Why paying attention to weight can be good

A sudden, drastic change in weight can be an indicator that medical attention is necessary.

I do not mean “my weight is up a quarter pound today!”  Nor do I mean “I lost 5lbs in the last few months!”   Small, gradual changes up or down is usually in response to natural goings-on like aging or changes in your daily routine.   For example, I gradually lost 10lbs when I started chasing toddlers working in a day care center in college.    That was small, gradual, and had a reason.

Contrast this with, say, losing 20% of your body weight in 3 months.
…and diet hasn’t changed much.
…and exercise hasn’t increased.
…if anything, it’s decreased, because you’re very, very tired most of the time.
…and you’re also very thirsty…

This happened to an in-law recently.  She was thrilled with her weight loss.   She thought she was finally getting healthy.   Actually she had developed diabetes and her blood sugars were sky-high.

This is just one example of the problems that can cause sudden, drastic weight loss. Sudden, drastic weight gain is also a concern.

I realize that not everyone is comfortable weighing themselves.  Note again this isn’t about changing a pound or two.   Many people can tell by how their clothes fit or looking in the mirror whether one’s weight has changed by a large amount.  If you are comfortable that you would know if you had a sudden change in weight, then scales aren’t really needed.

I don’t trust myself to “automatically” notice.  Why?  Well:  About 12 years ago I had a major depression episode over a few years where I gained 35lbs.  I didn’t notice until I got weighed at my doctor’s office.  The man I was dating at the time  thought I’d gained 10lbs but didn’t mention it to me.  I had thought I might be depressed but not too bad, because I hadn’t gained weight.  Um…no, I just hadn’t noticed.

Then 6 years ago I lost 30lbs on the Atkins diet and nobody noticed* (except me, because I was weighing myself every day).

So yes, I do get on my scale** every few months.  It’s accurate to plus or minus .5%, which means it can easily vary plus or minus 2lbs.  That doesn’t matter for my purposes.  But I know whether my weight is generally stable or not.


*I went down a bra size, but the rest of my clothing still fit fine.   My waist size is 10″ bigger sitting than standing due to my belly, so I am an elastic-waist girl.

**Scales that go to 440lbs or higher are also expensive.  Mine is from Ample Stuff.  Living XL and Oversize Solutions also have scales.

22 thoughts on “Why paying attention to weight can be good

  1. A sudden drastic change in weight in either direction is a cause for concern. Some people seem to understand that about a gain, but loss is just as likely to be a sign that something’s wrong.

    The hard part is getting it taken seriously as a medical question. A friend of mine suddenly ballooned up by over a hundred pounds in the course of one year. Doctor after doctor refused to believe her when she said her eating and activity levels hadn’t changed significantly. It took her more than a year to find one doctor who listened, believed her, and ran the test that showed she had a tumor pressing against her pituitary gland. All the others just handed her diet plans or information on the local WW chapter.

    • Yes – there is so many people yo-yo’ing their weight that it creates a HUGE amount of “noise”. “I gained weight without intending to [after my last diet]” and “I gained weight without intending to” are way too similar. :(

      One acquaintance had his unintentional weight gain turn out to be thyroid cancer :(

  2. You’re right of course and this is yet another reason why weight shame should be abolished as it leads to avoidance in this matter.

    After years of doing it in the past, I left it behind, long before I heard of fat acceptance and I must admit, although I’ve toyed with the idea of weighing myself, I haven’t.

  3. I can attest that sudden weight loss can be a bad thing. I recently lost mad amounts of weight, (though it didn’t go unnoticed because I was having trouble keeping food down) but yeah… trying to convince people that it’s not something to celebrate has been… uh interesting. Only my in-laws, Maude love them, jumped right from “wow, Cassi lost a ton of weight” to “Cassi might be sick! Concern, concern!!”

    I actually weigh myself quite frequently and while I understand why someone with a history of ED or even dieting might want to avoid it, it can offer valuable information iff it can be done judgment-free (does anyone outside the math world use IFF to mean “if and ONLY if”). Nearly every endurance athlete I know weighs themselves both before and after events as a way of watching for dehydration. In some events there are even weigh-stations and if you’ve lost too much as a percentage of your starting weight they’ll pull you off the course (this is common in ultra-marathons and occasionally you see it in shorter races in severe weather). Really anyone who doesn’t weigh a bit more at the end of the day than they do at the beginning might want to spend a minute or two pondering why that would be… it’s not automatically a “bad thing” but it is unusual enough to warrant thinking on for a minute or two. Of course being able to use this sort of information requires that it be just that, information and nothing more. If it represents a moral failure or a character flaw or whatever then it’s useless, because you’re not going to see what the data is telling you.

      • Exactly…. this is what makes me crazy. People (including, indeed especially medical professionals) get so stuck on “normal” ranges that they forget the fundamental thing that normal is the middle of a bell curve that will have lots of people on the tail ends (many of them perfectly healthy). Add that to our obsession with weight and you get a lot of people taking a perfectly mundane, but sometimes interesting statistic and turning it into EITHER the be all and end all of one’s health, the sole determinant of one’s lifespan OR ignoring it completely in order to avoid the insanity that accompanies the former.

        Weight is neither of these things. It’s slightly more interesting health-wise than whether one has blue eyes or brown hair because it’s more often effected by environment and changes in it are more often a signal of other changes in the body (though if your eyes suddenly changed color, I suspect most of us would make a bee-line to the nearest ER!)… BUT to use it as a helpful guide, one must first know what it is, and then STOP PURPOSELY MESSING WITH IT! (sorry, got all cappy there for a second, but if you are messing with your weight (well, not YOU, but people) then it’s not going to tell you much about your changing health status). To do the first one, you have to not be afraid to know your weight. I completely understand why people are, I just wish it weren’t so.

