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A Weighty Issue

Be honest – how often do you weigh yourself?  Every week?  Every day? Morning, noon and night?  Do you remove all clothing, jewelry, make up and dirt to ensure that you get the lowest possible number?  Are you a little too obsessed with your weight?

Before I tell you that it’s time to stop doing that, let me explain a little bit about what your weight actually signifies.

In scientific terms, it is a representation of your relationship to the earth – Weight = mass x gravity (my husband is going to be so proud of me for this part).  Weight is the force of gravity pulling on a mass.  Nothing more.  It’s pretty clear to me, and I’m not much of a science geek.  So why do we give it so much more meaning than that?  Why does our weight somehow define our self-worth?

 

We get a magic number stuck in our head and call it our “ideal weight” as if seeing that number on the scale is going to make us happier or more successful or make us a better person.  For too many people, that number is always slightly out of reach, which can lead to crazy starvation diets and other extreme measures in order to reach that elusive goal.  And then what?  Are they any happier?  My guess is that they are miserable because they have given up all the things they truly love about living in order to “lose the last 5 pounds”.  Often that number is not sustainable because of the method used to obtain it.

Let me tell you, people – it is time to stop the madness!  Take the scale out of the bathroom and put it in the basement with your Christmas decorations and unfinished craft projects, and forget about it.

Obviously I’m not a big fan of the scale.  Truth be told, I do weigh myself every now and then.  But I do it a lot less frequently than I did before I started eating healthier and working out regularly.  I am finally comfortable with my weight and I don’t worry too much about becoming overweight because of my overall healthy lifestyle.  I view my weigh-ins a little like visiting the dentist.  It’s twice yearly chance to check in and make sure all is still good.  Imagine if you saw the dentist as often as you weigh yourself?  That would be crazy, not to mention expensive.

Here are a few facts about weight to keep in mind:

Body composition is more important than weight

Unless someone is morbidly obese, I don’t put a lot of stock in BMI as a measure of health.  Inch for inch, muscle weighs more than fat.  I may see a higher number on the scale but be physically smaller than someone else who is the same height and weight but with less lean body mass.  Losing weight is important, but gaining muscle is a better approach for achieving a slimmer physique and improved health.  If you train with weights you may find your body shrinking while your weight stays the same.  If you are hung on a magic you rob yourself of the pleasure of celebrating your success.

 

You can be too thin

The flip side for folks over the age of 55 is actually just as risky.  Being too thin and fragile can cause falls resulting in a broken hip or worse.  A little meat on your bones (and when I say “meat” I mean muscle) is going to keep you healthier and stronger for the long haul.  Weight training for seniors is extremely beneficial for this purpose.

Weight can fluctuate a great deal for a number of reasons that are related to water weight and undigested meals.  Conversely, a big diamond ring, wool socks and heavy makeup have zero impact.  Either way a range of about 5 pounds is normal.

When I consider my own health, I look at a few other factors to tell me where I am on the continuum between “Lazy Slug” and “Iron Man Triathlete”.  My own metrics include the fit of my clothing (especially a particular pair of jeans, which fit great when I am doing well and require me to suck in my gut when I go off track), the quality of my sleep and my energy in the gym as well as throughout the day.  While we all need to give ourselves an occasional break, I am usually back to full power after a day of recharging.  I also consider my sickness history.  I will probably regret writing this line, but I honestly cannot recall the last time I was sick.  I can only attribute this to my overall healthy lifestyle and the fact that I no longer work in an office or have kids in the petri dish known as day care.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t care about our weight.  But if you use other measures of health as I have outlined above and really listen to your body, you can easily determine how you’re doing regardless of the number on the scale.

There is no denying the obesity crisis in America, but I don’t believe that the solution lies in constantly stepping on and off the scale, hoping for a good number.  The solution lies in embracing the things that make us healthy and strong (good food and exercise), recognizing what makes us feel worthwhile (contributing to our families, society, etc.) and learning how to generally feel good about ourselves.  You won’t get that from a number on a little box in your bathroom.

 

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Debbie Dodge Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 16:53

    GREAT article, Vivian! I haven’t weighed myself in months because I know that it’s not a true measure of fitness, and I relate to what you said about your jeans. Clothing is a great indicator, or warning! Lol! Thank you for continuing to educate and inspire us to be healthy and fit. We take care of our homes, why not our bodies? We will never be able to build or buy a new one – all we can do is treat it as the only beautiful home we will ever have and take excellent care of it!

  • Shirley Pastore McCormack Friday, June 6, 2014, 17:48

    Good points, Vivian. These are important points also for people with eating disorders, as the scale is a dangerous tool for obsessing about unhealthy (and many times) unreasonable weight goals. A number is just that – a number. How we feel and our overall health is what counts.

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