What IS The Measure Of A Man (Or A Woman, For That Matter)?

We have a “ribbon-type” tape measure in our sewing kit at home. I would suppose most households have one; they don’t cost much and you can get them just about anywhere.

I never really bothered worrying about measuring myself before doing Atkins for the first time in 2003. I mean, don’t you learn your basic measurements by what you can fit into when you shop for clothes? Other than what the scale said (if I was even bothering to weigh myself), I knew I was gaining or losing weight because my clothes didn’t fit anymore and I needed to replace them. At the store, I would find out, at the very least, how much my waist had changed. When women discuss their weight changes, they always seem to describe them by how many dress sizes they went up or down.

While on a plateau in 2003, I read that a person can be losing inches even if they are not losing pounds, and so I started taking my measurements weekly to bolster my motivation. The enduring problem, as I see it, is that taking body measurements seems to be a very arbitrary process, particularly if you are taking your own. It is not an exact science.

Perhaps professional clothiers or those in the health care industry know where to position the tape on each person of varying physical composition and how to draw it together to obtain an accurate reading for each of the major subject areas. On the other hand, that might very well be a subjective situation. I’ve had my blood pressure measured by plenty of doctors and nurses, and not two of them will take a similar reading within moments of each other even though nothing else has changed. (It’s recommended that a series of measurements be made within a short time, and the average of these be used as the reported blood pressure, probably for this very reason.)

The human body is not a cylinder of steel around which one can wrap a measuring tool and determine, with reasonable exactitude, its dimensional girth. We are examining a fluid structure here, something that gives when pressed. Want that 42 inch waist to shrink to 41 inches? Slide that tape up your torso a little (or down, maybe, for our beer drinking friends), or just give a small tug. Who’s to say whether you’re pulling it too tight? It’s a subjective process.

There are factions who insist that instead of worrying about absolutes, one should watch for “trends.” How can a person observe a trend if there is no guarantee of the accuracy of any individual measurement due to the inexactness of the procedure? Similar thoughts apply to weighing oneself on a home scale; though the scale may be less than accurate in an absolute manner, it should still be relatively reliable for indicating how many pounds are being gained or lost. In this case, however, there is little margin for error; you stand on the scale under the same conditions each time and it reacts the same way each time. Practical objectivity.

I haven’t measured myself yet while doing induction this time. I haven’t lost enough weight that I would expect to see results I could count on. But I know I’ve lost some measure of size since my wardrobe of trousers that I purposely bought the last few seasons because of their “expandable comfort waistbands” no longer need to be stretched. I put them on and close the button without any ado. It’s a good feeling. (If the clothing industry’s reaction to the obesity epidemic by producing expandable garments isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is.)

For now, I guess I’ll continue to rely on getting an idea of what size I am by the usual method. When my pants start falling off, it’ll be time to go shopping again.

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One thought on “What IS The Measure Of A Man (Or A Woman, For That Matter)?

  1. I’ve thought of measuring myself, but I have the same problem with the lack of exactitude – how do you make sure that you are putting the exact same amount of tension of the tape measure to get a somewhat similar measurement each time you do it?

    I don’t consider my scale more accurate than a few pounds either way so it’s an imprecise gauge as well.

    For me, it’s my pants also that are my guide. they’re still hanging in there – and so am I.

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