health thoughts Beware Weighing Numbers Too Heavily

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018 — 657 words

Weight alone is not a good indicator of body composition, general health, or fitness. In fact, arbitrary numbers aren’t the end-all and be-all that you might think.

For example, let’s add the arbitrary numbers of your weight with your height and calculate another arbitrary number that we’ll use to guess your body composition. We’ll call this number your Body Mass Index, or BMI for short. It sounds more like a carnival game than science, doesn’t it?

So yeah, it sounds dumb, but does it work? Well, let me introduce you to Ezekiel Elliot. He’s an NFL player, a running back for the Dallas Cowboys. This is what he looks like:

Ezekiel Elliot

He’s listed at 6’ tall and weighing 225 lbs. Care to guess what his BMI score indicates? It says that he is Obese. That’s right. He’s not just overweight, he’s actually obese.

Man, wouldn’t you like to be that kind of obese?

Another confounding factor is that, for average-sized adults, your weight can swing more than 5 lbs over the course of a day. 5 pounds! (Much of that weight is from water retention and other transient matter in your system.)

It should be clear that your body weight isn’t indicative of your fitness or health, per se. But before you get the wrong idea, I’m not here to say that your weight doesn’t matter at all. Or that the BMI scale is crap and should be ignored… Well, maybe the latter. By lay-people anyway.

My point is, you don’t want to lose weight – If you did, you could just cut off a leg – You want to lose fat.

Fat and weight are not the same thing.

So if what we really want to track is our body fat, why do we obsess over weight so much? Honestly, because it’s so much easier to track.

Body fat, on its own, is notoriously difficult to measure. To do an accurate job is no easy feat. It requires equipment that most of us just don’t have, or want, lying around.

That’s great and all, you say, but I need to be able to track my progress! If I can’t use the scale, what can I use? Good question.

First of all, I’m not saying you can’t use the scales. Just take it for what it is, just a numeric snapshot of your current mass. When you weigh, keep things as consistent as possible. Always weigh at the same time of day. Don’t do it right after you’ve eaten, etc. Also, don’t do it every day (if you’re prone to obsess about it).

A better tool for checking your progress, assuming you’re carrying too much fat, is to measure the circumference of your midsection. Not your waist, not where you wear your pants. Your middle – The thickest part of your gut. It’s a decent indicator of visceral fat (the most dangerous kind). You could use a Body Fat Measuring Tape. They’re cheap and easy to use. Mine is a lot like this one: https://amzn.to/2NFMjn7

But don’t get too hung up on those numbers either.

If you’re eating the right food[1] at the right time and exercising the right way, then don’t try to micromanage your weight – it’ll take care of itself. Don’t let your sense of worth, or success, hang on that arbitrary number.

Remember, weight loss is just one part of our journey. Health is our goal. There’s no number that guarantees health or happiness. So don’t make yourself miserable in the process.


  1. What “eating right” means is a whole separate topic full of debate, intrigue, fortunes to be made or lost, and lives in the balance. It’s a lot like a thriller novel – but the ending hasn’t been written yet. Or has it? Duh duh duuuuhhhn. ↩︎