Tipping the Scales

Weight loss requires true dedication

For some, it takes nerve
to step on the bathroom scale

(August 2012)
Read previous Heather Foy columns!
Heather Foy

Every morning, some step on the monster religiously, like brushing their teeth. Some would rather embrace influenza than be forced to take two big steps on a vicious square with numbers.
Whether it is balanced or digital, many don’t ever believe the number exposed. “That can’t be right.” We feel defeat if the number doesn’t budge, or we quietly pump our fist if the magic number we have worked hard for appears.
It doesn’t take a doctor, dietician or an exercise physiologist to know that the bathroom scale can be our worst enemy or our best friend. Some days we want to throw it; others hug it.
Why are we so obsessed with the scale?
As a professional, working in the field of disease prevention for more than 15 years, I would never claim that the number on the scale is insignificant. The average American waistline has expanded at a rapid pace the last few decades. The stack of statistics to support the subject of obesity is just as large as the stack of french fries this country consumes each day. We often downplay the importance of excess body weight and blame others in the process.
Yes, there are other indicators for measuring shape, size and fitness than just looking at the number on a traditional scale. Waist-to-hip ratio, circumference measurements and multiple methods to measure body composition (aka – body fat percentage) are extremely important. Our knowledge and research has improved with time.
Yes, muscle weighs more than fat and there is a difference in heart disease risk for an apple v. a pear-shaped body type. A physician might prefer a patient have a reliable body composition measurement, but there is no denying the simplicity and ease of stepping onto a scale that sits in every household.
A standard BMI chart provides a healthy/ideal range for the “average” individual. Many people study the height/weight poster and point out the impossible. They focus on the lowest weight listed and state, “I haven’t weighed that since high school.”
Keep in mind, the “ideal” and the “overweight” categories have a range. Depending on your height, the healthy weight range can give you 20-40 pounds of flexibility. Most adults have a specific number stuck in their head. A few won’t stop until they get there, while some will never begin working to achieve that golden number.
There is no doubt that a BMI measurement is not perfect for every body type. This universal tool (standard, regardless of age or gender) is, however, an excellent way for the average person to know if he needs to open his eyes to the fact that he should not be carrying around the extra 50 pounds that has appeared since high school. It’s no surprise that 66 percent of American adults are overweight or obese – a statistic that is growing out of control.
A standard BMI formula is metric. Since we live in the land of inches and pounds, not meters and kilograms, we convert BMI using a simple math calculation. There are dozens of websites with BMI converters and free smart phone Apps that calculate BMI.
In many cases, the higher the BMI, the higher your risk for an unpleasant diagnoses,s such as heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, sleep disorders and certain cancers. The denial continues for some as we give excuses, other than weight, for these health problems and lack of energy. Heck, we secretly hope the clothes dryer is the reason our pants won’t zip.
In my career, I have spoken to most likely a thousand-plus people about their body weight. As a petite individual, it requires an art (and much tact) to share professional advice and lend a listening ear when it comes to discussing this touchy topic. Our body weight is personal and something that many claim is no one’s business. Facing the scale and holding ourselves accountable, and well as establishing trust and accountability with a medical or fitness professional, is a necessity.
I have personally never tackled a 100-pound weight loss, and I pledge to never find myself in that situation. I have, however, gained and lost 36 pounds.
No, this was not pregnancy weight. This was excess college body weight, which was almost impossible to carry around on my 5-foot-2 frame. I worked just as hard as anyone else to slowly lose 1 pound at a time.
Sometimes, health nuts know how it feels to be overweight. Even today, I know the necessity of living by the 80/20 rule and holding myself accountable to a healthy lifestyle. I never want to see those 36 pounds again.
With a health and fitness mind, I care more about someone’s overall health and well-being than an exact number on the scale. With that said, I know that achieving an appropriate body weight, in a healthy way, brings countless emotional, social, and no doubt physical rewards. As you achieve a healthy body weight, standard markers like blood pressure and cholesterol levels improve. Energy levels soar and we are better able to achieve simple daily tasks.
Visualize wearing a 40-pound weight vest when asked to climb multiple flights of stairs, vacuum your house, push mow your lawn or get in and out of your car several times. Now imagine taking off this vest and completing those same tasks.
A weight has been lifted. Those who find joy following weight loss also find added confidence and improved self-esteem.
A friend once told me that she cried tears of joy when she followed her son down the playground slide, because she actually FIT on the slide after a successful 50-pound weight loss. I took a family member water skiing for the first time, following a 90-pound weight loss – something she would have never been able to do prior to improving her inner and physical strength.
If your desire is to strive for and then share a successful weight loss story, start small. Talk to your doctor or a fitness professional about how to take that first step toward controlling or moving the number on the scale. Worry less about the current or future goal number it reads and focus more on the best motivator for moving the number – your health.

• Heather Foy is a 20-year coach and group exercise instructor in Madison, Ind., who has been in the Wellness field for nearly 20 years. Email her at hnfoy@yahoo.com.


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