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Quit Obsessing

Posted: June 5, 2014

How often do you weigh yourself? If it’s more than once a week, you are not doing yourself any favors. Your body weight can fluctuate substantially on a daily basis, so weighing yourself more often than that (for reasons other than to monitor your hydration level) is just silly.

It’s a number we have grown to place so much importance on. But why?? Yes, it’s probably the easiest measurable number we can track to monitor our health, but we become obsessed with this number and kinda freak out if it changes more than we want it to. It is a defining piece of our identity on our driver’s license (whether that number was ever actually accurate or not is another story…). It is an easy goal to set (note I did not say REACH, but setting a numerical goal is measurable and solid). In a nation that has become increasingly obese and less healthy over the last several years, national centers and agencies have placed heavy emphasis on weight – particularly BMI – as a measure of health and risk for disease. BMI is Body Mass Index, and is a ratio of your height to weight. Averaging across the nation, this ratio can clue us in to the overall health of the people in our country.  Look at these two men… both the same height, weight and BMI.  But they look very different don’t they?
bmi-comparisonWhile there are legitimate reasons why knowing our weight can be important or informative, it isn’t the end-all-tell-all and really doesn’t tell much about us… ESPECIALLY if you’re fit and active. And if you’re reading this blog post, chances are that you ARE active, or are working towards and more active lifestyle.

Now here’s some personal info for you. And there is a point to telling you this… so read on.

I don’t remember a day when I weighed less than 115lb. I was around 120lb in high school. Through most of college, I worked out with running and lifting weights, was way more obsessed with the foods I was eating, and was a lean 118-120lb.  Following college, the number on the scale went up to closer to 125. In the last year or so, my weight has hovered between 128-130. Some of you are probably surprised by these numbers, but they are what they are.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because I, like anyone else, don’t really like seeing that the number on the scale has risen over the years and honestly, don’t really like seeing that I’m close to 130 (because for ME, that is a high number). But you know what? I’m not unhealthy and I haven’t gotten heavier from gaining a lot of fat. Maybe some, but not a lot. I’ve had my body fat percentage tested a handful of times in the last 7 years or so, and that is much more informative about my health from a weight/fat perspective. I’m not saying it is a tell-all number either, but if I’m going to be concerned about one… it would realistically be this one. Why?

A number on the scale doesn’t decide your health. Your body fat percentage doesn’t either. However, body fat percentage is a much better indicator of your health. If you have more lean mass (AKA muscle), then you’re probably in a much better position from a health standpoint than if you’re body fat percentage is high. Muscle is denser than fat, so you can fit more muscle into a small space, and therefore pack in more poundage into that smaller space. A few years ago, my body fat percentage was around 14%. The last time it was measured a few months ago, it was 16%. Knowing this is a number that is considered lean is what is important. Even if I’ve gained a few pounds, it doesn’t mean I’m getting fat. Maybe I’ve gained some fat, but I’m healthy, and I’m living my life and enjoying desserts when I want them, wine when it sounds good, and bread and carbs without much limitation. What matters is that I try to keep a balanced diet AND an active lifestyle. NOTE: even if I wasn’t currently instructing the class load I am instructing now, I would still be working out at least 6 days/week for at least an hour. That is enough to stay lean as long as I am eating a balanced diet. That’s just because it’s a part of my life, and I’ve made it a daily habit since I was 17.

I know this post is lengthy. If you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU for sticking with me. My point from all of this is to NOT obsess over the scale. The number fluctuates. It simply does. Water weight and waste weight are huge reasons why, and this is normal. If you’re going to pay close attention to a number that is actually an important indicator of your health, have your body fat percentage measured. You can find a BODPOD (very accurate) or go to someone who does caliper measurements (more accurate in an experienced individual). If you’re a heavy person and needing to lose a lot of fat weight, both measures will be important for you until you get to a weight that is considered healthy for you.  But the number on the scale doesn’t say much.  You can be 100lb and 30% fat and have a much higher risk of disease than someone who is 150lb and 20% fat.  Plus, you’ll have less jiggle if you have a lower percent body fat.  Muscle wins for multiple reasons. (Refer back to the picture above)

I hope this was helpful to you!! It is something that I know people think about, talk about, and monitor… which is why it was important to me to discuss in a “Trainer Thursday” post.

Have a happy, healthy day!!!

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