When I was younger, I had absolutely no idea that a person’s health (or attractiveness) was based on anything more complicated than weight. Perhaps it was this inundation of weight-related messages from magazines and advertisements or poorly delivered information in health class or some combination of all of it, but I genuinely thought as long as you were skinny, you were in good health. Before doctor’s appointments, I’d literally fast, making drastic cuts in my calorie intake in preparation for stepping on that dreaded beam scale. My blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, hormones, nutritional levels—none of these stats mattered to me. I never focused on how my body actually felt or how well my brain could concentrate. All that mattered to me was that damned number on the scale.
After a decade of personal growth, education, and advancements in our culture’s knowledge about nutrition, I now realize how shockingly uninformative your weight is in determining your overall state of physical health. According to registered dietitian Lauren O’Connor, the number on the scale can help you “gauge whether or not you are within an ideal range for your height and build.” But the operative word there is “range.” As O’Connor says, “There should be no worry over an exact number, as weight can fluctuate depending on what you’ve been eating or where you are within your menstrual cycle.” Not only that, but it is a myth to assume that we are all built the same and that every 5’3″ person should weigh an equal amount. “Factors such as bone size and frame, muscle mass, and even age play a role in the ideal weight range for an individual,” explains O’Connor. And either way, it’s not an important enough stat to consume your entire attention. “Obsession with a number on the scale can lead to unhealthy behavior (e.g. food restrictions or obsessive exercise habits),” O’Connor says.