Weight Is Not Health

Recently, Scott Hanselman, software technologist and diabetic, has been periodically tweeting details of daily weigh-ins, in an effort to use the community to hold himself accountable as he tries to lose a few pounds. And he is far from the first. Jason Calacanis was doing this some months back with the help of a wifi-enabled bathroom scale. I’m not sure it was that particular scale, but it was a similar product.

Now, I’m big. My weight is around 325 pounds (give or take a few), but I’m about six foot and broad shouldered, so I think I wear it better than many people who would be 325 pounds. I ended up with a large share of the genetics from my paternal grandmother. She had a big family, and while I’m noticably taller than her and her siblings, I still have their barrel-like body shape.

It’s not going to go away, but a few months back, I began working out regularly, utilizing the Student Recreation Center at Washington State University, which is both convenient, and probably cheaper than any other local facility. However, while all my clothes fit noticeably looser than they did when I began, my weight has remained a near-constant. This is with at least four, but often five, visits to the gym per week.

While I do look forward to being thinner, the core reason to being an excercise program, and to modify your eating habits, should be general health. For most of us, getting somewhat thinner/lighter should be a side-effect of better health, not the goal.

One of the benefits at the SRC is that most of the cardio machines are configured with USB interfaces to load progressive data about the state of the workout, current speed, heart rate, calories burned (or an estimate at least), and a host of other data based on the type of machine I’m on. With a chest strap heart rate monitor (a free checkout), I can ensure that the measurements are reasonably accurate (occasionally the strap starts erroneously reporting my heart rate at being around 225 beats per minute).

Of course, the only place I can use this data right now is the eFitness website that UREC works with, but I’m working on reverse engineering the data format. Ultimately, these are the metrics that are more important. Am I able to work out harder over time?

We need to stop focusing on one of the less important characteristics of health, our weight, and start focusing more on those other indicators, which largely come down to being able to perform at a higher level that before. Plus, daily fluctuations are less than useless. Daily fluctuations are apt to be largely water-based, or dependant on the size of your last meal. I suspect the real reason people look at weight is that it’s an easy metric to get, it’s convenient. However, it’s simply not an accurate measure of health, which is the real end goal that we should have in mind.