Sunday, May 13, 2007

Get Off That Scale!

There are some aspects of the May Day Weight Loss Challenge that I cannot embrace or take part in. If they work for other people, that's wonderful. As I said in my initial post, weight management is a highly individualized matter. No single approach is right for every body.

The first issue is the planned weekly "weigh-ins" after which participants are supposed to post a graphic on their site saying how many pounds they have lost. The graphics are being offered in 5 pound increments. Additionally, the hosts will be posting gold stars on their site for each participant, with a link back to that individual's site.

Unless I have occasion to visit the doctor's office again during the challenge, there will be no gold stars or links for me because I do not weigh regularly nor do I have any intention of starting.

I can only tell you that I had lost 50 pounds as of Thursday, May 3, 2007, because I went by the doctor's office and asked them to weigh me and tell me how many pounds I have lost. They pulled my chart, found the highest number reflected there, and then I stepped on the scale backwards, as is my custom, at which time they took a current reading, did the math, and congratulated me.

Getting on the scale facing backward is a trick I learned and adopted more years ago than I can remember. Why?

Numbers are judgments. They have a life and meaning all their own. "I weight XXX pounds" can be a badge of honor or shame, depending on the day. The number pervades your consciousness, lodges in your waking thoughts, taunts you. If you find you have lost weight, it can be an opportunity to binge, as in "Woohoo, I lost X pounds so I can eat dessert!"

On the flip side, however, if you appear either to have not lost any weight or -- God forbid -- gained a few pounds, that fact can serve as an invitation to sulk, pout, and binge. "Well, I starved myself for X days and what good did it do me? I still gained weight. I might as well eat." How many times have you said that to yourself or heard someone else say it?

People proclaim that "the scale doesn't lie." Maybe not, but it doesn't tell the whole story, either.

Women, in particular, are extremely susceptible to temporary variances due to, among other reasons, temporary water weight gain.

More critically, if you are exercising regularly, you may not see a huge drop in your weight, especially at the beginning, even though your body composition is changing. Exchanging fat for lean muscle is not a one-to-one trade. So it is entirely possible to be developing muscles and seeing a dramatic change in your overall body size that does not seem as dramatic when viewed solely in terms of the number that registers on the scale.

What is most important is how you feel and whether or not you are decreasing your body's overall fat percentage.

I judge by my clothing. My motto is: "Waistbands don't lie." And my lungs don't lie.

I knew that I had made significant strides toward better health through weight loss and exercise when I was able to wear clothes that I hadn't zipped in several years and found myself able to walk further and further distances without having to stop to catch my breath.

In my next post on the subject of weight loss management, I will tell you about my individualized program and why it works for me.

Leave a comment: Tell me about your own weight management challenges and triumphs!

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