Red Scale’s In The Sunset, Or How I Became Eight Pounds Heavier and Was Caught Totally On-a-Weigher (Ouch)

Well, like I said in a reply to another post, my trusty old digital scale with the bright red LED display is history. I’d always assumed it was my doctor’s expensive balance beam scale that had been weighing me 8 pounds heavier than I actually am. Come on, crude sliding weights against a modern digital electronic device? Get your ancient metal tool calibrated sometime, Doc.Several days ago I was getting annoyed with Old Reliable, though. It was getting testy, not holding a number, weaving back and forth over 3 pounds like a drunken sailor on shore leave. The last straw came last Monday when it initially weighed me five pounds heavier than the day before, and then a few moments later on a re-do, I hadn’t gained anything at all. Some pal.

So I went researching online to find something new. I hadn’t scale shopped in quite some time, and those scale engineers have been busy little beavers, adding all sorts of nifty features like body fat and hydration analyses. The prices spread over a wide range depending on how techy you want to get. I was surprised to see how many with added features weren’t the small fortune I’d expected them to be, even though I didn’t mind spending more for a quality piece of hardware.

Tanita brand seemed to be the most touted by reviewers for accuracy and repeatability. After scouring the net and eBay and deciding I was not going to get any super deals, I grabbed my 20% off coupon for Bed Bath & Beyond and headed out the door.

As I drove past Wal-Mart, I figured I’d stop there first and see what they carried. Interestingly enough, they had a wide array of digitals to offer from brands like Taylor, HealthoMeter, and Homedics, to name a few. The most expensive one on the shelf was under $40, and it had both body fat and body water analysis. It had a multi-color, multi-field display and would even track changes in weight for up to four people. Of course, every package boldly proclaimed how its particular brand was a gold medal winner for accuracy and repeatability for the last 30 years or something like that. I was unconvinced but kept a few of them in my memory bank as I continued on toward BB&B.

At the store, I found a nice selection of scales on display, out of box, and most of them worked so you could try them out. These scales ranged in price from around $25 and some went well beyond what the ones at Wal-Mart cost. The $100 Tanita Iron Man seemed beyond what I needed, as it was designed for ambitious athletic types, not me. Leaning toward a $50 Tanita with bonus features, I hemmed and hawed because, gosh darn it, I just didn’t like the way it looked. A few years ago my wife and I, after living for 8 years with just one toilet, a sink, and a small shower, took out a loan and turned a spare room into a spa bathroom with a whirlpool tub for two, a roomy shower, and a designer sink. The entire room is stony ceramic tile almost all the way up the wall; the floor is heated, the lighting is adjustable, there’s even a home entertainment center with wireless headphones for two for when you can’t hear your movie over the whirlpool jets.

Anyway, the scale that really impressed me, both feature-wise and for looks, was a Weight Watchers branded ConAir job that was mostly clear glass trimmed by brushed nickel on either side. This would not only look great in the bathroom, it had body fat weight, body fat percentage, hydration percentage and bone mass analysis all on the same LCD readout at the same time. I put the display model on the floor, slipped out of my shoes, and stepped on. I didn’t care what the numbers said, as I was fully clothed; what I wanted to see was how much change there was in a series of trials. I got on and off several times, and each time the number was the same, to a tenth of a pound. I don’t typically make purchases without a lot of comparison shopping and investigation, but I wanted a scale NOW, and since I had no reason NOT to believe this scale would live up to its promise, I made the decision then and there that this would be the one. At least the one I’d try first. The only thing I didn’t like, and this was true of a lot of digitals, is that there is no backlight. I’d have to turn the lights on to be able to see the display. Yuck.

(Side note of caution: scales that analyze body fat and such do so by passing a tiny electrical current through the lower part of your body. The premise is that different substances such as muscle and fat have different conductive properties, and therefore, one can somewhat roughly calculate the concentrations of those substances in your body by measuring how long the electrical pulse takes to go through you. All of the scales boldly pronounce that if you are pregnant or have something like a pacemaker in you, you shouldn’t use a scale of this type. Many of them, however, including mine, allow you to weigh yourself without using the analysis features and the requisite electrical pulse.)

At home, I set up the profiles for myself and my wife. I set a towel on the scale and brought up a 35 pound weight plate from the gym in the basement. Gently easing the plate on and off the towel several times, it read the same weight repeatedly: 35.2 pounds. The next morning I would christen it.

Thursday, 5:15am. The moment of truth. I stepped on for a weight-only test. WHAT?!? I stepped off, and back on. The same horrible number. Eight pounds heavier than the old scale. I was mortified. After three weeks on induction, and having lost 7 and a half pounds, here I was, right back where I started. Or so it seemed. It dawned on me then that, although I had lost 30 pounds four years ago and gained 22 of it back, none of the figures I’d been working with were my actual true weights. I’d always really been 8 pounds heavier.

So what does that mean? Not much. Lots of people carry their weight differently. Some look like balloons yet weigh no more than some of their thinner-looking peers that seem to pack it on without showing it; I’m one of the ‘packers’ it seems. What counts more than weight, as you’ll read here and there, is size, and the proportion of your muscle to your fat. I wouldn’t care if I weighed 300 pounds as long as I was hard as a rock and was two pant sizes smaller than now. That’s a pipe dream, but you get the drift.

It’s been a full week now with the new ‘truth machine’ in the house. I’ve learned it doesn’t like telling the truth right off the bat in the morning. I need to take a trial run and let it “warm up” for a minute or so. After that, it seems to stabilize and give me a reading that repeats itself over and over. I’ll give it a few more days and then decide if it stays or goes.

If you want a good laugh, check this out. After I completed the first draft of this article, I was searching for something LCC had said about Atkins and came across this piece he wrote August 6, 2007. I guess some things are universal.


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