The human body is capable of so much. It can be trained and pushed to achieve amazing feats, it harbours and powers intricate systems and networks designed to protect and heal itself, it even has the ability to reproduce life. A multitude of wonders have been packaged into the human body over millennia. Yet, in the most advanced age of technology and human ingenuity, with all its science and capability, society has somehow become preoccupied with how much the body weighs.
Of course, the measurement of body weight does have its place. It is an indicator of health and provides a way to easily measure progress, whether the goal is to gain or lose weight. But it is only one of many possible indicators of health and progress, it isn’t the end game.
Redefining Your Goals
When asked what you want to achieve with your well-being goals the go-to answer might be “to lose weight” or “get down to X pounds”, however weight loss is usually indicative of other health achievements. Somehow over the years the loss of weight has shifted to become the primary focus of achievement when it was only ever meant to be a measurement of achievement. Why you’re working on your health shouldn’t be “to lose 20 pounds” but to achieve the health benefits that come from losing 20 pounds.
A better way to answer the question of your well-being goals then is to look at what you obtain from losing weight. Perhaps it’s feeling healthier or being more fit and able to engage in activities like sport or playing with the kids. Perhaps it’s to overcome inhibitions and restrictions that can come with larger body weight. Perhaps it’s to do with how you feel. Achievements that result from weight loss are the end game. Weighing yourself is just one of the means to measure your progress.
Tailor Your Measurement of Progress to Your Unique Goal
When positioned within the context of your redefined health goals, the way to measure progress can change. If your goal is to be fit enough to run a marathon, you can set yourself smaller goals of running certain distances each week and measure your progress by how much further you can progressively run. If your goal is to ensure your body is getting better nutrition, you can set yourself goals surrounding meal preparation and learning new cooking ideas, and tick off your nutritional intake in a daily food diary or app.
Break down your ultimate goal or goals into smaller, achievable steps, and measure your progress this way (and don’t forget to celebrate each win!). When achieving these goals as part of a switch to an overall healthier lifestyle your weight is likely to drop as a by-product. You’ve simply shifted your focus to a form of measurement that pertains to your actual goals, and away from an arbitrary and limited form of counting numbers on a scale, and that actually isn’t always reliable.
Why the Measurement of Weight Can Be Unreliable
It seems like an obvious conclusion to draw, that the greatest way to measure weight loss is to monitor the number on the weight scales, but it is actually more complex than this. The weight of the human body factors in more than just the weight of fat, which is what most people are trying to lose. Water, muscle, organs, bones, etc., are all factored into body weight and can contribute to weight fluctuations. It’s why your weight can change from one day to the next without you having changed your eating habits. For example, the loss of water might make it look like you’ve lost weight. Gaining muscle might make is seem like you’re gaining weight, or at least not losing as much as you think you should. Muscle is more dense than fat, which means it weighs more but takes up less space. It might not seem like you’re not losing much weight, but you are becoming leaner.
Measuring Weight Loss Effectively
Measuring and monitoring your body changes is certainly not a bad thing. The advice here isn’t to avoid it altogether, but rather to incorporate it into a greater system of checks and balances. And when you do measure the progress your body is making, ensure it is through an effective means.
- Measure your body dimensions with a tape measure. The scales may not be correctly monitoring your muscle/fat ratio but using a tape measure can highlight your progress. By measuring your chest, waist, hips, upper arm, and upper thigh, you might find the loss in millimetres and centimetres a more accurate depiction of your ‘weight loss’ than the numbers on the scale itself.
- Use a Scale That Analyses More than Weight. These kinds of scales calculate the aspects of what makes up your body weight, including bone density, water, and muscle. In using these scales you’re likely to find that while your overall weight might not go down as much as you’d like, your fat percentage is reducing.
- Measure Progress in Other Bodily Functions. Don’t forget to monitor the milestones other parts of your body will achieve on your health journey. Increased lung capacity, enhanced flexibility, less pain in joints, decreased digestive issues, decreased stress, increased energy, etc. These don’t necessarily indicate weight loss but can coincide with it and pertain more to your redefined goals of health than the numbers on the scale do.
Your body is amazing. Celebrate it, push it, train it, rest it, love it, and look after it. Just don’t get too pre-occupied with weighing it. Your achievements, capabilities and value are far more than what can be defined by a scale.