Thursday, April 6, 2017

Some thoughts on weight, health and BMI

Every once in a while, I come on here and talk a bit about my personal weight loss (and gain, and loss, and gain, and loss, etc.) journey, in the hopes that it will be somewhat interesting to you and that you'll at least read past the headline.

This is one of those days.

I went to my Weight Watchers meeting last Saturday and got back to within two pounds of my goal as a Lifetime Member, which means I don't have to pay to come to meetings and to access the E-Tools on my iPhone that allow me to look up the point values of various foods, track my eating and activity, etc. It's a nice little incentive to stay at or around your goal weight: Eat too much and you end up paying.

My weight losses have always been followed by weight gains. It's a reality that many, many people face, and that I may face for the rest of my life, I don't know. But looking back over just the last nine years, I've had significant weight losses at the following times and gained much or all of the weight back each time:

2008: Lost about 30 pounds, gained it all back by 2010

2011: Lost 15 pounds or so, gained it all back by 2012

2013: Lost something like 45 pounds, gained 25 of it back by early 2016

2016: Lost that 25 I had gained back PLUS 25 more. Yes, a 50-pound swing, though that took me down into the mid-160s by last fall and, honestly, as much as it pains me to say this, that was just too much.

2017: By the early part of this year, I had gained 25 of the pounds back again, and now I'm starting to lose it again.

I weighed in at 186.4 this morning (Saturday, April 1st), a figure that would surprise many people just looking at me. I don't look like I weigh 186 pounds, though I will say that much of it is in my legs. I've told you before that we Tennants carry a lot of weight in our thick English-German calf and thigh muscles.

Still, I really don't think I'm quite yet at a medically ideal weight. What that weight should be, though, constantly baffles me. It's not 165, but it's also not 185.

"Hey, Scott, here's a thought: How about splitting the difference and stopping at 175?"

Yes, yes, you're probably right. It's just that I have a hang-up about being in the "overweight" or "obese" section of the Body Mass Index (BMI) charts.

People attack the BMI scale all the time, claiming it's unrealistic. But I think that's because most people don't understand exactly what BMI is.

BMI is not a set of numbers designed to make you feel like a fat slob. As I understand it, it's simply a table based on straight actuarial data. It's telling you, in essence, "Look, you do what you want. We're just saying that people under this particular weight for your height tend to die early a lot less often than people who are over that weight. That's it. That's all we're saying. It may seem like an unrealistic number to you, but the stats are the stats."

Yes, I know that people who are especially muscular get thrown unfairly into the overweight/obese category on the BMI chart. I understand it's not perfect. I'm just saying its purpose is really only to show you how likely you are to suffer an early death based on your height and weight. There are, and always will be, exceptions.

Of course, there are many things that contribute to being "healthy," and maintaining a proper weight is just one of them. But it's an important one, to be sure. For my height (5-9 1/2), I don't enter the "normal" weight zone on the BMI chart unless I'm under 172 pounds. My 186 weigh-in this morning puts me at about 27.1 (under 25 is healthy/normal). A 27.1 BMI is classified as "overweight."

Do with that information what you will. We all have to make our own decisions. I'm just having a hard time balancing the medical "hey, you're in good shape" with the subjective "hey, you look too gaunt" from family and friends.

The more important question I should be asking myself is how I'm going to go about maintaining that true goal weight once I get there. And I'm looking into that now. A different maintenance philosophy and a whole lot of prayer seem to be the preferred strategy.

One key thing for me, as Terry told me countless times as I refused to listen, is that I need to show up at weekly Weight Watchers meetings. I just have to. They keep me accountable and motivated. When I stop going, I gain weight. It's a simple pattern, not hard to recognize, yet time and again I try to do it on my own. Dumb.

OK, I've written more than I should have on this. I wanted to talk about healthy eating apart from weight, but you know what? I'll do that in tomorrow's post. I really need to go grab an apple (and not a Twinkie) right now.

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