Scaling back the scale

Scaling back the scale

Losing weight in a short period of time seems like a default New Year's resolution for many people, especially women. The majority of these resolutionists face defeat just a few weeks later.

Why does the scale so often win?

"People become obsessed about the scale in a negative way and get involved in diets and weight-loss programs that revolve around the subjective number on this device," says Bill Macy, director of the Avamere Health and Fitness Club in Medford. "Measuring internal health changes that are more long-lasting — like lower blood pressure and a higher lean mass — lead to better health."

For a bigger chance at success, consider a wellness program that's less about the scale and more about sustainable, positive lifestyle changes. Avoid most commercial diets and eating programs, which are largely designed to make money and create a sense of dependence.

"Look at the program's track record and find out who funded the studies," recommends Macy. "Do they really have a credentialed exercise professional guiding the exercise component? A credentialed nutritionist addressing those issues? Or is it designed to promote the weight-loss industry?"

Your self-paced or professional wellness program should start by obtaining your initial baseline weight, resting heart rate and blood pressure. Also complete a body composition test to determine fat versus lean mass, often called "anthropomorphic measurements" of the circumference of the body so you can track changes in size.

"These are more objective, measurable ways to determine positive changes," says Macy.

It doesn't take a huge change to succeed at fitness and wellness; it just takes the willingness to commit to the small changes.

"What that really says is you need to be self-responsible; you can't blame it on anyone else," says Macy.

Use these tips to shift toward a more healthy attitude about weight and wellness — in January and for the rest of your life.

  • Be realistic. It takes a good three months to effect real, healthy, long-lasting behavioral change in the form of wellness. "To expect change in one or even two months, I say don't waste your time or money," Macy posits.
  • Identify your obstacles. Is it going out to eat? Too much busy work at home? Feeling like you don't deserve better health? Before you can be successful, you have to know what's blocking you. Then take responsibility for it — your life right now, at this moment, is not anybody else's fault or responsibility. "Once you reach that level of great self-responsibility and commitment, it becomes easy," assures Macy.
  • Baby steps. Adopting positive wellness attitudes and behaviors comes slowly. Think of it as learning to walk: First you've got to figure out how to get on your knees, then get your balance, then take a step, then two steps. "Then you might fall or need to hang onto something," says Macy. "But before long, you'll be playing tackle football."
  • Track your successes. Did you call to get prices at the gym? Take a short walk twice this week? Good for you. Now set your next goals a little higher for the next week or month.
  • Ignore media messaging about weight loss and body image. Most of it is designed to promote the multibillion-dollar diet industry and doesn't work.
  • Kick out the crap. Processed foods are an addiction, so avoid diet plans that sell them and do not bring them into your kitchen.
  • Avoid deprivation. "Eat real food and eat more of it," counsels Macy. "When people do this, they're amazed when they get results."
  • Treat yourself. Six days a week, stay with your program — you'll feel satiated and good. "On the seventh day, live a little," Macy says. "Have some dessert."

And remember: You, not the scale, are the boss of your health.

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