Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Weight issues...

A post dedicated to my mate René and all the other fat bitches out there (yeah, he really is a bit of a bitch).

Me:    "Oh, so you're on a diet again."
René: "Yeah, I really really need to lose some weight."
Me:    "Don't you mean slim down or take some inches off your waist or something? I mean you're not competing in a sport where you have to fit into some weight category, there's no magic sign over your head announcing your current weight to the world. Nobody has to know what you weigh!"
René: "I don't care. I just want to weigh 70 kilos."
Me:    "Gaargh..."

I've been thinking about this conversation, mulling it over, and trying to figure out why I thought René was such a stupid bastard (maybe I should have added arrogant to the title of this blog). 
Whiners will point out that losing weight has become short-hand for reducing body fat. True, but the language is distracting and moves focus to the scales (fuck, I do it myself except that I think about gaining weight as a proxy for bulk/muscle. I hate myself) rather than actual useful goals that might make you happier/"better". 
Let me put it in even more words - when you make a dietary change like my friend you need to track the parameters of your goals before and after the intervention. And you need to identify your goals and consider whether they actually represent what you want to achieve. Now René expressed that he wants to weigh 70 kilos. I know him well enough to know that what he means by that is that he wants to return to his weight (plus a little bit I think) before he ballooned. So a much better starting point would be for the little skank to look through his stash of old compromising pictures of himself and find one that shows enough skin and what he wants to work towards and then take a picture once every week or fortnight in the same pose to track body composition changes. If he lets the scales guide him then he could lose 10 pounds of muscle and 0 pounds of fat and still think that it's going in the right direction. Which it wouldn't be - he would be moving in completely the wrong direction and his body would probably force him to quit once it had killed as much muscle as possible without killing him. Another goal that could be complementary to getting approximately his old body back could be reducing his body fat. Unfortunately most methods (caliper, electronic body fat meter) are downright unreliable for an absolute measurement or expensive and time consuming (DEXA, submersion). Luckily, waist measurement correlates very nicely with body fat (as long as it's over the abs level) so he could get a relative measure of body fat with simply a tape measure. Improvements in posture will of course reflect in a waist measurement but since the primary goal is returning to old looks (and not to reduce buoyancy) this is not a problem.

Other goals that might have people stepping on the scales:
Reversing diabetes (a better way of tracking the goal would be to regularly examine glucose sensitivity - or alternatively a waist measurement).
Physical ability (e.g. if you can't walk around town without getting winded and achy then select a distance from your home to walk and time it regularly). 
Getting rid of knee pain (does your knee hurt? No? Success!).
Improving at your sport, etc. There are heaps of things where people judge the success of their dietary intervention on the numbers on the scales despite that number not actually reflecting anything that's important to them in their life.
The thing about vanity is that if you are even just a little vain, you are way harder on yourself than anyone else is. If someone actually are harder on you than you are on yourself (and you really are vain) then it probably has more to do with them being complete cunts than anything else.

tl;dr Ditch your scales (unless you need to fit in a weight category for sports), carefully set your goals before starting a dietary intervention (for paleo I suggest a long list of every single thing that ails you right down to combination skin but set a very high standard for saying that there's an improvement), find a way to monitor your goals (or monitor a strong proxy but make sure it can't misled you).

Extra reading: and and

Penny Arcade

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