Diet: Practice – Measurements

Sorry, sorry!  I sat down to start writing this post but I didn’t know how to begin and I panicked, hence the picture of the fucked up clown.  Sorry.

To think that there is a right or a wrong way to weigh yourself seems a little absurd – There is a scale, you step on it, try to turn away from the three digit number glaring back up at you, and then curse the man who invented the scale, or gravity, usually both . . . along with the man who invented delicious chocolate cake . . . and also that guy in the Mercedes that cut me off the other day on my way to Autozone, since we’re already cursing a bunch of people (cursing burns calories, you know).  But the scale isn’t always the best way to track your weight-loss progress.  This is because the loss of weight doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get thinner.  To geek out for a moment, it is like what makes speed different from velocity: there are more factors involved.

Oh shit, a physics reference. We better get outta here . . .

First off, we have to expand our idea “weight”.  It’s no good to judge a person’s obesity by weight alone; sure, that main is 400 lbs, but that’s because he had that rhino grafted to his face.  And that woman is 80 lbs, but not because she exercises a lot, but because she’s dead.

“But I’m sooooo svelt!”

The actual weight of your body isn’t always directly proportional to the fat content in your body, and there are many other factors to consider – height, age, sex – which all dictate what is a healthy (or unhealthy) weight for you.  We have to stop thinking of weight being the be all and the end all in measuring weight-loss, and instead start thinking of it as only one of the factors in the shape of our bodies.

This is where we come to things like the Body Mass Index (BMI).  Created in the mid-1800’s by this guy –

“Good morrow.”

– it’s a ratio of weight and height that reveals just how fat you might be, ranging from very severely underweight (the ‘very’ is important, I guess) to Obese Class III, which sounds like a kind of starship.  By putting in your weight and height into the equation, you can find where you land on the BMI scale and get a rough idea of how much weight you need to lose.  But ‘rough’ is the key term in that last statement because the BMI index is lacking in that it does not take into account how much muscle is on your body.

I am sure I mentioned it in my muscle article, but muscle tissue is much heavier than fat.  Many bodybuilders and professional athletes technically fall into the obese category because they are far too heavy for their height, even though all of their weight comes from the large amount of muscle mass on their bodies.  It also sets one very strict standard for body sizes that isn’t practical when applied to the real world because the human body comes in so many shapes and sizes that trying to condense them all into one standard measure is impossible.  I have lost 80 lbs since the beginning of my weight-loss journey, and if you saw me on the street you would not think of me anywhere near obese.  And yet, because I am 5’5” and 180 lbs, I am still technically very obese.  To get into the normal weight class, I would need to lose 40 lbs (which I can tell you ain’t fuckin happening because I actually likefood) or grow seven inches (which I am currently working on).

No pain, no gain.

This is the same reason why judging your weight-loss success by weight alone can be deceiving; if you are putting on muscle at the same time you are burning away fat, then your weight will not change as drastically as you might think even though your body may be melting away before your eyes.  But that is not the only reason weight can be deceiving.  There is also something called water weight, which is the weight of all the water your body has retained through eating foods that have high sodium contents.  By changing to a healthier diet and starting moderate exercise, you will lose almost 20 lbs in a few weeks . . . but it’ll all be water, and your body will not look 20 lbs lighter.  And if you have a lot of weight to lose (more than 50 lbs) you’ll notice that you are losing weight and yet you still look the same.  This is because your body is most likely still storing as much fat as it can because that’s what is has been trained to do.  The more weight you have to lose, you are going to have to work longer/harder to change the way your body responds to food and it’s hard to lose weight at the same time.

A more effective way to measure your weight-loss is through actual inches.  By measuring the size of your arms, thighs, neck, chest, waist and hips with a cloth tape measure, you will get a more accurate idea of how your weight-loss is going.  It will also get you touching and feeling your body more.  This may seem like an unpleasant prospect depending on your size and confidence, but it’s important that you be able to grab your love handles with a cold and clinical observation rather than shame.  You need to start seeing your extra weight as a mere byproduct of a certain lifestyle, instead of how ugly and useless you are (because you’re not . . . unless you are . . . but then that has nothing to do with your weight), and you start that by looking at fat straight-forward.  It’s also fun to see your arms get thinner and firmer via the tape measure.

You’re still allowed to hate it, though.

But judging by the scale does have its benefits.  While measuring the actual inches can give you a better idea of how your diet is going, using a scale can be more helpful in setting goals.  As I said last week, setting goals that you can actually achieve is important to not only your morale (making it more likely for you to continue working out and eating right) but also to the overall success of your weight-loss as splitting up your overall goal into smaller objectives makes it easier to accomplish.  You can’t say that you plan to lose two inches from your arms because losing weight from one specific area (also called spot-reduction) is a filthy lie told by filthy liars, so setting your goals via inches will be difficult.  But if you set your goals through weight, you will find yourself accomplishing more often.

The best way to weigh yourself is on one of those tall scales that you find at the gym, but since those aren’t readily available (or cheap) buying a simple on for you bathroom floor is fine.  And don’t go wasting money on an advanced scale either!  Forgo scales that say they can calculate your fat content, or track your weight loss, or sing happy songs if you lose weight; none of these things help you keep track of your weight, nor do they help you lose more weight.  Just get a normal scale, either analog or digital is fine.  As for other tips:

  • Stand up straight, with both of your feet firmly planted in the middle of the scale, and put your hands to you sides.  Any other pose and you run the risk of getting an inaccurate measure.
  • Always set your scale on a hard surface.  Placing your scale on carpet means the carpet is going to absorb some of your weight and make you seem lighter than you actually are.
  • If you can manage it, be bare-ass naked when you weigh yourself.  Clothes may not weigh much, but you want to get as close to your true weight as possible.  If you can’t be naked, at least take all the shit out of your pockets (keys, cell phone, that copy of the oxford dictionary that you say is lucky but we all know it’s so you look smart).
  • Don’t weigh yourself after a big meal.  You have just put a substantial amount of food into your body, and it’s going to weigh you down.
  • While you don’t want to weigh yourself after things go in, weighing yourself after they come out is a good plan.  After using the facilities, step on the scale and record the progress.  You’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes.
  • Don’t weigh yourself right after working out.  After working out you are probably going to be dehydrated, and while water weight is something you want to get rid of, our bodies are supposed to have a certain amount of water in them.  Take a shower, let your body temperature lower, and drink a glass or two of water, then go ahead and weigh yourself.

These methods should all be used together to give you the best idea of how much weight you have lost.  Figure your BMI to get a general idea of where you stand (you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you are, said the Zen-master Nic), measure your loss with the measuring tape and set your goals with the scale.  In the end though, the best way to measure how you are doing is by how you look, and more importantly, how you feel.  Losing any amount of weight will have you feeling better, more energetic, happier, and at that point the actual weight of your body may not matter as much to you than when you started.

And since I’m big on coming full circle, I guess I better end with a pic as fucked up as that first one.



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