Saturday, August 12 2023
Why is body weight so seemingly important? The number on the scale, just like a blood pressure reading or resting heart rate, is quantifiable and tangible. Take a minute to reflect on the clients you’ve trained throughout your career. How many were motivated by a goal of weight loss? Compare that to those who sought your services to feel better, sleep better, improve cognitive function, feel more productive at work or remodel a current lifestyle. The former likely “outweighs” the latter. Weight loss may be an outcome of positive behavioral modification. However, weight gain or loss is not, by itself, a measure of health and fitness.
In the absence of other measurements, the number on the scale represents one thing: a person’s individual relationship with the earth’s gravitational pull. This is not to minimize the value of identifying and monitoring a client’s body weight. Instead, it is meant to highlight the value of looking at the bigger picture.
An evolving body of literature encourages health and exercise professionals to monitor more than body weight and/or BMI. Although weight control is important for reducing one’s risk for cardiovascular disease and other hypokinetic diseases, studies have uncovered additional and potentially more telling information about mortality risk factors. For example, a 2016 study examining fitness, fatness, and mortality revealed that reduced exercise capacity is a powerful predictor of mortality risk, whereas BMI was less influential (McAuley et al., 2016). Further, a recent study conducted by York University found that, regardless of body weight, fitter individuals were less likely to develop high blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglycerides when compared to less-fit study participants (Do et al., 2017).
What does this mean for health and exercise professionals? It means we are uniquely positioned (and supported by an ever-growing body of research) to communicate the value of achieving non-scale victories.
For example, Lee Jordan, an ACE Certified Health Coach and Behavior Change Specialist, makes it a point to encourage and nurture his clients’ non-scale successes. “If I want to see oranges hanging off the branches of my tree, I must ensure that I have not planted an apple tree. As a health coach, if I want my clients to see beyond the scale for victories, then I must ensure that we have planted the seed to do so. Non-scale victories begin in the early stages of health coaching as I assist clients in discovering and cultivating their wellness vision to be more than a number on a scale or a garment.”
Jordan continues by offering some of the non-scale victories his clients have shared with him. “The first time they could fly and only have to buy one airline seat rather than two; being able to coach his son’s baseball team; being able to hold the door open for his wife; being able to ride a roller coaster because she can fit in the seat; being able to sit in furniture without fear of breaking it. People think the number on the scale is what they seek, but it’s not,” explains Jordan. “They seek what they believe it represents, which differs for each person. As a health coach, part of my responsibility is to recognize that my clients know themselves the best, and I am only there to help them connect the dots on who they are and who they want to be.”
Health and exercise professionals can start planting the seeds of non-scale success by consciously and comprehensively evaluating aspects of fitness lifestyle. Consider asking clients questions such as: