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The Great Weight Debate

Nearly every time we ask someone the reason that they exercise or are trying to live a healthier lifestyle the answer has something to do with weight. People either seem to think they should weigh less, or weigh more. The government even publish tables and charts so you can work out how much you should weigh if you’re a certain height. The question very few people seem to ask is why? Why should you be worrying about how much you weigh?

Before we get to that, let’s think about what body weight is made up of. To simplify things we can break body weight down in to three categories; water, lean body mass and fat.

Water and fat are terms that are fairly self explanatory, but we will define lean body mass as skeletal muscle, other muscle, connective tissue, internal organs, bones and skin.

Just by looking at what the body is made up of should start you thinking that it is quite unlikely that people would weigh the same. Are two people, even of the same height, likely to have bones, muscles and skin that weigh the same? Most of us will be able to think of people our own height that have much thicker wrists and ankles than us (indicating bigger bones) and the same can be applied to muscles. You just have to look at kids in the school playground to know how different our builds can be. Plus an estimated 60% of our weight is made up of water, which means we can easily manipulate our weight, as fighters often prove by losing 20lbs of water weight in a matter of days (this comes at a pretty high risk however, adding to the evidence that big sudden changes in weight are not good for our health).

So why should we worry about weight?

Having spent a lot of time studying and participating in the world of health and fitness, we can only think of one reason to worry about your weight and that is if it has a direct impact on your life. By this we mean that if you lost/gained weight, and nothing else changed, you would still be better off.

Sports are a good example of this. Boxers for instance have to make a certain weight before they can compete. It doesn’t matter what they look like, they just have to make a certain weight limit or they won’t be allowed to compete. In everyday life the only real example of this are health conditions where adding or losing weight will, alone, make a dramatic difference to that person.

So why shouldn’t we worry about weight?

If you’re goal isn’t directly impacted by weight then weight isn’t worth worrying about. To work this out we just ask the question from earlier.

If my weight changed, but everything else remained the same, would I be happy?

So if you’re goal is to look better, feel better or perform better then the answer to this question should be NO.

If you’re looking to get better at golf and you lose weight but don’t improve at all, was it worth it? No. If you’re trying to change your body shape and you lose weight but don’t look the way you want, have you achieved your goal? No. If weight loss by itself isn’t your goal then weight should not be what you are measuring.

For instance if we went on Body Mass Index (the chart that tells you how much you should weigh) then Ronda Rousey, who is not only a mixed martial arts world champion and Olympic Judo Medallist, but was also placed on the cover of ESPN’s The Body Issue magazine, would be classed as just over the border of overweight!

UFC Champion and Olympic Medalist

UFC Champion and Olympic Medalist

Jonny Wilkinson, England’s Rugby World Cup Winning Fly half, would be a little overweight:

England's Rugby World Cup Winning Fly Half

England’s Rugby World Cup Winning Fly Half

And Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his prime) would have been obese!

Seven Time Mr Olympia, Governor of California & The Terminator!

Seven Time Mr Olympia, Governor of California & The Terminator!

We’re not saying that you’re goal is to be the same as any of these 3 people, but I bet you wouldn’t tell them they need to watch their weight.

So what now?

The main thing to do now if you are constantly obsessing about your weight is to work out why. If it’s because you think that being a certain weight will change something else, body image, sports performance or self confidence, for example, then you should make that thing your goal.

Once you’ve made that your goal then you should measure that specifically. If a change in body image is your goal, then things such as body fat analysis, clothes size or just plain old photographs are much better options for measuring success. Another example would be if being healthier is your goal, things to monitor could be the amount of energy you have in the morning, resting heart rate or just how out of breath you get walking the dog or playing with the kids.

The truth is weight is very individual and so guessing how much you should weigh is pretty difficult and can also lead to people feeling bad about themselves. This is usually because they are fussing over something that, in the end, won’t make them happy. Ask yourself what being a certain weight means to you and then make that meaning the focus of your efforts.

Live healthy,

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