Where I Finally Learn The Lessons About The Scale and BMI That You All Accepted A Long Time Ago (PART 1)

You know how everyone is always like, “Ignore the scale!” and I’m always like, “Yeah! Ignore the scale! One month I lost a pant’s size and didn’t lose a pound!”

Well…

I don’t ignore the scale.

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks of emotional eating. I was down to 136 (Yay!) for about a week before my marathon and then got stressed, binged, and am now back up to 143.

I’m revealing actual numbers, something I’ve never done before, because this last week or so has been really eye-opening about just that: NUMBERS.

It started with this article from Holly. She got a body composition done (something I want to do ASAP now) and then compared that to what Weight Watchers told her was her “ideal body weight”. Holly does cross-fit and values her hard-earned muscles as much as I value my own. She found out that she had more muscle mass than the bottom of that “ideal body weight” zone that Weight Watchers gave her. Even if she wanted to hit the TOP of that zone, that would still only allow her 13% body fat. Obviously, she knew she needed to completely ignore that “ideal body weight” zone and change her approach.

Here’s the thing: I am super-proud of my muscles. I, like Holly, have no desire to lose them. So, my “goal weight” is basically something I’m aiming for where those muscles that I’ve worked so hard to build, are not hidden by fat. I don’t have to see every curve of every muscle at rest, but I’d like a flat belly so I could show off my awesome abs (because I know they’re down there somewhere) once in awhile. So, how does one determine their goal weight? I don’t really know what my goal weight is, I just know it’s lighter than me now. Not much lighter…I don’t think…but less than 136 because when I was at that weight 2 months ago, I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Maybe my goal weight is 130? That was kinda where my mind was when I started doing a bit more reading.

You know how everyone says, “Ignore the BMI! It’s stupid if you have any muscle mass!”

Well…

I looked up my BMI thinking it would be a good place to start.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I’m OVERWEIGHT? HAVE YOU SEEN ME? I mean, I know I talk about losing those last few pounds, but that’s just to get me to the point where my body shows that I run 30+ miles a week and do boot camp 4-5 times a week. I want to have a body that I can show off as proof of how hard I work, but I don’t think I’m “overweight” by any means. I’m just not quite where I want to be. Let me show you me NOW and me THEN.

The first picture was in 2009, soon after my Dad died. Before I started boot camp or running. That girl? I would have called her overweight. Not obese, but overweight. The girl on the right? Granted – she knows how to stand perfectly to accentuate her features and suck in her flab, but she’s not at all overweight. Nowhere close. So, I finally get what the fitness world has been telling me forever: SCREW BMI.

What people have written about time and time again – that BMI is a horrible indicator of fitness or health – I finally agree. WHOLE-HEARTEDLY.

One obvious lesson down…one more to go.

I started thinking about those two bodies up there. And I started thinking about their numbers. Do you want to know the weight difference between those two bodies?

FOURTEEN POUNDS.

That’s it! 14lbs. On the scale, that’s the only difference. But..according to the CDC? The BMI is barely any different between both of those bodies.

And to me? THAT IS INSANE. Do you know the real difference between those bodies? Because to me it’s a lot more than fourteen pounds. Let me tell you what the body on the right can do:

  • Run a marathon
  • Do full push-ups, at least 25, without stopping.
  • Do 20lb one-arm shoulder presses.
  • Do at least 30 burpees without stopping.
  • Plank for two minutes.
  • The Ab Ripper X from P90X and not stop once.

I mean, that body can do way more than those 14lbs lets on. And you know what else? That’s THREE PANTS SIZES.

So…the more I thought about it…the more it really started to hit me. The second lesson the fitness world keeps telling me but I’m hesitant to actually learn: THE SCALE IS FULL OF CRAP.

I started thinking about my real goals. I know that part of my goal is for my me to lose enough of the excess body fat so I’m comfortable working out in just a sports bra, and to where you could see the shape of the muscles in my arms without me flexing. Basically – I want to have one of those bodies that I could show up to a race in a sports bra and the world would know: Yep. She works out. Because, you know what? I’m proud that I work out! Is that vain? Maybe. But, it’s like a pricey piece of jewelry. Or an expensive handbag. You don’t own those things so that they can stay in your closet or your bathroom, you own them so you can wear it around and show off that you own it. There are things we’re all vain/superficial about. My thing is? I want to be able to show off the awesome muscles I’ve spent 2 years working on.

I’m close over most of my body. I love my legs. My arms are almost there..If I flexed right now? You’d see my killer arm muscles. My belly is the place I have left to lose. If I could focus all of my weight loss on my belly and a tiny bit on my arms, I’d probably only need to lose a bit more. But we all know that you can’t choose where the weight comes off.

So…while I learned the lesson about BMI, I was still stressing about my GOAL WEIGHT. What the SCALE SAYS. Because – you know – I’m still quite slow.

