Saturday, June 20, 2009
The injustice of scales
Bathroom scales can be dangerous, especially when you're planning to clobber them into smithereens. So please, when executing this maneuver, always wear safety glasses.
I guess it's obvious that I don't like scales. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I don't like the way many people become slaves to them. Okay, okay, I'll admit that I've dabbled in such slavery in the past. I couldn't help myself; the poor scale was just sitting there patiently in the bathroom, day after day, waiting to perform its sole function in life. I didn't want it to feel unappreciated.
Like just about everything else in life, when used in moderation, the bathroom scale has some value. When misused, however, that quiet little beast is capable of setting off cycles of frustration and despair, or, conversely, joy and jubilant celebration, both of which can trigger episodes of counterproductive eating.
Those of us who log a lot of hours in the gym also know that scales do not tell the whole story. Muscle weighs more than fat, so it's quite possible when engaging in resistance training to see no difference on the scale or even a weight gain. But muscle weight is desirable weight, since muscle is a very metabolically active tissue that burns more calories than fat tissue. Build and maintain enough muscle and you'll become a fat-burning machine even at rest.
I suppose I shouldn't blame the scale for the misuse and misunderstandings. After all, scales don't weigh people — people weigh people. It's human nature to want feedback on our pursuits, and this may never be more true than when we're sweating at the gym every morning or evening in an attempt to get into that swimsuit or wedding gown or the size 6 jeans purchased impulsively in a moment of wild optimism.
But do we really need a scale to tell us how we're doing? I think not. If we're honest with ourselves, most of us know the answer. We can tell by the way our clothes fit, and by how we feel.
Fitness is not a number, it is a feeling, and feelings cannot be weighed.