Sunday, 9 September 2012

So what IS the right weight for me?


So you can take a set of scales and a tape measure do a few sums and work out your BMI and your hip to waist ratio. Or you can get technical and complex and work out your body fat percentage (BF%). From working out your weight and your BF% you can work out how many pounds or kilos you need/want to lose. The downside there is that you have to be careful that it is fat that you're losing and not muscle. If you're not happy with what your BMI is telling you but you can't afford to get your BF% you can use photos of yourself and of individuals of known BF% and try and work out a rough estimate. These links might help towards that aim: 

There are problems with all these methods. Everyone knows that BMI doesn't take into consideration how much muscle you carry. I know that about a year ago I weighed about the same as I do now. Roughly 56kg. But in the last year I have lost two inches off my hips, my waist is the same, and I am visibly have more muscle than a year ago. Testosterone has given me more muscles, and although my weight and fat has gone up from it's low back in March, the change in hormones has meant that the fat has been laid down on my belly. The long and short it is that I am leaner than I was a year ago, although my weight remains the same. And importantly, my BMI is high but I am leaner than when I was just inside my range about 9 months ago (before T). Maybe I'm still overweight and need to lost fat (I'm actually not going to argue there) but I argue that when I was 55kg, and a "healthy" BMI I was fatter and therefore BMI is flawed. 

BMI was apparently championed by Ancel Keyes. His name should ring a bell amongst paleo/primal/WAPF/Real Food types. He is the reason that Conventional Wisdom tells people to eat low fat to be healthy via his Seven Countries study. He suggested BMI for POPULATION studies, and said it wasn't appropriate at individual level. I'm pretty sure that I remember a Denise Minger blog post where she found something to praise bout Keyes' work, and I think we can add to that praise and he didn't attempt to apply BMI to individuals. 

All of this, all of these different ways of measuring whether we're the right weight or not is about health. Vanity is something else. As I've already said if I was just worried about health I wouldn't care if I lose any more fat or not and I would just focus on being active and picking up heavy stuff sometimes. But when I am not depressed I am vain. I want to look good naked. So I want to lose some more fat so that my belly is a bit smaller. I wouldn't mind building some more muscle, which is of course going to make me heavier. 

If vanity is your aim then ditch the scales and use a mirror instead. Vanity is about how you look anyway. And if you're doing things right then you're not going to massively change things once you've gotten to the right place. You'll know if you have cheated yourself or done things that are likely to set you back and if you've done that and don't care then it was more important than your vanity. 

Healthy is another issue, and the reason many people chose to lose weight. This link goes to show weight isn't everything. I need to read the original article but in summary is suggests that it's not your weight that matters as much as how fit you are. From what I can tell from the BBC article they looked at blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and fitness/exercise levels. So if your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure are good, and you get out and exercise then your exact weight isn't so important. 

I knew that when I started testosterone that figuring out my ideal weight was going to be harder. I could no longer rely on past experience for what a healthy weight was for me. Of the three methods commonly used by people to judge if they need to lose weight only one actually depends on what the scales say - BMI. From what I've learnt today I do think that we need to stop trying to apply BMI to individuals, but calculating BF% accurately can be expensive and needs to be monitored to check that it is fat rather than muscle we're losing. 

So what IS the right weight for me? I don't know. I suspect that it will be a couple of kg less than I am right now, but also that I could weigh a couple kg more and still be healthy. I won't be relying on weight anymore. I will continue to monitor it, but I'm not worrying about setting a target weight. My goal is visual - I want a flattish belly. I suggest others ditch their scales and instead plan a visual goal. The poor man's BF% measure. Whilst you're setting a visual goal - set a stress level and exercise goal too. I'll talk about mine in another post or two. 

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