Getting off the scales

Getting off the scales

We live in a very weight conscious society, which has created an assumption that health ties directly to weight status. Except, the research shows almost the exact opposite. Your weight has very little to do with your health status, up to the higher classifications of obesity.

Why? The main reason is health-promoting behaviours. For example, in a large study, having a higher degree of cardiorespiratory fitness protected subjects against adverse health outcomes, even in subjects who were defined by BMI as ‘Class I Obese’.

In fact, ‘normal’ weight subjects were at a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, than Class I obese subjects if they had low levels of cardiorespiratory fitness.

This has even been extended to other factors, like mental wellbeing, eating more vegetables, eating more oily fish, etc. In effect, the more health-promoting behaviours someone engages in, the less weight becomes an issue.

So why the problems associated with weight? Well, here is where it gets both interesting, and unfair: weight stigmatisation. Research has shown that the effect of weight stigma is that it acts as a mental barrier to people to engaging in health-promoting behaviours. This becomes a vicious cycle, leading to a progressive deterioration in health over time.

There is a sea-change coming in nutrition and health, a kick-back against the Instafabulous “influences” pushing diet scams and body image issues onto the general population. You can kick back too, by refusing to follow or be subjected to that kind of messaging.

Because not only is it scientifically incorrect that we need to be a certain weight to be healthy, it’s also morally unethical to frame health in that way.

So, maybe you need to hear this: but ditch the scales. It is telling you nothing about your health. Want to be healthy? The formula is actually simple: start moving more, preferably outdoors, eat more veg, sleep more, and develop strong social ties.

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