So, you want to get healthy? Before we can get there, we need to ask a simple question:
Are you healthy now?
I want you to think about the three questions below:
- How much do you weigh at the moment?
- Is that a healthy weight for you?
- How much should you weigh?
95% of my overweight patients can’t answer that first question. Why does that matter, you might ask?
If you don’t know your weight, its probably running away from you.
One study in the US showed that adults gain around 1lb of weight each year from age 25 to 60. Doesn’t sound much? Let’s look at Jim:
Jim is 25. He weighs 75 kg (11 stone 11) and his BMI is 25 – just about at the top end of the recommended healthy weight spectrum.
Jim is now 60. He has put on 1lb every year, and now weighs 90.9kg. His BMI is 30.4 – classifying him as obese.
So many of us are like Jim. We don’t put on 3 stone in a year, we put it on so slowly, its barely noticeable.
Worse – all of our friends and family are doing the same thing… so we don’t look like we are gaining compared to the people are us. We normalise it – “Ah, its just middle age spread” – but the reality is that, in this case, “normal” means “unhealthy”.
So… how much do you weigh?
It’s time to do the scary thing, jump on some scales and actually find out. Go now, dust off your scales, and jump on.
Was it what you wanted? Was it what you expected? Was it… well… rather a lot more than you expected?
The first time I decided to get serious about my weight, I found some scales, and discovered I weighed nearly 14 stone. I would have guessed, if you’d asked me, that I was around 12.5, nearly 13.
Its not a very nice experience.
There are three ways you can deal with this information:
Method 1: Feel a little agitated and depressed, vaguely resolve to eat better, hide the scales in the back of the cupboard again, and pretty much carry on as before…
Most of us use method 1 90% of the time. It’s not very effective. I’ve used it myself, many times. It doesn’t seem to lead to me getting any thinner, and it doesn’t make me like scales any more.
People using method 1 don’t like scales. Scales are just square things take up space in the bathroom, and all they ever do is judge you when you use them. Scales aren’t friendly – they never say “Well done, you can have a biscuit now!”.
When there is something horrible like this in your life, its best to hide them in the back of a cupboard, or, at least, completely ignore their existence. Method 1 people generally don’t spend much time with their scales.
Method 2: Become obsessed with your weight. Get on the scales 10 times a day – before and after cups of tea. Stick to a perfect diet, resolving firmly to eat only brocoli and lettuce until you are at your ideal weight…
This is what most people think of when they think of “healthy eating”. Its the world of crash diets and “Lose 5 kilos in a week!”. When people get fed up with Method 1, they usually try this.
It’s very effective… until the stress and worry leads to a guilty takeaway a week in, and spectacularly falling off the wagon.
Method 2 people do not have a friendly relationship with their scale. Bathroom scales are the ultimate judges, mighty dictators that throw out punishment to those who do not conform to their unbreakable rules.
Nobody considers terrifying wielders of awesome power to be friendly, and Method 2 people are scared about everything to do with the “weekly weigh in”, only relieved once its over and they can finally relax for another 7 short days.
I am not a big fan of Method 1, or of Method 2. I think it leads to unhappy people, and ultimately, to overweight, unhealthy ones.
Let me tell you about Method 3.
Method 3: Realise you need to be aware of your weight. An accurate scale is a useful tool that gives you all the power in the battle against the beer belly. Get into a habit of weighing yourself, and enjoy how reassuring it is to actually be in control.
Let me tell you a secret: I quite like my scales.
I rather enjoy my morning weigh in. Its become a comfortable part of my morning routine; wake up, have a wee, jump on the scales, make some coffee, hunt for car keys for 20-30 minutes…
Method 3 people don’t fear the scale. We don’t love them either. We definitely don’t obsess about them. We have the exact same relationship with them as we do with the fuel gauge in our car: without them, driving would become a little bit more frustrating.
Your scale stops you getting in trouble. Just like your fuel gauge avoids you running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere, your scale stops you from putting on weight without realising it.
Which of these methods sounds like a way forward? You are welcome to carry on with Method 1 or 2 if you want, but my advice? Let’s all adopt Method 3, and welcome bathroom scales as our fat fuel gauge to keep us on track.
