4 min read
We shouldn’t be using weight as a metric for healthiness. Weight measures primarily subcutaneous fat, visceral fat, water and muscle weight (yes, we’re composed of more things). The weight value can not tell the composition make-up of that person. For example, someone could have a large build, but sound overweight according to their BMI, yet just have most of their weight in muscle. Or, someone could be petite, yet have a lot of visceral fat. There’s no inherent evil in any single factor. You need each of these things to survive, and there are trade-offs to having too little or too much of any single thing.
If you start working out for the first time in a long time, you’ll see a net gain in weight because you’ll start gaining muscle before you see an equal loss in fat. That’s why some people get discouraged from working out for the first week because they think it’s not working.
My roommate’s friend was aiming for a target weight to fit her wedding gown and set out a weekly target weight to aim for. She decided to start working out everyday. To her dismay, she gained 3 lbs (or 1.4 kg) after the first week. When she told me about this, I gave her a quick primer about weight. The change in fat loss is much smaller than the change in muscle gain. For her overall health, this was a great with long-term benefits like increased cardiac output (CO). I also told her the biggest changes you can make for immediate effect of weight is change in eating habits.
I don’t use the weight metric for myself. I believe the underlying desire we want from the weight is the indication that we look good. Because I understand this superficial ideal, I’ve adopted a concept from Darya Pino Rose’s book, “Foodist.” “Do I look good naked?” If the answer is yes, I’ll continue to maintain my lifestyle. If not, I’ll have to make some intervening habits. When we find ourselves in vain about our looks, it’s almost always the subcutaneous, or visible, fat.
With the same explanation of what weight is, target weight is a complete farce. The true answer to the question, “What is my target weight” should really be rephrased as “What is the most impactful thing I can do for my health?” Because weight tells nothing about composition, we’re terrible at guessing the best target weight for being healthiest. The truth is, there is no target weight we know of that is healthiest. Mrs. Rose talks in “Foodist” that she had a target weight to aim for, but when she took her focus away from the scale and onto food, she found out she felt better 20 lbs heavier than her target weight.
Be wary of your individual BMI score. BMI data is great for population statistics, but terrible for an individual. BMI is equal to your height squared divided by weight (h^2 / w). The score is basically meaningless because it scores the large-build, muscular person as overweight weight, or a skinny-fat sedentary person as underweight. Neither are good indications, as an individual, that they are leading healthy lifestyles. And on top of that, doctors and nurses use BMI to rank us with our peers if we should gain or lose weight. My most recent trip to the doctors alarmed me when they told me they used BMI. Even though they told me I’m at prime weight and I shouldn’t lose or gain weight, I was befuddled they would use such an archaic scale.
Yes, if you’re morbidly obese crowd, or the high percentile of the population in terms of weight, weight will indicate with higher accuracy the longevity of your life. Sorry.
Other Points of Interest
I’ve mentioned the naked thing, but I know that’s not the best strategy for everyone. Here’s a list of other things to consider:
- Body Fat Percentage
- Breathing Rate
- Breathing Volume
- Resting Heart Rate
It is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start. Sometime in the near future, I’ll write-up part two about food because that’s the key in weight loss and general fitness.