Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Weight Problem- Part 1

Last week, the BIL shot me an email. As you may know, I have started on the endeavor to shed a few pounds in a venture to get down a respectable race weight. The BIL wants in on the action. In a bit of frustration, he wrote to share what an awesome training week he had (which was true) and to announce that he had actually gained weight.

Now, undoubtedly due to my poor reading skills and my manliness desire to fix all problems even if they aren't a problem, I decided to shoot back a 10,000 word essay on the plight of shedding pounds. The BIL was in awe. Mostly because I am a fantastic genius of a writer I had pounded out so much content to answer a question that wasn't asked. He reminded me of something in his response of which I need constant reminders due to the pea-size of my brain: He already knew all of that.

Therefore, my homework assignment off to the BIL was completely wasted until I had this fantastic idea of sharing it with the general public, I.E. You. But, I am going to you a favor and break up the content into manageable pieces. So, here's part 1 in it's embellished entirety:

You and Your Bathroom Scale Suck
One problematic fact about your (or mine or anyone's) weight is that their is no efficient way to measure it. I know, you have a bathroom scale. Step on the flat piece of plastic, wait a second or two, and magically a number appears that will mark your emotional state of being for the day depending on its size in relation to the last time you stepped on. Mine even takes measurement to the next level: it offers a body fat percentage should I ask it politely. Oddly, with this space aged built-in technology, my scale is repeatedly off by 5 pounds as compared to the doctor's office. 

(Not that I would know this, I am a male and don't go to the doctor all that often. However, the Wife is not inflicted with the Male Ego gene and therefore will go to the Dr for her regularly scheduled appointments, physical, obgyn, and now PT for her ailing knee. She has ample data points showing our scale is consistently heavy by 5 pounds. And, like any smart guy in a relationship, I have learned that it's best not to argue the point. She's probably right.)

The scale is not the problem. It is calibrated to measure the pull of the Earth's gravitational field on your body mass mighty nicely (or in my case n+5). You (or me or anyone) are the problem. Our weight fluctuates throughout a single day for a large number of reasons. The main one is water retention. We can't always predict when our body is going to retain water or shed it. There are a few things that we can do to manage our water, such as eating/ avoiding salty food, reading semi-entertaining blogs, exercise habits, stress levels, medications, etc. 

When you weigh yourself at one time and then re-weigh at a different time, you take a gamble on your current level of water retention, which shows up nicely on your scale. Water is a rather heavy molecule. One glass is 8 ounces which is half a pound. You bladder can hold up to about a pound of water. But, this doesn't take into account the excess fluid floating around in your blood, stored in your muscles, embedded in your fat layers, hanging out in your belly, or missing from your brain.

Why I am so focused on the single, most abundant chemical in your body? For one, water is somewhere between 57-75% of your body mass. That's right, you are mostly a saltwater environment ripe for fish to develop an ecosystem. For two, the other major chemicals, commonly referred to as organics, are relatively stable. Your body fat, protein, and carbs are rather consistent in terms of body mass. No amount of exercise will decrease your fat by one pound in a day. No amount of weight lifting will increase your body protein (which we call muscle) by a pound in a day. However, drinking an abundance of liquid can drastically increase your scalar numbers. If that drink is alcohol-based, your body's defense system will send all available water to battle the booze resulting in a net-loss of pounds. The problem is that you aren't any less fat. Or, in the case of the ethanol-soaked goodness, you might actually be more fat than when you started drinking.

Still, you and I are both creatures of habit. Everyday we hop on the scale wanting the number to be different than the time before and think that we have accomplished something when the number is smaller. This method of measurement is destructive in nature. Our weight naturally changes throughout the day, mostly based on our water levels despite how much we hope it's due to a change in the gravitational pull. Our true weight, the one we want to change, remains hidden at all times. We cannot really measure it without that pesky water getting in the way.

Don't worry, it's not all for naught. I will tell you how to measure and get the results you want (though I doubt you'll actually want to do it). The bathroom scale will play an important role in the process, but you'll have to wait until I get down rambling on about the problems before I get to the solution. 

(Keep in mind that the BIL got all of this in one full swoop. You are getting off easy).

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