In the tenth grade, mid-way through a second-period biology class, our teacher (who happened to also be the track coach) told us all to stand up. I didn't think anything of it, and being the type-A, over-achieving student I was, I gladly took a stance, smiling, anticipating what was next.
"Put your hand on the side of your stomach," he said. "Now, pinch the fat on your hips." Confused as to what this had to do with the molecular cells we were studying that week, I did as instructed.
"Now ladies, if you can pinch more than an inch, then you're overweight," he informed us. "Most men have less body fat, but the majority of girls here will be able to pinch maybe even three inches. This means you should really be exercising more and eating less."
I pinched my 15-year-old hips that were a little curvier than the rest of the girls in my grade, and tried to gather how much I was pinching. An inch? Three? Surely not four? He continued to talk about fat cells and the importance of metabolism (again, why this was part of a high school biology class, I still don't know), but I wasn't listening to his lecture.
Instead, I was wondering if I was fat.
That night, I stood in front of the mirror in my bedroom – painted bright purple with inspiring quotes all over the walls, stuffed animals on my bed—and examined my body. And for the first time, I saw the imperfections. The inches. It was the first time I considered myself not as Lindsay, the aspiring writer, the go-getter, the editor of the newspaper, and the tennis player, but as someone who was measured by inches.
Nowadays, as an adult, I'm used to giving my inches: for bridesmaids dresses, when testing out sports bras to write about, for figuring out what size jeans I wear at J. Crew's sample sale. While the 27-year-old me knows that inches don't define me and that whatever that North Carolina teacher was talking about was not only sexist, inappropriate, incorrect and, well, ridiculous… those three words have stuck with me for 12 years:
"Pinch an inch."
I can't count how many times I've checked my hips, my stomach, my thighs, wondering how much fat was there and how much was necessary. I spend a good amount of my time researching these things because of my job, so I understand the stats: Women really do carry more body fat than men, but that doesn't make us less healthy. And pinching an inch definitely doesn't mean I'm overweight. It just means that I'm a curvy girl—in an actual hourglass way, not the not-so-subtle women's-magazine euphemism for "fat."
Over time, I've also learned that the presence of fat doesn't make you less strong or capable of performing. Even so, it took me the majority of my life to finally value strength over being thin. And honestly, even though I grew up playing sports and I've completed two half-marathons and a handful of 10Ks, it wasn't until I joined ClassPass that I honest-to-goodness fell in love with my body.
It was through classes that introduced me to new workouts, new people, new ways of looking at and defining ‘healthy' and ‘strong' for me to stop using an imaginary ruler between my fingers to measure my own beauty. And self-worth. When I stopped ‘pinching an inch' off of my various parts to determine if I'm any closer to being that sought-after ‘thin,' I saw what my body does and can do: Nail a mean right hook and tough left cross, finish an abs series without stopping, and flow straight into a headstand.
When I stopped focusing on what my body looks like, I noticed what it feels like: Empowered, determined, euphoric after hitting my next goal or watching my strength build.
When I stopped focusing on what my body looks like, I noticed what it can do for others: High-five my best friends after a strenuous HIIT round, play with my friend's baby while she gets a much-needed break, and help motivate others to believe they can truly do anything—even if it's not leaving the room during hot yoga.
I went to @titleboxingclub.nyc for the first time on January 18, 2015. During class, this guy, @michaeltosto7 came up and tried to help me with my form. Irritated and exhausted, I basically told him to leave me alone. Once I caught my breath after class, I apologized, realized he was the owner and promised to come back. I've maxed out my three times a month allotment via @classpass every month since. There's no other workout that's as physically and mentally challenging or as fun and sweaty as #boxing. I'm so thankful for TITLE and Michael, who teaches me new moves and better techniques each class. Thank you for improving my form, #happiness and endurance. It has truly changed my life. And a big thanks to @kimtigar and @jimtigar for the best #Christmas gift ever: personal training with my favorite #instructor. #tigarsjoy2016
I won't lie—being a ClassPass member and varying my exercise did help me lose weight. I did burn calories and I did clean up my diet, but losing 25 pounds has always felt secondary to the confidence I found through trusting my own limbs.
I learned through my hard work that I am not measured in inches. I am not measured by my jean size. I am not measured by how much or how little I bloat when I'm in a bikini.
I am measured by the things I can do and that true satisfaction comes from tuning out everyone else and listening to me.
Let's use that time we're spending on our bodies to truly be in our bodies, celebrating the things that make us different. Let's try out a yoga class with a friend, even if we're afraid we can't bend that way. Let's rock those colorful, geometric-print leggings because they make us smile, not because they make our butts look great. Let's make our classes a sacred space, a happy place, a temple full of bodies that we treat like shrines.
And in our classes, in our own apartments, in the dressing rooms of every store anywhere—let's not pinch an inch to see if we're skinny enough.
Because you are enough, just as you are. I was enough at 15, no matter what my science teacher thought, and I am now, no matter what anyone thinks. Because no matter my size, my weight, how much I can lift, how long I can run or how long I can last during a class…every inch of me feels beautiful as I move. Simply because I'm proving to my body, and to myself, how many things I'm capable of.
And not how many inches I can pinch.
Written by Lindsay Tigar. This post was originally published on ClassPass's blog, The Warm Up. ClassPass is a monthly membership that connects you to more than 8,500 of the best fitness studios worldwide. Have you been thinking about trying it? Start now on the Base Plan and get five classes for your first month for only $19.