Why Weight is Just Another Number

Posted on 23. Jan, 2009 by in Motivation

Isn’t it frustrating when that pointer on the scale doesn’t move in the direction you want? I have this same frustration lately but then I got to thinking what this number really means.

Weight (noun) – the amount or quantity of heaviness or mass; amount a thing weighs.

The definition of weight is basically just that – a representation of how heavy a person or a thing is. So, why is it that of all the health assessments available to us out there, weight is the most common obsession among those who are aiming for weight loss?

First, there is that term “weight loss.” People really mean that they want to lose fat when they say that they want to lose weight. And yet, weight loss has become such a household name that everyone bases their success on these numbers. To add to the problem, almost all dieting advertisements talk about the amount of weight lost on their products. Even the Biggest Loser which has access to health professionals and personal trainers measure their contestants success base on the percentage of their weight loss (By the way, I love the show but I wish they would measure other stuff too).

Second, weight is the easiest measure of progress. All you have to do is to step on that bathroom scale and you can see how many pounds or kilograms you have lost.

I don’t blame anyone for doing this because even today, I still look at the number on that bathroom scale and still get disappointed if I don’t see the results that I want to see. Just this morning, I’m guilty of stepping on that scale and being disappointed that I haven’t lost any pound since last week. But, the difference between then and now is that I have other ways to measure my success. Now, I just see my weight as just a number that will help me figure out other numbers (or signs) that are more important in measuring my progress.

What are better measurements?

Body fat percentage

While this assessment takes more skill and time than weighing yourself on the scale, it gives you a better idea of your body composition. So, for somebody who has 21% body fat at 120 lbs., 25.2 (120 x .21) lbs of this is body fat and the rest (120 lbs minus 25.2 lbs = 94.8 lbs) is lean body mass (mostly muscle). In this case, you are using that weight to figure out your body composition which is a better way to see your body – that is, in terms of how much fat and muscle you have. Here are the average* body fat percentage for men and women:

Age Up to 30 30 – 50 50 and up
Females 14 to 21% 15 to 23% 16 to 25%
Males 9 to 15% 11 to 17% 12 to 19%

*An average man or woman would be someone who is not overly obese or not too skinny.

Most personal trainers at local gyms can measure your body fat for you. But, your results would be more accurate if you have the same person measure it all the time (there would be less variation with your measurements if you do this). As for any measurement, take this number as a guideline, a starting point. It will serve as a feedback. It can tell you if you’re doing something right or if you need to adjust your nutrition or change your workout routine.


Another great way to see your results is to take a picture every few weeks or so. Pictures are great because they make you see the big picture (for lack of a better word). If you have made some great progress over a few weeks, you can definitely see it in the pictures. On the other hand, if you didn’t do as well then, this will get you motivated to work harder. Pictures can tell you a lot. Take pictures at least once a month.

How your clothes fit you

Yes, this is even better. I remember one day, I had to put my belt on the very last hole to keep my pants up. At the same time, I had to go shopping for new clothes because I dropped a size or two. There is no greater feed back than that!

Measuring Tape

Sometimes I would see inches come off from measuring my waist and hips and yet I don’t see the pointer on the scale move. These measurements mean a lot because it tells you that you are still making progress even though the scale tells you otherwise.

All these other measurements or assessments tell you that it’s time to stop the weight obsession and start paying attention to other signs of your progress. I know that my weight used to dictate my mood for the day especially when I reach a weight loss plateau. It makes me forget about all the other progress that I have made. Now, I think about how much stronger I have gotten when I lift weights in the gym or how many inches I have lost so far or how great I look in my pictures.

So, the next time you step on that scale, take it with a grain of salt. It’s no big deal! It’s just a number. All you can do is keep doing what you think is right for your goals and trust the process.

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