I look in the mirror, the person looking back appears healthy and fit. But when I stepped on the scale a few weeks back and saw that number, I was surprised, and felt disappointed at my gut reaction. I didn’t want to be associated with the number on that scale. I went through a few phases: “how could this be,” followed closely by “I need to look more closely at my diet,” followed by my husband talking me down and telling me that I have nothing to worry about. It’s just a number.
We hear messages every day about losing weight, losing fat, making the number on the scale smaller. Women are expected to be small and dainty, and some are. But if we’re not, we feel like we should try to be. Even though I know better, my initial reaction to the scale that day was very much based in that expectation. It took me some time, but I realize now that I probably actually needed to gain a few pounds. For the first time, maybe ever, I’m in the ‘normal’ weight range for my height, according to the charts.
I find it interesting that, being nearly 10 pounds heavier, I still fit into the same clothes I did when I started. I still buy the same size jeans and shirts. I look different, though. My face is slimmer (unexpected, but true) and there have been some subtle changes to my overall shape. I haven’t gained fat; in fact, I think my body fat percentage has gone down (I’ve never calculated my body fat percentage, so I don’t know for sure, but it seems like it has). What I’ve gained is muscle. Not bulk, just density.
My point is that the number on the scale is just a number. I’m not saying anything here that hasn’t been said before. In fact, people say this all the time. Go by how you feel. How you look. Are you taking good care of yourself? Eating right? Those things should be your indicators, not your scale.
Being strong is awesome. My body is capable of doing things that it hasn’t been able to do in the past. Kettlebells training has given me a higher level of fitness and functionality, and I am grateful for that. If that’s the payoff for a few more pounds on the scale, I’ll take it.