Shed Your Scales

You watch your diet, take up jogging, and don’t even look at pictures of high-fat goodies. After a month, you hop on the scale and find you’ve lost a whopping three pounds.

It’s enough to make a grown person cry. But Christine Jagerson, a registered dietitian in St. Paul, Minn. recently conducted a study with people with type 2 diabetes to prove that what the scale says isn’t always a good measure of health.

In Jagerson’s report, she writes, “Many clients have been led to believe that the scale, which measures a person’s total body weight (muscles, organs, bones, and body fluids) is an indicator of good health. However, the scale cannot differentiate between fat pounds and muscle pounds…It is the percentage of fat tissue in the body rather than the scale weight that determines good health and physical fitness.”

In her study, the participants were weighed and measured around their hips and waists. They then followed individualized meal plans, exercised, and monitored their blood glucose. After three months, they were weighed and measured again. Fourteen of the 19 participants had a reduction in weight, and 12 of those 14 had a decreased hip measurement. Three of the 19 gained weight, but of those three, two had a reduction in waist size and one decreased around the hips.

Jagerson hopes the study will help doctors, educators, and people with diabetes understand that there is more to fitness than we have been led to believe. Although a high number on the scale isn’t desirable, a low number doesn’t necessary mean you’re in good shape. Jagerson writes, “Although scale weight is an almost universal practice, it is not critical to the achievement of the objectives of diabetes management.”

This research was presented at the 22nd Annual Meeting and Educational Program of the AADE in Boston, August 1995.

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