I started thinking about the last time I was happy with my body. It was my wedding day. I was in decent shape, I had good muscle tone, and was thin enough that when I wore a bikini on my Familymoon, you could see my abs. But here’s the thing…my wedding day weight is no where near attainable because, while I did have muscle tone, my muscles were not as big as they are now. And remember? I don’t want to lose muscle. And I started thinking about what I weighed on my wedding day and then, suddenly, it hit me. My body now? Is closer in weight to the 2009 body above, than the weight of my wedding day. Let me show you a comparison:

Now, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the wedding picture wasn’t too far off from the NOW picture in the middle. I’d guess to say that there was MUCH MORE poundage difference between the first two photos than the second two. If I had to guess which direction the me NOW (middle picture) swayed on the weight scale I’d guess it swayed closer to the me of my wedding day. Well…here it is…by the numbers:

So, basically there’s TWICE the weight difference between the last two pictures as between the first two. Which is just BULLSHIT. There is NO WAY that I would ever believe there was 35lbs between those two bodies, if I hadn’t lived it. You know what this means, don’t you? I mean, there’s no way I want to weigh 108 pounds, do you know how much muscle I’d lose? I’VE WORKED HARD FOR THOSE POUNDS. In other words, comparing those bodies by just their weights proves something once and for all:

THE SCALE IS BOGUS!

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! Kim finally learns (and believes) the lessons people have been telling her for ages. If you really want to monitor your fitness level and your weightloss goals, you need to ignore BMI and the scale and find more concrete ways to measure progress.

Now that it’s only take me several years to truly realize what many of you have known all along…I’m going to start a new plan. In order to keep from boring you terribly today, I’ll tell you the plan tomorrow. In the meantime – can you tell me what tools you use to track caloric intake? Part of my plan involves logging everything and I’ve found fault with some of the tools I’ve found (I’ll get into more of that tomorrow). So, if you could tell me what you use, that would be great!

Part 2 is here.

25 Comments

  • Heather@YSP

    I am seriously considering throwing out my scale for all of these reasons. I got on the scale the other day, after weeks and weeks of ignoring it (and, by the way, going to the gym 4+ times a week and really focusing on strength) and saw a gain. Despite knowing I was making the right choices, it totally sent me into a funk and I spent the entire day depressed. I am SO trained to read success by the scale. So now? I’m never getting back on that damn thing, since even though I’ve “gained”, my size 12s are getting roomier. And BMI? According to BMI, I’m OBESE. And true or not, that word makes me feel like sh*t, so I choose to ignore it to maintain my pride and barely there, just emerging body confidence.

  • Amber

    Yep! I’m your height and about 10 lbs heavier than you on a good day. I have some fat to lose but overall I’m still in a good shape. BMI is a dirty liar.

  • Sarah Lena

    This is why I love my doctor. I went to him in October, distressed about my weight. “My BMI says I’m OBESE,” I sobbed.

    He took blood tests, had me do a pulmonary function test, did a cardio test.

    I scored ACES on all of them (except the pulmonary function .. hey, look, I’m asthmatic!). He said, “Your body? Is fine. Better than fine. Relax about your weight.”

    (I would just like to feel better in a swimsuit, if we’re being honest here.)

  • Roberta

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES! I am also 5’3″, and at my fittest, when I was marathon training, could run 17+ miles and have it feel easy, I weighed in the 140 lb. range. I’m 39, and have had one kid, who’s now 3. The last time I was under 130 was ….was….wow. Probably when I was in my early 20’s, and metabolism was way on my side, and there was no weird stretched out skin from babies. I worked out regularly, and was decently fit, but not marathon shape. I have big boobs and muscular legs, which BMI never accounts for. It’s just my build. A fit, healthy weight for me, where I’m a good balance of muscle mass and not too much fat is about 133-135. I’ve been lighter, but I wasn’t as fit. I’d rather be strong, than thin and weak, thanks.

  • Aunt Gee

    I thought BMI had to be calculated by a physician after running a series of tests in order to get an accurate reading? Is that not true? Or is it all just bogus?

    I gained 12 pounds when I went to the doctor. I was TERRIFIED. I hadn’t eaten anything out of the norm for me. Then I realized it was Zumba booty. I had been doing Zumba, which really works the lower part of your body… and I had built muscle. I still wear all of my same clothes though I did gain inches around my behind (hence, Zumba booty). I’ve moved onto Cardio Dance and am building muscles in my legs too (my jeans are getting tight!). I don’t mind the extra inches of muscle, because as little as I am, I need something to help me survive in case I ever have to compete in the Hunger Games… I’ll be ready to Zumba their faces off!

