A couple of weeks ago, I implored you to ditch your scale. You can read why HERE!
Bottom line: A scale can only give us one marginally useful measure: our weight. It can't can’t assess our cellular or metabolic health, or energy levels, or mood or enthusiasm for life.
A scale can be a reasonably useful tool, if you understand its limitations and use it wisely...
But it can also be a terrible and toxic master.
I’ve seen too many otherwise intelligent women allow this one, relatively meaningless number dominate their thoughts, actions and mood. And it’s insanity.
If the number on the scale is causing you distress, or dominating your thoughts, it is probably not a healthy thing to have in your home.
It is important to keep a sensible watch on your health and track any changes over time. But I strongly believe that for many women there are other ways to do this that are less injurious to their emotional wellbeing.
If the number on the scale causes you distress, I recommend you instead check your waist measurement, your waist-to-hip ratio or your waist-to-height ratio.
Our waist measurement provides a far more meaningful assessment of any weight-associated health risks than weight. This is because the fat that accumulates around our waist (also known as Visceral Adipose Tissue or “toxic fat”) is considered a strong predictor for risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and even some types of cancer!
Looking at waist measurement alone: It is recommended that women keep their waist circumference below 80cm, and men keep theirs below 94cm.
When looking at waist-to-hip ratio: It is recommended that women have a ration of <0.8 and men <0.9.
If we look at waist-to-height ratio: It is recommended to keep your waist measurement to less than half your height to reduce your disease risk.
Check these periodically and note any changes over time.
And note that these are all just guidelines. The most important thing is to note changes over time, and view these measures in the context of other important markers of health...
If you want to get a deeper picture of your health and wellbeing:
Get your blood pressure checked. You can do this at your doctor’s office, at your local pharmacy or you can buy an at-home device. Aim to have a blood pressure at or below 120/80 mmHg.
When you visit your local doctor, ask them to assess your cholesterol levels. Your LDL cholesterol levels are a significant indicator of heart attack risk. I will be writing a lot more about this soon, so watch this space!
Ask your doctor for a fasting blood sugar test or an oral glucose tolerance test. This is to see if you may be drifting into insulin resistance or towards type 2 diabetes.
Consider having a DEXA scan done. A DEXA scan is a type of low-level x-ray that can show your body composition - the amount and location of your body fat, lean body mass, and even the density of your bones! They are not cheap, at around $150 per session, but they are considered the “gold standard” method for assessing body composition, and can be incredibly helpful if you want to track changes in body composition over time. DEXA scans an be especially helpful in identifying whether you have visceral adipose tissue (or VAT), sometimes referred to as “toxic fat” as it sits within organs and tissues where it doesn’t belong and where it can wreak metabolic havoc. If you do have VAT and commit to healthy nutrition and lifestyle changes, it can be very satisfying and motivating to see that awful VAT diminish from scan to scan!
Don't forget to check in with yourself:
What are your energy levels like.
How is your mood. Are you enthusiastic about life?
How are you fitting into your clothes? This is a great way of telling if you have gained or lost weight.
Do some squats and push ups. How many can you do? Are you strong enough to do all of the things you want to do?
And are you fit enough to engage on all of the activities you enjoy without getting out of breath?
And most importantly, take a good look at your nutrition and lifestyle:
Are you eating the recommended 5 serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit a day? Only 5% of Australians are, and this is a huge missed opportunity to potect ourselves from an array of serious illnesses including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Are you engaging in healthy movement regularly? I don't have an affinity for exercise, and trust me I've looked for ways to avoid it - but to be healthy we HAVE TO exercise - and we have to do it consistently!
Are you getting enough sleep? Or are you letting yourself down by staying up late watching TV or surfing the net?
Are you making an effort to manage your stress? This is a non-negotiable if you want to optimise your health and wellbeing!
We can't always control the "outputs" of our lifestyle, but we CAN control our "inputs" - things like a balanced, nutritious diet, regular healthy movement, improving our sleep and stress management. And trust me, if you consistently focus on these healthy "inputs", you will be rewarded with healthier "outputs" like a longer, healthier life!
Just remember, health and wellbeing is about SO MUCH MORE than a number on a scale - and so are you!!!
Check out this fascinating article for some more non-weight indicators of health and mortality risk.
Ashwell M, Gunn P, Gibson S. Waist‐to‐height ratio is a better screening tool than waist circumference and BMI for adult cardiometabolic risk factors: systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity reviews. 2012 Mar 1;13(3):275-86.
Cameron AJ, Magliano DJ, Söderberg S. A systematic review of the impact of including both waist and hip circumference in risk models for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and mortality. Obesity Reviews. 2013 Jan 1;14(1):86-94.
Ashwell M, Gibson S. A proposal for a primary screening tool:Keep your waist circumference to less than half your height’. BMC medicine. 2014 Nov 7;12(1):1.
Ashwell M, Gibson S. Waist-to-height ratio as an indicator of ‘early health risk’: simpler and more predictive than using a ‘matrix’ based on BMI and waist circumference. BMJ open. 2016 Mar 1;6(3):e010159.
Zhang YX, Zhao JS, Chu ZH. Waist to sitting height ratio may be a new useful index for screening obesity and related health risk. International journal of cardiology. 2015 May 6;187:126-7.
Ashwell, Margaret, and Sigrid Gibson. "A proposal for a primary screening tool:Keep your waist circumference to less than half your height’." BMC medicine 12.1 (2014): 1.