The number we seem to be terrified to reveal is our weight!
When we started Health Quest 2010 – this public weight-loss initiative where a group of us are trying to lose more than a ton of weight – a main concern of participants was whether our weights would be made public. That's big drama on the hugely popular TV show “Biggest Loser,” but since we are doing this for our own personal health and not a giant prize we decided it wasn't necessary to reveal weights … just weight loss.
But what is the power that number on the scale has over us?
No matter how you figure it, numbers are important to us. We use them to gauge success and comfort in almost every part of our lives. From paychecks, bank accounts and bills to schedules, health, age and other milestones.
Of course, for us Health Questers THE number we all focus on is the number on that scale. We signed on for Health Quest because we all wanted to lose weight – either because we didn't like the number we saw on the scale or in some cases we didn't even know the number on the scale. But we knew we weren't as healthy as we should be and wanted to be.
We also knew that weighing in each week as part of a public weight-loss initiative would make us more accountable … and it does.
But I must admit I find myself letting numbers rule my life a little bit. Not only does that number on the scale weigh on me, counting calories and exercise hours is part of my life now.
And that is part of this journey. But if we fixate too much on the number on the scale, we might just miss other indicators that validate this choice to get healthier.
To be honest the number on the scale hasn't moved as much as I have wanted of late even though I have had solid success – more than 24 pounds in 12 weeks for a percentage of body weight loss of almost 11 percent.
This past week I had a couple of key appointments. I saw my personal physician, Dr. Joseph Baker at Harbin Clinic, for my 12-week checkup and my personal trainer Lange House for my 12-week fitness assessment.
My doctor was very pleased with my weight loss and said I was doing it the right way. “A 1-2 pound weight loss is a more healthy and beneficial way to lose rather than rapid weight loss,” he confirmed. He also noted that having shed more than 10 percent of my body weight is a significant health boost. While I have been blessed and have not had to worry about high blood pressure, high sugar or cholesterol, Dr. Baker used this example. He said that if someone who is diabetic and taking pills to control their insulin could shed 10 percent of their weight, they could likely go off the medication. He said that 10 percent goes a long way to stabilizing insulin production and usage by our bodies. Even though I am not diabetic, that is important to me since it runs in my family and that's a legacy I am determined not to follow.
Then I met with Lange for my fitness assessment. When I started Health Quest back in February, she determined by BMI using the caliper method, took measurements and tested other fitness measures.
BMI stands for Body Mass Index and it basically tells you what percentage of your body is made up of fat. The general standards say 18-25 percent is normal weight, 25-30 percent is considered overweight and above 30 percent is considered obese.
There are height-weight formulas you can use, but that it not always accurate. I am proof of that. When I started on Health Quest a simple weight-to-height ratio would have put me at 41 percent, which is obese. But since I am athletic and quite active, that was not really the case.
Lange measured my BMI with a caliper, which is used by pulling subcutaneous fat (fat directly under the skin) away from the muscles at three different points on the body. An equation is used to determine the skin-fold thickness to gauge body fat. This is a far more accurate way to calculate body fat than simply body and height. The process is repeated three times in a session to ensure consistency and accuracy.
When Lange did my first BMI, it was 26.4 percent. That surprised both of us since that's just above the normal range.
But it confirmed something a sports physiologist told me years ago that shocked me. I was overweight then too. He told me that my ideal weight should be around 150 pounds. Folks, I am 5' 1”' tall! All of the “ideal weight” charts out there say I should weigh less than 120 pounds. What he told me then is that since I am an athlete I have a higher amount of lean muscle mass. At that time, my muscle alone weighed 124 pounds. If I were to add a healthy BMI of 20 percent, then my ideal weight is about 150. I later found that to be true. The last time I weighed around 150 I was a size 8-10 and was pretty happy with how I looked and felt.
The good news is that when Lange did my new BMI measurement on May 20, my BMI was down to 25.2 percent. Other measurements (the old-fashioned kind using a tape measure) showed that I have lost 12.5 inches in my hips, waist and abdomen. That's especially good news because the fat in the abdomen area is what is most dangerous to our health.
So those numbers are other indicators of how I am doing rather than relying just on the scale in Amy Patterson's office at the YMCA.
And that's a good reminder to not let that number on the scale have too much power over us, especially since experts say our weigh can fluctuate by several pounds a day.
But am going embrace that number on the scale. It's not my enemy. It's simply an indicator of my health and progress.
That's why I am going to share my true numbers here to day. When I stepped on the scale at the Y on Feb. 20 kickoff, I weighed in at 222.6 pounds. On May 19, I weighed 198.2. Breaking the 200-pound barrier for me was a big mental milestone. But I am not far enough away from it to feel I have cleared it. But with a few more pounds off I should be able to vow not to cross that threshold again.
I don't know why that number 200 is so scary. I have friends who weigh 160 and are as fit as a fiddle and gorgeous and they lament that number.
That's because weight is so very personal and it cannot be one size fits all. The truth is you – and your doctor – are the best ones to determine what is a healthy weight for you.
We know when we feel good in our bodies and in our clothes.
I still have at least two-thirds of my journey left to go to get to where I think I will feel truly healthy and comfortable. But I am counting my blessings that with my 24.2 pounds that I have accomplished that first third.
And whether you have lost 5 pounds or 20 pounds or still need to get started, I think it's important to remember to try to eat healthier and just get out there and move every day.
Numbers are certainly useful, but we really shouldn't let them rule our lives. They're just a tool to help us along the way. They are not a true measure of who we are as people.
But that still doesn't mean my heart won't flutter when I walk towards that scale each week ...