The Bathroom Scale—Buddy or a Bother?

The bathroom scale is the most common tool people use to help determine their body weight. Whether you consider it a friend or foe is a matter of debate. Who among us doesn’t cringe when we step on the damn thing?

I almost passed out at the doctor’s office once when I stepped on the monster and shuddered at a sudden ten-pound gain. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that my tote bag was still on my shoulder. Oops!

Let’s face it—the scale is often taken too seriously and, of course, it is one of the most hated contraptions that we use on a regular basis. Over and over again, people continue to “torture” themselves by weighing in, while constantly complaining about the dreaded results. Can’t we all just get along and meet half “weigh”?

How do you feel about your scale? Ask yourself:

  • Do you weigh yourself first thing every morning and again at night?
  • Do you weigh yourself more than three times each week even if away from home?
  • Do you judge yourself by the numbers you see on the scale?
  • Does your weight for the day determine your day’s mood?
  • Do you often dwell on the number you see?
  • Do you swear or curse at the scale because the numbers disappoint you?
  • Do you often insist on dropping a few pounds before you will buy yourself a new outfit?
  • Do you constantly discuss your desire to lose weight?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, you are not alone, but you need to think more clearly about your relationship with your scale and particularly with your body weight. Too many of us define ourselves by a particular number and think less of ourselves if we don’t meet our own expectations. Are you spending too much energy worrying about your weight? Whether or not you choose to use the bathroom scale on a regular basis, it still remains your most accessible tool for determining body weight.

If and when you do use your scale, the following tips will yield the most accurate results:

Use the same scale. Different scales may present different results. Also be sure the scale sits on a “flat” floor, not carpeting.

Weigh yourself no more than one time each week. Select the same day, same time. Body weight can fluctuate. The best way to evaluate your body weight is to weigh yourself in the morning, preferably before you have eaten, and without clothing.

Stand straight in the middle of the scale. Your scale can record different numbers based on where and how you stand on it. You will get the best and most accurate readings by standing straight up and with your feet planted in the center.

Understand body changes. Menstrual cycles, sodium intake, and medications can all influence water retention and, therefore, water and body weight.

Healthy Body Weight Is Hot!

The “thin is in” mantra may still permeate part of our American culture but the big trend in America is finally moving in the direction of “healthy body weight.” That’s hot! Advertisers like Dove are using real women with real curves. Women with “junk in the trunk” are the new sex symbols in music videos, and there’s even work for both plus-size and petite models. This is a major step forward from just a few years back. Nevertheless, too many Americans are still preoccupied with their body weight. More than half of women and more than one-third of men are dissatisfied with their shape, size, or body weight. And these obsessions are even higher among our younger population. In many cases, people see themselves as much worse off than others see them. How do you see yourself? What can we do about this?

Is Body Weight Constant Throughout Life?

There are many people who focus on a set body weight based on the chart found on the wall of the doctor’s office or illustrated in a book. Some believe that this number is set in stone and that it should not vary throughout adult life. They think that their weight in their twenties should remain constant through their thirties, forties, and beyond. Focusing on a set number can be the first step in developing an obsession with body weight. Too many times, people dwell on what they weighed when they got married or before they had a child. (Isn’t it funny how we can clearly remember these numbers?) This obsession can take over your life and can lead to problems with health, depression, and your overall well-being. I’m not saying you should let yourself go and become obese or overweight, but realize that our bodies do change as we age. Fear not—with my program you can look and feel your personal best at any given point in time.

Who Decides What’s Ideal?

Once upon a time there was a group of insurance people, probably with potbellies, sitting around a table and—guess what? They created a measurement for determining an “ideal” weight for a person based on the height and weight ratios of insured persons with the greatest lifespan. Two charts were and still are generally used, one for those nineteen to thirty-four and another for those thirty-five and older. People looked up their height and age on these charts. The charts gave a range in which their weights should fall, with the midpoint being that person’s “ideal.”

Over the years, health researchers and nutrition professionals determined that the height/weight chart measurements were not as accurate as they could be and that these numbers did not take into account optimal body composition, including fat distribution. Many people swore by the numbers on the chart, but in fact these were not always the best measurement of our population as a whole. Next time you see the chart, check it out—because who can resist looking? Just remember to pause and smile and know from whence it came.

Determining a Healthy Weight

Your personal healthy body weight is a range for your particular body build that takes into account total fat, muscle, bone, and water for your size. This weight varies from person to person. Your ideal weight should be somewhere between being in an underweight status and an overweight status. In other words—not too fat, not too thin, but just right!

Healthy Weight versus Normal/Ideal Weight.   Today, standards regarding weight have changed. Many health professionals prefer to use the term healthy weight rather than referring to one’s “normal” or “ideal” weight. A healthy weight depends on a number of factors—age, gender, height, and frame or body size. You may say “normal,” I say “healthy,” and others say “ideal.” I really don’t care which term works for you. Just work with me to help you get there.

Charts created recently are more accurate because they take into account total body composition: muscles, bone, fat, and all that good stuff. They provide ranges of numbers that are appropriate for individuals, rather than just a single number. Because no one person stays at the same weight for their entire life, and because bodies change over the years, no one weight is standard for a person during his or her entire life.

Healthy Weight Ranges for Adults.   One established chart helps individuals determine a “healthy weight range” for themselves. This chart takes a range of numbers into account, not just a single one, thereby allowing higher numbers for those people with larger body builds and greater amounts of muscle and bone. This chart is also useful for all adult age groups. While it is believed that people put on weight as they age, this weight gain should remain within the allowable range for height.

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