For those who live in the Pacific Northwest, KING5 TV, the local NBC affiliate, recently featured a segment on SANE. During the segment I said I have a “small wife,” which gave my friends and family lots of ammunition to give me loads of grief 🙂
But their good-natured joking aside, it caused me to reflect on a subject many of SANE members have recently discussed on chat boards, and that is how to measure success in relation to health and fitness. The discussion invariably comes down to two of the most problematic measurements one can possibly tie to long-term health and fitness: weight and body mass index (BMI).
Let’s consider my “small wife.” She is 5’5” and weighs about 140lbs. This gives her a BMI (body mass index) of ~24. According to that measurement, she is borderline “overweight.” Similarly, at 6’ and 200lbs I have a BMI of ~27, which characterizes me as borderline “obese.”
Here is a snippet of us on our wedding day, bloated BMI’s and all. Perhaps I’m biased, but I believe she manifests the apex of beauty here (and frankly each day I see her smiling face).
The point of sharing this video is to give an example of two people who have a lot of health and fitness work to do based on traditional measurements and to emphasize the following point:
How we measure our health and fitness matters, and we have to do it right.
So to be perfectly clear, as you start going SANE: BMI and weight are inaccurate and unhealthy ways to measure success. At best, these measurements distract from what really counts. At worst, they are unhealthy and fattening in the long term. Does any woman walk into a party (or a wedding) wearing a dazzling new dress with a sign around her neck that reads “My BMI is X and I weigh Y pounds?” Of course not. What matters is how well her dress fits, how lovely and elegant she looks, how she feels and the radiance of her smile. And how many of us know someone whose short-term weight loss “success” was soon followed by even more weight gain.
If you want to be successful with your SANESolution Plan, get rid of your scale. Feed it to the trash can. Let your kids beat it with a baseball bat. Back over it with your car. What your scale says has nothing to do with how we define success in your SANESolution Plan. We’re focused on how you look and feel long term. There are millions of people who weigh a little and look and feel broken, while there are millions more who weigh more and look and feel wonderful.
Why am I so adamant about avoiding this traditional measure of success? First, as we know from your SANESolution Plan, being traditional has nothing to do with being correct or useful.
Second, as a measure, it is relatively easy to manipulate. Want to make your scale as happy as possible in 48 hours? Do not eat anything other than diuretics and stimulants and exercise as much as possible while wearing multiple layers of clothes in a hot room. Your body will be malnourished (bad), burn pounds of muscle (bad), shed pounds of water (bad), slow down your metabolism (bad), predispose you storing more fat in the future (bad), and make the scale show a much lower number for a few days (irrelevant).
Third, why worry about weight when there is a measurement that is just as simple and proven to be much more indicative of long-term health and fitness:
The circumference of your waist.
Skip the $99 scale and treat yourself to a 99¢ measuring tape. Many readers have found this to be one of the most difficult steps to fully adopting a SANE lifestyle because their baseline of “good” or “success” associated with health and fitness is directly tied to their scale. And it has been that way for their entire lives. I am therefore asking you to immediately stop doing something you have done for as long as you can remember. That is a big request, and I know it.
But making a commitment to stay away from scales for at least three months is critical if you are interested in long-term fat loss and robust health.
Because scales focus us on short-term weight loss instead of long-term fat loss and robust health. If you are a boxer or wrestler who needs to weigh a specific amount for your upcoming match, think short term and evaluate your progress using a scale. However, if you are anyone else, think long term and evaluate your progress with a measuring tape. Using the appropriate timeline and tool to measure your success is so important because SANE living will always lose to starvation if you look at short-term weight loss because more than 90% of the initial weight lost via traditional quick-fix techniques comes from shedding water and burning muscle. SANE living does not dehydrate you and develops metabolism-enhancing muscle instead of destroying it.
Give yourself a break from worrying about weight and commit to making the fundamental metabolic change that enables you to look and feel better for the rest of your life while lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.