Today’s word problem:
Subject A female is 5’4” weighs 120 pounds and wears a size 6 dress
Subject B female is 5”4” weighs 130 pounds and wears a size 8 dress
Who is healthier? Read on for how it can be determined…
If your gym is like mine finding the scale is easy – just follow the most-worn path on the floor. Many of us make a beeline right after check in, hold our breath until the number displays or the lever balances, and then either let out a sigh or damn ourselves for the piece of cake, or chips, or whatever we determine the culprit of the ‘bad’ number; that is, after taking the next logical step – finding a different scale!
For many, the display number stirs powerful emotions. A former training client would be thrilled at 115 but panic at 116. No middle ground – 115 was nirvana, 116 was hell – which was further scrutinized with digital scales that weighed to the ounce. 115.5 or under was good, 115.6 or over was tragic. Another client’s goal was to reduce to 102 lbs, precisely. It took a few sessions of building trust for she to let on that 102 was her idol’s weight, and she was also an aspiring singer so reasoned her break would come if she ‘became’ her idol. A third client wanted to gain weight so ate ‘heavy food’ just before entering the gym on his declared weigh-in day. His favorite was Sara Lee Pound Cake figuring it to be the heaviest food available.
Having a vested interest in our weight is a GOOD thing for many reasons. Maintaining healthy bodyweight is a primary key to wellness. Too much and we compromise each of our systems (cardiovascular, digestive, skeletal, endocrine, etc.), too little and except for context difference, the compromise is the same; which isn’t anything you don’t already know…
So the point here is to extend the conversation by conveying WHAT YOUR BODYWEIGHT CONSISTS OF can mean more to your wellness than the number itself, because tucked neatly inside our skin is lean (muscle) tissue and fat (adipose) tissue, and each has a drastically different impact on wellness!
Lean tissue is healthier than fat tissue so we want as much of our bodyweight to be comprised of muscle than fat. Wellness-wise, one person’s 115 rarely means the same as another’s 115 due to differences in body composition. They may look the same (and be able to share clothes) but the 115 who possesses a larger ratio of muscle to fat is healthier than the 115 who has a larger ratio of fat to muscle.
The kicker, as many of you know, lean tissue weighs more than fat tissue so bodyweight increases with muscle gain. This can unnerve numbers watchers, but rest assured this is GOOD weight to gain since the addition of lean mass means healthier body composition. As a rule, it’s good to lose fat tissue (to a point) and good to gain muscle tissue, and as these composition changes occur so will your bodyweight.
If you don’t already know your body composition, it’s time you did. First, calculate your BMI – Body Mass Index – to assess the healthfulness of your bodyweight. Enter BMI into any search engine and you will be able to access an easy to use calculator to determine if your weight is in the healthy range for your height. If it is, your fitness goals don’t necessarily need to include weight loss. But if not, weight loss ought to be figured into your fitness plan.
Then, get your body composition analyzed by a qualified fitness professional. There are several ways to assess composition, some more invasive than others but none are painful! (past hurting your feelings if the results are not favorable). The good news – body composition can be improved with the one-two punch of cardio activity to burn calories (and lose fat) and weight training to increase muscle mass. Keep in mind that bodyweight may increase as a result, but the improved ratio of lean to fat mass means a healthier composition.
Circling back to my clients, analyzing their body composition helped calm the emotions that stirred their ‘scale behavior.’ 115 was able to see a mass gain was needed, 102 was able to see this was underweight for her height and her composition skewed unhealthy, and ’Gainer’ was able to see his composition was healthy, so to not risk his wellness by adding fat weight.
Know your bodyweight, know your BMI, then get your body composition analyzed so you know what these numbers mean to your health.
As for whose healthier, subject A or B? Impossible to determine without knowing what’s IN their numbers…