When it comes to health, the idea of weight is deeply engrained as a measure of fitness. We talk about ‘watching weight’, ‘putting on weight’ and many fitness programmes have ‘weight loss’ as a benefit.
Unfortunately weight is not always an accurate measure of health.
Here are the reasons why you may want to give up on the scales:
Strictly speaking, scales show your mass, while weight varies with the force of gravity. However as most of us are unlikely to leave planet earth, let’s be relaxed about this and treat weight and mass as the same thing.
Our body weight can change through the day as we retain and lose water. The scales can even show a different reading depending on whether they stand or a carpet or a hard floor.
Body composition also affects weight. While a kilo of muscle weighs the same as a kilo of fat, the muscle takes up a lot less volume. So a muscular person can be slimmer but weigh more.
Body mass index (BMI) relates weight to height, and is a good initial guide to health. An acceptable BMI for any height is a range, not a single value. This reflects that we are all built differently.
To get a more accurate measure, look at your waist to height ratio. Your waist should not measure more than half your height. This is important not only for cosmetic reasons, but also because excess fat round your middle can lead to health problems.
The final important measure is body fat percentage. The right value for this depends on many factors, and it is almost impossible to judge by appearance.
As you build muscle, you may find that your weight doesn’t change. You are still improving your health and probably reducing your waistline. The message is to put the scales away. If your stamina and fitness are improving and your muscles toning, you are on the right track.
body fat is the big one for me - I don't use super sophisticated measurement methods but it really does show how I'm doing fitness-wise. The mirror is also quite a good guide if you are prepared to be honest.
that's rather reassuring. I've never been and never will be the 9 stone type!