The Scale Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

In our culture, we know there can be a lot of focus on how much we weigh; what’s our number on the scale today? Physicians might tell us the number is too high, and isn’t healthy, or social media might tell us it’s too high and we’re not attractive. Using this very narrow metric to define our lives, our health, and our attractiveness, misses a whole host of other factors. Our friends at Well Balanced Nutrition wrote an excellent blog post about how your health is more than just a number on a scale. You can read the full thing here.

How many of you have heard of the BMI (Body Mass Index), or worse, had it used when you go to the doctor? I have. The very important thing about the BMI is that it is literally a ratio measurement; it’s a weight divided by height metric. It has little to no reference with the actual human body itself, but taking a volume and density measurement.

As our friends at Well Balanced Nutrition say:

“This number does not take into account your muscle mass, bone density, or genetic background, all of which have a significant impact on your health.”

That’s right.

Muscle is denser than fat, so the more muscle you have, the denser you’re going to be, and the heavier you’re going to be. Which is perfectly fine. That muscle is useful! It keeps us capable and functional. But there’s no space in the realm of BMI for nuance or complexity.

Everyone should throw BMI out the window, but especially athletes. I remember being a competitive rower in high school. I had practice 6x a week, a running program 4 days a week, and my own strength and conditioning program 2-3 days on top (we can talk about over training in youth athletes later). I was 5’9” and around 170 lbs of bulletproof muscle. I remember going to the physician, giving them my height and weight, and being told I was ‘at the edge’ of being unhealthy. If they’d done a body composition reading on me, they probably would have found that my body fat percentage was in fact lower than it should have been. But they just looked at the number on the scale and arbitrarily decided on my health without asking about my diet, my exercise routine, my sleep, my mental health.

This is your invitation to not do the same!

First of all, throw BMI out the window when tracking any weight. I’ve stacked muscle and weight and dropped clothing sizes (except in the shoulders; I’ve had to size up for the lats).

In fact, BMI was first invented by a Belgian astronomer and mathematician, who was trying to understand population dynamics. He wasn’t even a physician. Alissa Rumsey does a great job of breaking down why the BMI is applicable to most populations. Read more here about the problematics of using BMI to track your health.

Here are some good ideas from our friends at Well Balanced Nutrition about how you can track your health without narrowly focusing on just a number:

How do your clothes fit? Have you found yourself exclusively reaching for the yoga pants, elastic waist, and loose-fitting clothes? That might be a sign that it’s time to pay closer attention to what you are eating and/or drinking. Prior to starting a workout program, you can also take measurements around your arms, waist, hips, and thighs. That way, in case you gain muscle and do not lose weight, you will likely still lose inches.

  1. What are you eating? I know firsthand, how someone has eaten for the last 3 days is how they have “always eaten.“ We humans have terrible memories for the details of what we consumed lately unless there is some means of tracking. That might be an app, paper food journal, or picture journal.

  2. How is your mood? Personally, when I don’t eat well, get insufficient sleep, or less physical activity I feel awful. I’m a little extra irritable, moody, and generally less fun to be around – just ask my boyfriend! Pay attention to your mood and ask yourself “WHY am I feeling the way I feel?” Has something in your routine changed?

  3. How are you sleeping? Sleep is directly impacted by our day-to-day choices. Some people notice they sleep poorly if they eat simple carbohydrates, especially refined sugar, after 7 PM. Others report sleeping poorly if they have too much alcohol to drink or not enough water.

  4. What is your energy level? It could be low due to an extra stressful week, catching up from vacation, or having a sick child at home. Our energy level is all highly impacted by what we eat and how we spend our free time.”

Everyone is in a different place with their weight, their bodies, and their diet. We here at Functional Phyzio support you wherever you are in your journey, but we want to affirm that you are more than just a number, and that your health is so much more complicated and nuanced than what can be captured on a scale.

If you have questions about your weight, your health, or how you can move more and put on muscle, don’t be afraid to give us a call.

If you want help with what you eat, how you eat, and your relationship with food, give our friends at Well Balanced Nutrition a call. We’re both here to support you to live your best life, the way you want to.

Cheers, y’all

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