10.22.2008

#98 - Numbers

We are surrounded by numbers in our everyday lives. We always talk about numbers: days, weeks, months, years, hours, minutes, seconds, phone numbers, clothes size, number of calories, 8 glasses of water a day, 5 fruits and veggies, percentages at the polls, electoral college votes, the national debt! 99 bottles of beer on the wall? OK maybe a stretch, but you get the idea. Numbers, numbers, numbers! I hate that we are consumed by them!

It's no wonder we are all so fixated on weight, the number I mean. We are constantly surrounded by numbers and we're always making little calculations throughout the day. Who hasn't thought about (or been told what should be) their ideal weight. But are we striving for the right number? Do know where those height and weight charts originally came from? An insurance company!!! Metropolitan Life Insurance Company first developed these height and weight charts back in 1943, which were then revised in 1983. How objective could they have been when doing their calculations? When they came up with these tables they called them desirable weights, meaning that at this weight you had the lowest risk of mortality. Remember this is a life insurance company, they DON'T want you to die, therefore the weight ranges are very conservative. Somewhere along the way these desirable weights became ideal weights, and they've stuck ever since. Here's something that may surprise you. Those height and weight charts specify your weight in clothes (add 3 pounds for women, 5 pounds for men) with 1" heels on. I guess I should have been looking at the 5'7" ranges instead of 5'6" all these years. Who knew? But I have to admit there is some validity to these charts. They do give you weight ranges for the lowest mortality rates. But I think we sometimes take these numbers too seriously and literally. Not everyone fits into the same mold. Clearly there are different frame sizes, different builds, muscle volume, etc. I think you need to find a weight where you are happy and healthy AND it's a weight you can maintain.

Another little random fact about numbers... do you know the origin of the claim that we need to drink 8 glasses of water a day? No one else does either. It's a myth! Of course it's healthy to stay hydrated, but 8 glasses? There is no scientific proof that much is needed! One paper studied this very question (8x8 article). They couldn't find the origin either, but quoted the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council from 1945, which stated, "A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 liters daily in most instances. An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 milliliter for each calorie of food [about 8 glasses a day, in other words]. Most of this quantity is contain in prepared foods." Sure they say drink 8 glasses, but right there they state you get most of this from your food. For some reason the 8 glasses rule stuck after this. I still think it's good to drink a lot of water every day, just maybe not THAT much. For one, it's hard to get in all that water every day, and two, you have to pee all damn day! But alas, there are health benefits to a high liquid intake. The prevalence of many cancers, like urinary cancer and colorectal cancer, are reduced in people who drink a lot, and heart disease seems to improve with increased intake. Also water is filling, if you are drinking that much, you probably are eating less, which can definitely help you lose weight. So while the benefits are there, that end all be all number of 8 glasses a day is bogus.

So back to these numbers... my numbers... I try very hard to not concentrate so much on weight, the actual number. I like to think more about progress in terms of how my clothes fit or how good I'm feeling. But even I fall under the spell of my scale as I hypnotically weigh myself, waiting for my defining number to appear. I'm sure you remember me talking about my "magic scale". I have this scale that is WAY off from the doctor's office scale. It's my weight in fairy dream land.. in other words, it weighs me about 30 pounds lighter. Gotta love that, right? Well, in my journey for wellness, part of it has been coming to terms with things in my life and living with a little less denial. That being said... it was time for the magic scale to go.

I've lost 80 pounds (yes, I know, another number). No scale can change that. Sure the number may be a little higher than I thought, but that also means the starting number was higher too. I still have lost 80 pounds! I actually had to make two trips to buy a new bathroom scale. Trip #1 consisted of me heading to the scale section of the department store, trying out a few scales, lowering my head in shame, and walking out to my car and crying. It really hit me hard to see the "real" number on the scale. It was jarring. Well, I managed to muster up the courage and made the attempt again. I put on my emotional blinders, muttering my mantra, "I've lost 80 pounds, I've lost 80 pounds...", and made a bee-line for the scales. I again tried out a couple. Usually when picking out a house-hold item, I hem and haw about the features, the price, the design, whatever, I'm picky I guess. But this time, I plunked a couple scales onto the ground, stepped on a few, took a deep breath, and grabbed one off the shelf and whisked it into my cart with little effort or thought. Like a bandaid, I just had to tear away the magic scale from my life in one fail swoop! With new scale in hand, I'm ready to continue my journey to a healthier me... a little more accurately.

17 comments:

elife said...

80 Pounds! Wow. As for your "new" weight, you are still the same size you were on this scale as on your old scale. Just think Spinal Tap, "This one goes to 11."

Liz said...

Those are so pretty interesting factoids about the Met Life chart! One-inch heels, huh? I tend to veer wildly between flat shoes and 5-inch platforms.... wonder what they would have made of me ;).

Losing Waist! said...

Wow! I just recently found your blog... NUMBERS SUCK!
I relate to this- everyday is a new day to face numbers. You hit it on the head! Numbers can ruin my day. If I step on the scale in the morning and find I have not lost weight or even weigh MORE- or if I count calories and go "over" what my goal is... My whole day revolves around that terrible number.
Don't even get a fat girl started on the BMI standards! It is interesting to hear about the history of it though!

Thank you for your site! Its like reading all of my woes in one place.

"Rosie Young" said...

Hey
Come and check out my blog. I think you'll find me strangely familiar, as if we know each other under different names.
But keep my secret, okay?
-Rosie
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Charlie Hills said...

I just ran across this blog and saw you were on post #98. Does that mean three more and you're done? I just got here. ;)

Kimberly said...

Wow...fascinating stuff.

I've always thought math was a four letter word. Since becoming fat? That belief has pretty much just quadrupled.

Once upon a time people burned books out of stupidity. Some day, I'd like to burn my scale because I'll have made enough intelligent choices not to want it anymore.

Someday.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny,
You are a wonderful person! I can certainly read between the lines and already you have the kind of wit and humor that is important in life. Don't give up the battle! You are right, we spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about thinness. My weight has been steadily creeping up. I periodically worry and then try to eat less, right, whatever. We all have to accept ourselves and then let it go.

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