Using scales as a tool
So… you’ve decided to stick with Method 3, but now you aren’t sure about where to start. There’s an old adage – “A bad workman blames his tools”. It has some truth, but I like to add a bit on the end – “but a good workman buys good tools”.
If scales are a tool, then simple tool rules apply to them:
- You need a functional tool
- You need to know how to use it
If you are just joining Method 3 after a lifetime of Method 1, there’s a high chance that you’ve never really thought much about your scales. For example, are they accurate?
When I was in America, I bought a new set of scales. They were compact travel scales, I thought they seemed nice and small, and thought they would be helpful to me as I spent a month eating spicy potatoe wedges and drinking sweet tea.
The problem with them? Every time I got on them, the weight varied by upto 1.5kg. In the space of 5 minutes, I could have gained 1kg since yesterday, lost half a kilo, or weigh exactly the same. It was a bad tool.
Lots of scales I see in people’s houses look like this one. Nice enough, they sit in the corner of the bathroom for years, and, given that no one uses them, they seem fine.
The problem with these scales is that a) they might not be very accurate, and b) they are hard to read precisely.
If you are aiming to lose half a kilo a week, you would expect to lose around 0.1 to 0.2 kg a day. Now, I’m not saying that you will see weight loss this precisely, even if you dieting brilliantly – but checking your progress on a scale where its hard to see what you weigh even to the nearest kg is not very useful.
Likewise, if your scale is on carpet, it will not give you accurate readings. I’m afraid you will never be able to trust your scales if they are on a carpet floor.
My recommendation is to get your scales, and pop them onto a solid, level surface. Weigh yourself, then pick the scale up again, and put it on a similar flat surface. Do that one more time.
- If it doesn’t give you 3 identical readings, throw the scale away.
- If you can’t tell exactly how much you weigh, ideally to within 0.1kg, throw the scale away.
I recommend people get a simple digital scale: a nice large one, because the larger they are, the more your weight is spread out, and more accurate it will be.
It doesn’t need to be expensive. My ones cost around £12. I think they are pink. I know they are accurate.
Building a habit
So, you’ve got a decent set of scales, and you are keen to use them. The question is… how often?
Here’s a fun fact to get you started: your weight is a very changeable thing.
For example, let me give you my weight from one week last November:
It can be a bit hard to read in a table, so let me point out a few key bits. In the space of three days, I went from 69.3kg to 66.6kg. That’s a 2.7kg variation!
Was that a “true” weight loss? Was I on some super diet that helps you lose nearly a kilo every day? If so, I could make a fortune – “LOSE 28kg IN A MONTH ON CHRIS’ SUPER DIET!”
The answer is no. Just for reference – I always weigh in my underwear first thing in the morning, after a wee, but before eating or drinking anything. So I probably ate and drank more on the Sunday evening, and maybe ate and drank a bit less on the Wednesday.
“Why is he asking us to weigh ourselves, if the information isn’t useful?” I hear you cry.
Because your weight can change so much, the only way to be sure is to take an average. Let me show you the same table with my weighted averages instead:
Can you see how much more useful that is? Suddenly I have an idea of what is happening with my weight – its slowly reducing over the week.
Weighing regularly helps to deal with the fact that weight jumps around so much.
Imagine that I go to a weekly weigh-in club.
- If went on Thursday, at 66.6kg, I feel amazing! I’ve lost so much weight since last week.
- If went on Monday, at 69.3kg, I’ll be depressed. I’m so much heavier than last time! I’m a failure!
Is either of those the reality? Nope. I’m not a champion weight loss hero. Nor am I a useless lard bucket. I’ve actually managed a very sensible and sustainable 0.4kg weight loss this week. But without a nice average line to look at, its not clear.
My advice for building a healthy, non dramatic relationship with your weight? Measure every morning, before you eat or drink anything. Then pop it into an app that gives you an easy to read average.
“Aaarrgh, computers?!”, I hear you cry.
Yes. Sorry about that. Just another tool, I’m afraid. Even the most computer shy person can manage it though. Each day, you will have to type one number into a box, and press okay. That’s it!
I am in the process of making an app so you can manage this on this very website, but until then: I can thoroughly recommend Libra on Android, or
We need to know our weight in order to be in control of it.
In order to do that, we need a reliable pair of scale.