The scale is someone that almost every household owns. Even for those who don’t own a scale, they’ve been measured at a doctors visit, and more than likely have a rough ballpark of how much they weigh. Most people have an awareness of the concept of weight. Yet, the topic of weight is oh so very sensitive. It’s taboo to ask someone else “how much do you weigh”. In fact, if I walked down the street and started asking people “Hey, nice to meet you, I’m John. How much do you weigh” I wouldn’t be surprised if I got slapped at some point…
Well, I’m not a psychologist (I don’t care if I got my bachelors in that…) so I’m not going to even attempt talking about why it matters so much to people, and whether its because of pride or self-consciousness. I’m also not going to attempt to dive into why your weight might matter on a level of physiological health as I’m sure you can probably go to your doctor and get a whole lecture on it.
What I do want to attempt to delve into is the societal constructs that have been established around weight and more specifically, metrics.
Our entire lives revolve around the utilization of metrics as indicator of performance. We grow up in an education system where a single letter becomes representative of our grueling efforts across the span of months. We proceed to take “standardized tests” that become representative of our learning across years at a time. When we shop read reviews on amazon, find restaurants on yelp, or even look at car ratings, everything is on a scale of 1-5 stars. Metrics run our lives.
That being said, I will use metrics as a way of explaining why my weight matters to me, and why it should. You see, my weight is an excellent indicator of my progress. I was nearing 230 lbs when I first started my weight loss journey, with a minimal amount of lean muscle (with the exception of my lower body that had to trek through the UC San Diego campus for 4 years). For me, there was little weight gain that could occur when I started losing weight from muscle mass increase. If anything, my “weight loss” would just seem slower. But I also weighted nearly 230 lbs.
Just like how a grade might be reflective of your overall performance, but doesn’t tell you the big picture, your weight is not always going to be a good indicator of how “fit” you are. For example, a 5’10, 190 lb man who doesn’t stay active, and has a high amount of body fat (say 20% or above), compared a 5’10 190 lb man body builder who is at 7% body fat technically weigh the same, but have very different body composition. For the individual who doesn’t stay active, his weight loss might seem slow or inconsistent at first, since his body is rapidly building muscle, especially if his program involves high amounts of strength training. For the individual who is around 7% body fat, however, his goal in getting “fitter” is to put on more weight and increasing in muscle mass.
This leads me to my point — weight is a metric that can provide useful information. Weight loss, however, shouldn’t always be the goal. A good metric I like to utilize instead of weight loss, is body fat percent loss. By measuring body fat percentage, you get an adequate sense of how much fat your body is composed of, thus providing useful information about how lean you are. Unfortunately, accurate body fat measurements are hard to come by. I’ve found that by utilizing the same scale, I can generally get a trend of my body fat composition. Even if I can’t get an accurate body fat percentage point, I can see an overall trend in my body fat composition.
At the same time, my weight matters to me because it helps me with my motivation. I like seeing that something is working, and I like knowing that progress is being made in a very tangible way. But I know eventually, I’ll be able to rely on my weight less and less, especially with the high amounts of strength training I’m doing.
On the days where my weight patterns seem a little off, I have to remember that weight is supposed to fluctuate, and it’s the bigger picture that matters. My Withings smart scale helps me with the bigger picture by charting everything on a graph. I’ve included a link at the top of this site so you can follow along if you’re curious.
On the days where my weight pattern might not read how I want it to or my weight isn’t sitting at the number I want it to, I remind myself what my weight means to me. I take a look in the mirror and remind myself the progress I’ve made–the progress that I can continue to make.
Now onto the topic of how weight is such a sensitive topic for people? You can ask me any day of the week and I’ll tell you. Hell, I’ve posted my progress above for everyone to see for themselves. I share my weight and I’m proud, because even though that metric might not have the same meaning for the person asking, I know that my weight is the result of the hard work I’ve put in for the past 6 months.