Friday, September 6, 2013

To Weigh or to Measure? (FAQ Friday)

As I've mentioned, briefly, I am no longer a supermarket dietitian.  Actually my job has been completely transformed over the past month, and gone are the days of personal dietary consultations with clients trying to lose or gain weight.  As part of my new job I meet with students who need help finding gluten free, peanut free, dairy free, etc. foods, now that they are away from the comfort of their own home and familiar environment.  While I may not be doing private consultations as part of my full-time job, I'm still hoping to do a few hours here and there for friends, family, or anyone who would like me to come over to their home and do a cabinet or kitchen "makeover".  I guess you could call me the very part-time "traveling consultant dietitian".  I do enjoy meeting with people for one-on-one consultations, very much, and I'm lucky to have a profession that still allows for that every once in a while, when time permits.  Lately I've been thinking about new methods to use in order to give people specific goals on what to eat and how much. I usually start out by weighing clients on a scale, then giving them a new weight (and calorie) goal based on their age, height and sex.  However, having seen the effect the number on the scale can have on people (women and men) I'm thinking of skipping the scale from now on, and just using a tape measure.

I've written some posts about the scale before.  Please read them if you'd like......

While the scale has been a great tool for me in the past (and honestly, still is something I use for myself maybe once or twice a month) I've decided I'm not going to be purchasing one for clients to use when they visit with me.  Here are some basic reasons why I refuse to buy a scale for personal consultations;

1)  I hate weighing myself. I hate getting on a scale. I hate when the number on the scale effects the rest of my day, no matter how hard I try not to let it.  Because I have been happy weighing myself only when I go to my parent's house (they have a scale) I'm afraid that if I buy one for my home and say it's "for clients only" I will be enticed to get on the scale more often.  That being said, if my clients want to weight themselves they can do so, at their own home.

2)  I always cringe when a client gets on the scale, all excited, then sees a number he/she doesn't like.  Not only do I feel bad for him/her, but I feel bad for myself because I then have to explain why this may have happened.....I feel like a broken record.  And this awful situation is almost always followed-up with a "but my clothes feel looser!", which to me means "yeah! You are losing!", but to them the number on the scale still bears more weight (pun intended).

3)  Fat does not weigh more than muscle (ie: 1 pound of fat = 1 pound of muscle. Obviously).  But, if you have a 4 x 4 piece of fat and compare it to a 4 x 4 piece of muscle, the muscle will weight more.  Therefore, per square inch the fat does weigh more.  A scale does not help you determine whether you have lost fat and gained muscle.  You may be lifting more and eating everything right, but your weight might stay the same because you've lost fat and gained muscle.  Ugh.

4)  Raise your hand if you've ever gotten on a scale at home to see one number, then jumped on a scale at your doctor's office (literally 30 minutes later) and there is a 1-5 pound difference (I know all of your hands are raised. Mine sure is).  Scales are not to be trusted, they all seem to weigh differently!

5)  Raise your hand if you've ever gotten on a scale one day, then jumped on the next day (same scale, same time of day) and you notice you have "gained 5 pounds".  My hand is raised.  Does that mean you've gained five pounds of fat?  Unless you ate 17, 500 calories over your calorie budget....NO!  Most likely you're just retaining water because you ate a higher carbs or sodium meal the night before (or perhaps it's hormonal fluctuations. It's fun being a women.)  Read this article for other reasons your weight can fluctuate.

Instead of getting people on a scale I'm going to measure their waist, and possibly their waist to hip ratio.  Go ahead and determine your waist to hip ratio here.  Make sure you are measuring your hip at it's widest part (typically that's the widest portion of your bottom), and your waist should be measured at or above your belly button.  Be sure not to breath in, just stand normally and relax.


I think just measuring someone's waist on the initial visit will be enough of a baseline to use for goals.  The recommendation, for health, is less than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men
.  So I envision clients coming in, getting their waist measured, learning which foods to include in their diet and which to minimize (based on their own personal needs) then coming back in a month and see if they lost inches.  Heck, even a positive change in energy and attitude may be enough to keep someone motivated (I've seen it!).  Compare this to getting on a scale and seeing a +1 pound after a month of positive changes and lots of hard work.  That's just the worst, and let's face it, it often means absolutely nothing in regards to how far you've actually come.  FitSugar posted a few other ways to measure weight loss in this article (all good options, in my opinion).

I bought a pink measuring tape. It's just so much more friendly than a scale.  I mean, it's pink!

Oh, in other news, have you seen my new "Stand-up" desk?  I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and bought a bed table/tray (you know, one of those trays you bring to someone who wants breakfast in bed) and I put it on top of my work dest so I can stand while I work. You're jealous, right?! You want one too, I'm sure (that's what I keep telling my co-workers..."you're jealous!"...although I know secretly they think I'm just insane).

I have to give credit where credit is due; I got this idea from my friend Kelly from where I used to work. Brilliant I tell you!  I hadn't completely unwrapped the desk when I took this photo, hence the cardboard still on it.

QUESTION:  Do you weigh yourself? What do you think about a dietitian without a scale?  Also, would you ever stand-up while at work, all day??

Have a great weekend, GO BUCKS, and thanks for reading!

The Candid Rd


  1. I like the idea of a standup desk, but I don't know that I'd like it all day every day. As for the scale, I certainly see how it would be beneficial to avoid it. However, I'm still attached to mine... or the one at the gym, I should say. :)

    1. Regarding the standup desk, I do sit sometimes.....but I try to get at least 2 hours of standing! When my legs start to hurt, I sit. It's nice!

  2. I have a love hate relationship with the scale and no matter how much I try - it always gets me down :( I really need to measure myself.

    1. I'm the same way. When I get on the scale at my parent's house it either puts me in a good mood, or a bad mood. I just hate it! And that's only 1-2 times a month.....

  3. "Traveling consultant dietitian" <-- love this! ;)

    I'm moving this way also. Especially considering #3 and #5, which are so important to know, but many people still don't know. I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences with measuring.

    I use a stand-up desk, too! Isn't it great? Peter uses one at work, too, and he's converted half his floor into using stand-up desks. It's a revolution, I say.

    1. Oh that's great that Peter uses one too!! nick laughed at me when I showed my desk to him. haha, he would never do that, but to be fair he NEVER sits at work, so he doesn't need one.

  4. I weight myself about twice a month, and it works for me. But I can totally see the benefits of measuring instead. And the pink tape measure is just too cute! :)

    I like the idea of a stand up desk a lot. I'm not sure I could do it all day though...

  5. wow I think this is an amazing idea! I would actually prefer to go to a dietitian that measures that way. That motivates me a lot is keeping track of how far/fast I can run now. Even though I am slower then a lot of people, I am faster and stronger then I used to be!

    Sara :)

  6. Luckily I'm rather thin so I never weigh myself. I don't even have a scale!

  7. "traveling consultant dietitian" - I like that!

    I've had issues with the scale in the past, but right now have a pretty healthy relationship with it. I'm more aware / realistic about the number - if I eat more one day and the scale jumps up two pounds the next day, I know that I didn't ACTUALLY gain two full pounds in the space of 24 hours. It's nice to not get upset over the scale.

    That being said, I might be willing to give up the scale if my measuring tape was pink!

  8. I don't weigh myself - I found that I was getting very bogged down in numbers and didn't like the path it was taking me. So, I get weighed during doctors visits and judge my health based on how I feel and how my clothes are fitting (and routine lab values, etc.).

    I wonder if blind weights would work better for clients? That way, you could track their progress -- perhaps with the addition of waist circumference, since that helps tell a bigger picture -- without the individual getting too worked up or distracted by the actual weight.