Throw away the scales
There are better ways to measure you.
Every since my Wii Fit let me stand on it and called me podgey I have had a thing against the BMI. The BMI is stupid and retarded and keeps making fun of me! Therefore it has to be completely and utterly wrong in every way whatsoever. And therefore I have to now wage war upon a system that has been helping people for a few decades now.
The Body Mass Index system is far too limited. I could give you a synopsis of its history and make myself look intelligent by doing so, so I will. The BMI was developed in the 19th century as a statistical measure based on height and weight and gave physicians a number, say like… 24, and used it to classify people. This was because an eight foot tall giant weighing 250lbs won’t be as fat as a four foot dwarf weighing the exact same. The number allows you to be pigeonholed into a series of categories designed to chip away at your self esteem if you ain’t perfect: overweight, obese, severely obese, class 3 obese and skinny. Those were just a few. I think ‘socially acceptable’ was in there somewhere but it’s a very small range and isn’t really important. What was important was how useless the measurement was.
In a long winded sentence, the body mass index only takes into account total weight without taking into account what the total weight consists of. So if ye be 250lbs of solid jaw dropping eye popping woman raping (wait… what) muscle then your Wii Fit Plus is gonna class you as the tubby you’re insecurely trying not to be.
In this regard the BMI seems to be nothing more than an insulting form of just a regular pair of scales. The scales will tell you you’re overweight, but won’t know the difference between muscle and fat. The BMI is the exact same. The only difference is that you get to feel the injustice of being called obese at the same time you can take the measurement balancing your hands on the scales.
So what was the point? Why, easier categorization for medical professionals of course. The BMI is used by the World Health Organization to measure obesity rates. It’s a convenient and quick way of getting your statistics and that’s about it. It says nothing about your actual state of health and it can’t tell whether you’re actually obese or not. False negatives happen all the time on it and these will always come up the same because the system is fundamentally flawed. If you want to know whether a person is obese or not upon getting their BMI, you will actually have to look at them to see how obvious their flab is.
And then you’ll have the problem of people who are a mixture of muscle and fat.
Muscle and fat? My god, that can’t happen can it? Of course it can. It’s one of those wonderfully obvious things that’s only obvious once you hear someone else day it. I’m a abominable mixture of muscle and fat and the BMI classes me as overweight (I miss obesity by about two points) but I go on a three mile run daily and visit the gym far too often. This is what makes the BMI particularly frustrating (and the Wii Fit all the more). If you’re already muscular, but a little fat as well, and you want to lose the fat, the measurement system used by BMI will not aid you in losing weight. It could say you’ve lost weight when in fact you’ve lost muscle. And we’re not even going into water retention yet, the ‘you can see it working almost immediately’ trick of all milkshake dieting fads. The one big hole makes the BMI system just one big failure.
Let it not be said that there isn’t an alternate though. Hell, a measurement that can be used in conjunction with BMI. Body Fat percentage.
Body Fat percentage is a measurement which explains itself within its own name and so I shouldn’t have to elaborate further but I will anyway using science words to sound smarter. The body fat percentage is a measurement worked out by diving both essential body fats (yes we doing actually need fat I know it sounds strange) and storage body fat, which comes from the accumulation of fatty deposits stored in adipose tissue mainly around your belly, from your total weight. It’s a reasonably effective method and can usually be checked at your local leisure centre (or Tesco bizarrely enough) using a bioelectrical impendence analysis machine (it’ll have two metal bars for you to hold and usually charge you extra than just a quick weight scan). This time, fat isn’t mistaken for muscle and you can rest easy knowing that if it says you have 42.5% percent body then yes, you are a tub of lard.
As usual I’d like to just think I can leave it at that and go home (to be horribly alone) but another thought to be singled out occurs. Let’s look at fundamentals. What is the weighing system about? It’s a measurement. Quick and simple designed to measure your progress. But what progress? Your health of course. But does fat completely relate to bad health? Do muscles always equate to fantastic health? The answer is yes, but not completely. A person with super defined muscles and no body fat may not necessity be the winner of an endurance contest when somebody with 20% body fat is concerned. The World’s Strongest Man contests are an example of this (though those guys die earlier than they should I believe).
