At various times in my adult life, I dieted, largely successfully short- and mid-term. It took me a while to rationalize the scales though.
Finally, it became obvious that height/weight charts then were as much crap for an individual as BMI is. The simpleminded medical types have forced that on us, apparently largely out of their own laziness.
After watching my maternal grandmother struggle mightily with Lite Diet bread, the Gaylord Hauser books and weighing herself in despair, I read what I could find. Hauser’s shelf of diet books at least had the seed of low-carb eating in eschewing sugar and white flour. Among the science available was the fascinating information that while docs, nurses and nutritionists glommed onto the height/weight charts, the insurance industry moved past them. The actuaries found no correlation between a person’s good or bad rating in the charts and longevity or health. Likewise, BMI is as good as the universe it measures and the frequency of measurements, like a whole school system’s eighth graders.
Both the earlier charts and BMI, which let’s be honest is just a height/weight chart with a very minor variation in calculation to produce one number, don’t work for individuals. Unfortunately such well-intended health proponents as Michelle Obama are wont to say as she has that BMI is “highly scientific.” In reality, the vast variations on muscle mass, bone structure and more put the lie to that for a single person. Someone may have a pretty good BMI number and look OK in clothes, only to be without muscle mass and have organs swimming in fat. Likewise, many athletic types can be the opposite, overweight or even obese in BMI rating, but be much healthier and have a much lower body-fat percentage.
Of course, the same medical sorts who are wont to say all you need to know about losing weight or controlling it is calories-in/calories out, consume fewer than your burn. That’s crackpot stuff. Beware anyone who says, “It’s only common sense,” which almost invariably really means, “I’ve got nothing. Don’t challenge my wild assertions.”
Many years ago, I got an introduction to body-fat measurement. When I went to the main YMCA in Boston, I got training in Nautilus equipment and got the caliper treatment. It turned out I still was pretty muscular from my days as a jock as well as my pretty active life of walking everywhere, hiking, roller skating and later biking. My fat percentage was low.
I still use obvious indicators and body-fat measurements as much more reliable than scale weight. Depending on whether I’m doing free weights and machines or not, my weight can vary by as much as 10 pounds and the fat percentage stay pretty much the same or even drop if I’m lifting. I advise dieting folk to buy a $25 or so hand held body-fat machine and/or a scale that reports that along with pounds.
Otherwise, pants don’t lie.
If my clothes fit well or get loose, I’m losing extra fat. If the base of my thumb on the top of my hand has a deep intention when I move the thumb back, I’m losing. If my armpits are really deep when I soap them in the shower, I’m trim. There are another half dozen or so palpable, observable and meaningful measures. Better doctors should look and feel their patients instead of turning to the relatively meaningless BMI.
My funkiness in measurements includes looking as I brush my body. That’s right. Many years ago, I bought and read a fascinating nutrition book, Are You Confused, by Paavo Airola. He believed that we’re healthier when we thoroughly clean our skin and rid it of toxins along with dead cells. For him that was brushing the body every day or few days with a boar’s bristle (no plastic, please and ouch) brush, then showering. That made and makes sense to me. Plus I have nice skin.
The point here is that if you are brushing, you have to look and can’t pretend all is well, fatwise, when it isn’t. Even if the idea of brushing yourself seems creepy, really looking in front of the bathroom mirror helps keep you honest with yourself.
Enough of that. This is the second in a series on diet and body fat. The introduction is here. I’ll start next on what I do about food next.
This series includes:
Call it Lifestyle on the intellectual and emotional commitment to low-carb
Watching the Struggle on my grandmothers diet woes
Wrestling with Fat on overcoming fear of dietary fats
Hunger? do you starve on a low-carb diet?
Low-Carb Eats on what’s on the menu in the regimen
How Much of What Food on calories-in/calories-out cliché
Dr. Cadaver on mindless trust in group averages
Who’s Counting on body fast v. weight
Part 1 on pants don’t lie