It's a number most of us know. Some of us know it as a rough estimate, maybe rounded to the nearest 5 units, maybe as a flexible range a few units up or a few units down. Or maybe you know it down to the exact unit. The exact tenth of a unit. You know it because you checked it last week. This morning. Half an hour ago.
The #1 reason people see me, in their own words, is they want to lose weight. Sometimes they tell me a specific goal--to lose a certain number of pounds or to reduce their weight until it's a certain number, a certain "ideal" number.
How do you interpret your weight? Take a minute to self-reflect. If you step on the scale, what thoughts run through your mind when the number appears? What emotions?
How important to you is this number?
If you come to my office, you will not find a scale. Weight is not how we measure your improvements toward your health goals. Because when we create health goals together, the number of pounds you weigh is not one of them.
Why do I generally not care about body weight?
#1.Body weight is a poor indicator of health. Even weight-for-height, AKA BMI or body mass index, is an inadequate indicator. Consider this illustrative picture. Now, the Ahhnald guy on the left might be at risk from dropping dead of a heart attack due to apparent steroid use, but if you mentally tone down the exaggerated cartoon, you can swiftly and logically assume that, though they weigh the same and have the same BMI, "muscular" man is healthier than our round "fat" man.
Why does weight get so much, well, weight with health appraisals? Because BMI is associated with % body fat, an excess of which is associated with chronic health diseases, cancer, and other health problems. BMI gives a quick screening for risk. But there are many other health and behavioral factors to take into consideration when assessing risk. BMI just happens to be so very inexpensive and efficient.
#2. Body weight can change for many reasons. If you're a daily weigher, you've noticed inconsistencies. State of hydration can shift the number on the scale (why we tend to weigh the least in the morning). Conditions that cause fluid retention, from kidney disease to common pre-menstrual retention, can add a couple to several pounds. And, especially relevant for people seeking to improve their health through nutrition and exercise, anabolism of skeletal muscle will increase your weight, with its addition of beneficial metabolic tissue and its accompanying weighty glycogen and water.
#3. Body weight is an unhealthy obsession in our culture. Over half American adults want to lose weight. Because, as I mentioned above, there are many reasons for weight changes, many people use unhealthy weight-loss behaviors to drop the number on the scale, but instead of improving health, they damage it. Or maybe they've lost weight using positive behaviors but now equate the state of their health with the number on the scale and lose sight of what good health really is. Not only do many people attribute their state of health to their weight, but also their self-worth. With the media messages surrounding us today, I'm sure you need no imagination to consider how a person might begin to evaluate how they feel about themselves as a person by whatever their current weight is. Maybe you know from experience.
What does a number on the scale mean to you? If you have a "goal weight", what would you accomplish if that number were your weight?
What would it mean to you to feel like your body is strong and energized? What would it mean to you to see your children have children, and your grandchildren have children? What would it mean to you to no longer have achy joints, and to be able to take the stairs without feeling tired? Would would it mean to you to be the only one of your siblings who doesn't need to inject insulin every day? What would it mean to you to go a PR in a half marathon--at age 49?
We all have a weight. Regardless of whatever attitude you hold about it, it's just a number.
If you want to take new steps towards meaningful health goals, contact me. And, oh yeah, toss the scale.