Also, the act of standing on a pair of scales is nothing more than an ego modifier; a superficial one at that. A change of one pound good or bad can alter a person’s mood for the rest of that day. Even if a person loses a stone and then gains a pound the next day it can be like all that weight loss never happened. And as said without measuring your body fat as well each time you’re never really going to get the full picture each time you step on those scales. An incorrect diet which completely restricts fats and starves a person will only lead to muscular entropy, which will just turn you from overweight to skinny but flabby which I can’t help but think as worse (I mean at least carrying fat around is exercise in itself) but the scales and BMI will still tell you you’re doing good.
So what becomes a good way of measuring health?
Woohoo, I stated something obvious again. Yay me. Yay me. Donate money for brilliant ideas that were so obvious you couldn’t possibly think of them yourself. Let’s write a four page blog entry about it. Yay. Yay.
A fitness test is, in short, the best way to keep track of your health. Hell, that’s because you are directly measuring your health. That’s what you wanted, right? You stand on the scales not to measure weight but because you want to be all fit and healthy and have the girls finally notice you, right? Scales in the end are too impractical and usually bring a lot of depression into the mix.
So what fitness checks can you do? Loads. And they all follow a simple format. Let’s make a simple one to example you. Track run!
Here’s how you do my Track Run fitness test (yes, it is my and, by proxy, all tracks now belong to me).
Find a track, preferably one that loops. It can be an open field, a block of flats, a long stretch of road, etc. Preferably you want somewhere where you won’t be massively interrupted all the time by crowds or traffic and something around 500m-1k in perimeter.
Set a time for yourself. This is important. You don’t want too long but too sort will be pointless. I’d suggest between 30-60 minutes.
Choose a clear defining start point.
Now get around the track, preferably by running. Your start point will be zero and for each lap, give yourself a point.
Keep going as best you can, keep track of your time and stop the exact second your watch gets to the time limit you’ve set for yourself.
This number is your measurement.
This is all you’re going to do. It’s all you need to do. Do it whenever you feel like measuring your health the same way you’d stand on the scales. Do it often and what happens should be obvious, your number will increase over the months and you’ll see that warm feeling of getting better surge through your taste buds.
Keep the same time limit each time and never increase or decrease it (this is just for the test. Run for longer periods at other times, but always keep your fitness test time the same). The trick to this is to convince yourself to just keep going, whether your jog turns into a plod or your plod to a slow walk. Just keep moving round the track for the time set. You’re essentially doing interval training and the joy of interval training is that by definition anyone can do it. If you are heavily unfit then just walk it each time. Walking for thirty minutes alone is a great exercise and can sate your appetite. And if you keep your fitness check up soon you’ll be saying to yourself ‘well gosh darn I use to be only able to get round that thar track once in half a wee hour, but now I am strong man and dashing round it fifteen times is no longer a laughing matter but part of the cold, hard facts that is my body!’
So all I’m saying is run essentially, but it’s a bit more than that. It’s a run that starts out at a walk, which hopefully everyone should be capable of doing regardless of their fitness state (unless you’re handicapped I guess. In which case I suggest one of these). Keep it up, and the walk will be upgraded to occasional power walks, which upgrades to full power walk which goes to occasional jogging to full jogging to occasional sprints and then getting round and then getting round an 800m track ten times in an hour stops being a pipe dream.
Part of the scales shenanigans comes from the compulsive need to track one’s progress and the lap numbers work to replace that. They also go up and down depending on your progress and you can also get really technical about your exact position (I did 5.73 laps today). The scales are really no different. The only real difference is that it’s not universal and comparing stats with others becomes fruitless, but this will become irrelevant should you take the track run system up. You’ll know you’re getting healthier simply because you know you’re getting round the track more times within the same period of time. As you do so, you will put on the required muscle and lose the extra pounds you didn’t need. You will be healthier from the system. And since it’s also a form of exercise, you could just do nothing else and reach a decent level of fitness. The only other argument is that it’s time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s half an hour from your schedule. You could do it at lunch time. Run round your office block a few times. And since it is an exercise, it’s one less exercise for you to do from your usual schedule. Hell, you could have it as the only exercise you have to do. And if that’s not good enough then fine, screw you. I didn’t want you to get healthier anyway.
What we’ve simply done here is combined two activities (weighing yourself and exercise) and hopefully helped to eliminate a bit of cognitive dissonance as to why you’re weighing yourself in the first place. The answer is because you want to be healthy, but you could weigh five stone and pass out running for the bus, so weighing just doesn’t work.
I’d like to think this wouldn’t even need to be tested. Running gets you fitter. Interval training has been tested and is show as a great way to get fitter. That’s all there is to it.
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Though i guess you could just go back to the archives!