        A less loaded example is heart rate. Mine is high. Even my resting pulse is pretty high for someone who does as much endurance aerobics as I do. If you just gave a snapshot of my RHR to a doctor, they might be tempted to say I’m aerobicly unfit, but if they see my VO2 max, they’d think the opposite. My HR has always been high. It changes as my fitness changes, so it’s not *broken* but it’s… well, it’s a few standard devs from the mean. I know this, so it doesn’t bother me. I can hold a pretty lengthy conversation while exercising with a HR of 160 bpm. That’s weird to most people. For me it’s fine, but I only know this because I collect data and keep my eye open for changes. If suddenly I was breathless at 160, that would be weird for me. It’s all about knowing your own body…

        Which is my long winded way of saying, “yeah, what she said”

  4. THIS!

    About 7 years ago I put on weight for no apparent reason. About 30 pounds in less than a year. Despite being fat and okay with it for years, that 30 pounds felt like my fault. Like there was something I had done wrong and just hadn’t noticed. Last fall I had one of those birthdays that end in zero and my doctor ran a bunch of tests: cholesterol, blood sugar, all kinds of run of the mill stuff. Everything was good except the blood sugar; I was eventually diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It runs in my mother’s family, so it wasn’t a total shock.

    After I started medication and made serious changes in how I eat and the blood sugar started going down, I started to lose weight. Despite actually eating more. It was then that it finally hit me – that 30 pounds was a symptom. It was insulin resistance, not some kind of moral failing on my part.

  5. I had lost quite a few pounds several years back while working as an activities assistant in a nursing home. My diet did not change. Because I was on my feet for nearly 8 hours a day, 5 days a week doing physical activity, my “exercise levels” had changed. The weight loss was not enough to make a significant visual factor, I was still deathfat. During this time, my weight loss was between 4-8 lbs every few months.

    So for relatively 10 years, I have kept a stable weight for the most part. Yes, it’s at a high weight 99% of society doesn’t think is acceptable, but I believe I’m healthier overall for it.

  6. Urgghhh….I really really really don’t like weighing myself. Sometimes I have to, because I feel like I’ve ballooned and then I chekc and it’s exactly the same. But dear god I hate weighing myself.

    The idea that I wouldn’t notice if I put on weight seems unplausible, but then again I put on 7 kilos (13 -15 pounds for you Yanks, I think) without realising until I got home and tried to pull my old jeans on.

    • It depends on where you started, too. When I gained 35lbs without realizing it I went from 350 to 385 – a 10% increase.

      So yeah, I don’t trust myself to notice a 10% increase. But that doesn’t speak for everyone. You may have different experiences ;)

  7. Unfortunately, I can’t handle weighing myself – at least, not emotionally. I have to go by whether or not my clothing fits. Luckily, I’m only 5’4″ and at around a size 12, I will feel it in my clothing (and bras!) if I gain or lose more than a few lbs. This is exactly what happened to me last year. In the course of a couple months, I gained 20 lbs. It seemed so strange, since i was still exercising, eating normally, and walking everywhere. I’ve been tested for basically everything at this point, and I seem to be totally healthy. Blood sugar and insulin are normal, thyroid working fine, cholesterol is good. I have no symptoms of metabolic syndrome or anything like that. It seems like my body just wanted to gain weight. I’m not thrilled, but I’m still healthy…

  8. I weigh myself from time to time for this very reason, and because I am more curious about my weight than anything. I’ve always been really grateful that the number doesn’t bother me too terribly much, because I know it’s a very triggering thing for other people.

    At any rate, I believe the true reason people should be weighed at routine doctor’s visits is this reason — to monitor against a person’s own baseline for sudden inexplicable changes, not to give someone a BMI lecture. If you have an understanding doctor, you can request to be weighed backward and have them note the weight in your chart without telling you what it is.

  9. so i’ve been ill since february, and just yesterday finally got a diagnosis. the nurse weighed me, but didn’t tell me the number. i asked her for funsies, because my husband and family have been telling me i look smaller.

    the nurse told me the number and i just about fell off the scale. i lost about 40 pounds since january. and i do not see the change in my body at all. maybe because i’m so sick?

    i don’t own a scale. the last time i’d weighed myself was mid-january, when i’d felt well enough to go to the gym. so i can definitely appreciate the value of knowing the vague numbers. :)

  10. This is an important post. My mother, obese her entire adult life, was thrilled when, a couple of years ago, she just “lost her appetite” and dropped 60 pounds over a half year by “doing nothing special”. She told anyone and everyone how, by just ‘not eating’, they too could lose weight and be as happy as she was. She bought new clothes, bragged constantly and drove us all crazy.

    Turns out she had ovarian cancer. Diagnosis to death was 9 weeks.

    Ovarian cancer is one of the cancers which takes away your appetite and gives you a feeling of being full all the time. Had she not been so obssessed with losing weight, perhaps she might have stopped to think that ‘weight just dropping off’ like this IS NOT NORMAL.

  11. I have recently gotten to the point where I can step on the scale without tears, but it is certainly a hurdle for some folks!

    I can’t remember where I’ve seen it, but this seems like a situation where the numberless scale could be useful.

    http://kateharding.net/2008/11/24/the-scale-that-isnt/

    (Thanks, Fillyjonk, for the original post!)

    It’s a device that allows you to measure *changes* in body weight, without ever having the face that scary number.

  12. Pingback: March Round-Up « Living ~400lbs

  13. Pingback: Doctors, Doctors, Doctors « Living ~400lbs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s