    • zoot

      From the way it’s been explained to me, BMI is strickly a mathematical formula that only factors in weight, height, and age. However, every one tells me the percent body fat, or lean muscle quantity (two numbers done with tons of tests) are the way to go in a body composition analysis. I want to find someplace local to do that!

  • Lisa

    My BMI says I’m normal and I get winded walking up one flight of stairs. So winded I can’t talk. BMI definitely isn’t an indication of your fitness level.

    You’ve done a great job illustrating that a weight doesn’t LOOK a particular way, which we (people) seem to have trouble remembering. Weight is a measurement, it’s a number on the scale, a specific measurement that doesn’t *look* a particular way at all, no matter what the magazines tell us. Though they definitely try, with covers saying this celebrity weighs this, and that celebrity weighs that, we start thinking this is what 130 pounds looks like. No, 130 pounds doesn’t really look like anything in particular. You can have 130 pounds of limes, 130 pounds of tequila, 130 pounds of gold, 130 pounds of person, they all look different.

  • Monica

    This is an awesome post…thank you very much! There is a huge difference in those first two pictures, but the main thing I see in that first one is how sad you are, not the extra pounds. You look so great and you are so fit, so it is quite an eye-opener to know that even BMI calls you overweight. What a joke. I certainly won’t pay attention to that anymore.

    I have lost a lot of weight but I am still in bad shape. I was at a street fair and this woman gave me info on some kind of new procedure that sculpts your fat off without surgery. She kept looking pointedly at my belly as she did it, and I wanted to smack her. I tell every one that’s my “little pooch where I keep my cookies.” (The New Girl)

  • Lori

    I use Fitday. I started again this week after the birth of my son 3 months again and I find this inspiring! Love you Kim!

  • Holly

    Preach it, sister!

    I really enjoy reading this epiphany from fitness oriented people because seriously the more I see it, the easier it is for me to believe. Isn’t that sad? It’s like, I KNOW BETTER, but I still have to talk myself down from scale obsession actively. But you’re right, being proud of your muscles is where it’s at! And if that means I have to do the mental work to be okay with a higher number on the scale, well I’LL TAKE IT! 🙂

    Congrats on all of your successes! You are smokin’ lady, and a fitness inspiration!

  • Katy

    I’m glad you’ve finally figured it out. It took me years too but you know what has made me stop caring? Running. This body I have now is strong, healthy and can run for miles. I can also eat where as when I was 10lbs lighter, I barely ate a thing just because I was so obsessed with hitting 130lbs. I don’t use the scale any more and I don’t ever plan to. My goal now is to keep my fitness level improving and run a marathon next Spring. Scale watching never did me any favours and I feel so much better without it.

  • Kim

    My BMI says that I am obese. Yes, I have weight to lose. But I would consider myself overweight, not obese. I have told myself that I am not allowed to step on the scale for a few months for your exact reason – the muscle I’m gaining weighs more than the fat I’m losing. Plus, water retention. My body fluxtuates in weight as much as 5 pounds a day from water retention.

    For caloric intake, I use loseit.com Some of my friends prefer myfitnesspal, but I”ve really liked loseit. To me, it’s an easier system to use. I’m glad you made this post, because it helped me reiterate in my mind what I”ve been trying to tell myself the past few days.

  • Kathleen

    YAY! I have no tools for you, but one thought: my boss is a worlds-level velodrome cycling racer and former bodybuilder. By the BMI? He’s morbidly obese. All muscle.

  • Jessica

    I use livestrong.com to track calories. The way it’s set up you can also add in your activity or workout for the day and it’ll give those calories back to you as additional calories to use on food (of course, you don’t have to use them).

    I love reading about your fitness transformation and reading about how you still have the same hangups that I, someone with much less strength and endurance, do. It’s nice to be able to connect with someone like you… it makes me feel like I could do what you do. Your words are very empowering. 🙂 You go girl!

  • chrystal

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I really needed to be reminded of this. Also, you look amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!! Way to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Denise

    Amen! You look great! I worry about how I look and what muscles i can see. I never weigh myself. I don’t even own a scale. I am proud of my muscles and the hard work that I have put into earning them. Screw BMI! BMI is almost as bad as the media’s promotion of skinny actresses. Catergorizing everyone as obese in a certain BMI range based soley on numbers and not a person’s personal fitness level, etc. is setting someone up to always feel like a failure.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  • Genie

    This whole post is awesome and you rock for posting real numbers we can all sink our teeth into. I started running and lost no weight at all but I’m so STRONG! So this makes me feel better. 🙂

  • Tracy

    CLAP. CLAP. CLAP. CLAP.

    You have nailed this so hard that all other posts about this should link here.

    I only wish I were back at the middle picture of my life. Last year I was basically where you are–really proud of myself and “almost there”–I’m kicking myself now for not just enjoying it more, because 10 pounds crept back on like it was nothing. But it doesn’t look like nothing!