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What are your measurements?: The Set up

January 26, 2010

What you really want to know is how much. Who gives a damn about macronutrient ratios, if you can only tell me how many calories I need to gain/lose weight, then I’ll do it. Doesn’t matter if those calories are all fat, protein or carbs (ideally they’d be chocolate), as long as there is a numerical prescription to follow. What is enough – 1500 calories? What’s too much – 2500? Just tell me already and I’ll do it!

We’ve had it drummed into our heads that caloric intake is the determinant of “weight” control. We can’t shake this preoccupation with caloric quantification despite abundant proof to the contrary.

Why weight? Why do we care so damned much about how much we weigh? Who decided on that as the king shit unit of measurement? How much information do we learn from stepping on a scale? In absolute terms, relatively little. It doesn’t tell us how many of those pounds are fat, bones, organs, water, muscle or poop. If I weigh 117 pounds this morning and 119 pounds tomorrow morning, does that really mean what I fear it means: I got fatter?

Let’s dismiss weight as our top method of measurement. Let’s ask a better question: Have I gained/lost muscle/fat? I think we can all agree that, in general, a more appropriate goal is to lose fat and gain muscle. Folded into that goal are issues of performance, longevity, health and aesthetics. It’s what we really mean when we step on a scale. Weight should take its place as a supporting role in the overall picture you have of yourself.

I am not a scientist. In fact I have a very limited background in science, so forgive me if my thoughts are a bit crude, but I think I understand enough to surmise that this whole notion of consuming calories is somewhat of a fallacy, especially in regard to being fat or lean. A calorie is a measurement of energy. We use energy to thrive. I get that. But the way caloric energy operates in a petri dish must be different from how it operates within the complex chemistry of the human body. This pure unit of measurement seems a mediocre reference point when asking questions pertaining to gaining or losing muscle and fat. In fact, there are plenty of studies concluding that WHAT you eat is a far more important determinant of body composition than HOW MUCH.

Over several posts, I intend to investigate the connection between macronutrient intake, exercise and body composition. This is a mother of a topic that I cannot hope to cover exhaustively, so consider this series a primer. For the time being, I hope I’ve begun to get you questioning these crutches we’ve been using. It’s time for a paradigm shift if we want to affect change in our bodies and our lives.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2010 11:31 pm

    Looking forward to the next posts on this!

  2. Laurel permalink
    January 27, 2010 8:22 am

    “king shit unit of measurement” – good line.

  3. Charlotte permalink
    January 27, 2010 10:24 am

    This sooo resonates. When I was pregnant I was fascinated by my weight gain patterns; between 20 weeks and 35 weeks I gained no weight at all, but yet Linus grew just fine. “What” is the right question, indeed.

  4. Kevin Steinmuller permalink
    January 27, 2010 1:40 pm

    Nice post Margie, well stated. Throw out our your scale.

    Two things to reiterate this point: Upon rising, I drink a quart of water, shot of fish oil, some kimchee and 3-4 eggs, all washed down with a 16oz cup of tea. If I weighed myself pre & post breakfast (and i have tried this) I am plus 3-4 pounds 30 minutes after rising…imagine how much I’d weigh by noon! That number would scare most who live and die by the scale.

    Second thing – there is no better example of society’s OBSESSION with weight than Biggest Loser, which only promulgates this adherence to what the scale is reading. These people (while they work very hard) more or less starve themselves for money! I mean, they need major life changes and I guess it takes an extreme effort, BUT if you really want to win and lose the most weight (not bodyfat) then you better keep your body catabolic and do 4 hours of training a day! The goal is to lose weight thus, it incentivizes you not build muscle mass! Oh, and count calories. Because that’s how you lose weight the most efficiently. My favorite is when they check in the past winners…never a good thing. Am I endorsing the show by watching? Sorry, very entertaining.

    Thanks, again for the post, well said!

  5. nicole permalink
    January 30, 2010 3:19 pm

    I threw out my scale in november, it was a liberating day.

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