And other methods to figure out if you’re on the right path to a fit, lean body.
The “Happy-About-My-Body Spectrum”
“What should I weigh? I weigh “this ” now and I’ve never weighed more than “that” before! But I’ve had children and know my body has changed…but I’m not happy at this weight.” I’ve heard this so many times from frustrated and anxious moms and I want to let you know…it’s not all about the weight or your scale.
Our bathroom scale has become our friend or foe, depending on where you lie on the “happy-about-my-body” spectrum. You step on the scale daily hoping to see the number go down, or at least, stay the same. One pound up might ruin your entire day and send you into a spiral of depression, frustration, meanness and, it could, possibly, turn you into a junk-food-aholic! One pound down and you’re on top of the world!
Perhaps you are very aware of the low end of the “happy-about-my-body” spectrum and are fully aware that stepping on the scale so frequently does not make for a productive week, so you only step on it weekly to “check-in” with yourself. Hmmm, if your scale stayed the same or even went up, well, come-on, it’s been all week since the last time you stepped on and you did have a piece of birthday cake on Monday night, two glasses of wine on Tuesday, you were pretty good on Wednesday, Thursday you went out to eat and there’s always more calories in restaurant food, Friday was more wine and Saturday the kids had games all day so the food choices were out of your control. Honestly, what could you expect after a week like that? You’ll do better in the next week.
Does that banter sound familiar?
Either way, if the scale moves up or it moves down, it has become so much more to us than a thing that sits on the bathroom floor and shows a number.
Your Scale (and what you weigh)Is A Tool In The Toolbox
What you weigh is useful and I’m not telling you to stay off of the scale forever, or at all. I actually like stepping on the scale! It’s a quick, easy measure of how well I’m doing at keeping up with my exercise and supportive eating. I’m just saying, don’t get hung up on that number and only that number. Don’t attach emotions to what you weigh. Use your weight as a tool in your toolbox of health and fitness level.
Other tools to include are your Body Fat, Body Mass Index or BMI, and Waist-to-Hip Ratio.
So, now that you have all the tools let’s take a look at each one.
Use These Guidelines
Weight. What did you weigh in college? If you felt fit, didn’t have an eating disorder and weren’t obese, you can probably use this number as a guide-line. What is the weight at which you feel great? At what weight do your clothes fit you best?
Now, keep in mind that as you age and if you’re sedentary you lose up to 6 pounds of muscle and 3 percent of bone mineral density per decade (1). If you’re sedentary, your weight may stay around the same, but you may look totally different because fat is less dense than muscle and takes up more space! So, muscle is more dense and takes up less space than fat (it’s also more metabolically active than fat) so a more muscular person of the same height and weight actually looks smaller than someone with more fat. Hence the bathroom scale’s limitation.
Body Fat. As noted above, fat takes up more room. That’s why when you diet only, without exercise, you may see a drop in the scale and your weight but your body shape doesn’t really change and you still feel fat, soft and jiggly.
According to Wayne Wescott, “while it is possible to reduce body weight by dieting alone, at least 25 percent of the weight lost will be muscle tissue, which leads to a lower resting metabolism and, essentially, ensures that the weight will be regained.”(2).
Knowing your body fat is the best tool to figure out if you are of healthy “size.”
Resistance training is crucial to achieving a desirable body composition. Below are body fat guidelines to follow from American Council on Exercise:
Percent Body Fat Norms for Men and Women
Body Mass Index (BMI). Body mass index is a quick, easy way to assess body composition based on height and weight. Do not use this tool if you are a body builder (it will say you are too heavy for your height and therefore obese and unfit) or have an athletic body type. Here are the guidelines for BMI:
BMI Reference Chart
|Normal Weight||18.5 – 24.9|
|Grade I Obesity||30.0- 34.9|
|Grade II Obesity||35.0-39.9|
|Grade III Obesity||>40|
Waist-Hip-Ratio: This is a simple way to see if you are over fat in the abdominal region vs. the hip/buttock region. Research shows that people with “apple-shaped” bodies (with more weight around the waist) face more health risks than those with “pear-shaped” bodies who carry more weight around the hips.
- A healthy waist hip ratio for women is 0.8 or lower.
- A healthy ratio for men is 1.0 or lower.
Which Body Weight Calculation Should I Use?
So, getting back to what should you weigh….it all depends! I use all of these tools with my clients and boot campers to see the big picture. A major point to remember is don’t flip out when your scale moves up or doesn’t budge and you’ve been exercising and eating spot on. Use body fat, BMI and waist-to-hip ratio to see if you’re on the right path to a lean, fit, healthy and vibrant body!
1. Wescott, Wayne. Strength Training Benefits Elderly Participants. www.ssymca.org/pop_fitness_articles.html.