Sunday 4 December 2016

Why weight is nothing but a numbers game

Growing amounts of women are throwing out the scales, having finally realised that pounds are often mythical figures

Published 29/01/2016 | 02:30

Gossip: Magazines have long reported on Victoria Beckham's weight.
Gossip: Magazines have long reported on Victoria Beckham's weight.
Rosanna Davison in 2016
Roz Purcell doesn't watch the scales.

Magazine editors employ various strategies to move copies of their publications.

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The word 'sex', positioned on the top left-hand corner of the cover, is known to make a magazine stick out on the newsstand. Odd numbers - think 19 Ways to This and 23 Ways to That - are also thought to catch the attention of potential readers.

Another gimmick, used almost exclusively by magazines that feature bikinied reality TV stars on their covers, is to divulge the weights of certain celebrities.

Every so often these magazines 'exclusively reveal' what the stars really weigh in an accusatory tone that suggests a horrid transgression has finally been exposed.

Two of these 'reports' recently came to my attention. Victoria Beckham (5ft 4in) was said to be seven stone and eight pounds while Rita Ora (5ft 5in) was said to be 8.6st. Reading on, Beyoncé's (5ft 7in) weight was listed as 9.11st while Jennifer Lopez's (5ft 5in) weight was listed as 8.8st.

One of the magazines claimed that Rihanna (5ft 8in) weighs 8.7st. The other said she was 8.11st. One said Amy Schumer (5ft 7in) weighs 11.4st. The other one said she was 10.13st. A little research might have helped. In her own words, she's "a buck 50" - (150lb / 10.10st).

Is this REALLY what they weigh? Probably not. It's fairly safe to conclude that these magazines are relying on guesswork and Google. It's also likely that, in the spirit of sensationalism, they underestimate when the celebrity is slim and overestimate when she isn't.

Remember that the staff at these magazines have limited access to the celebrities whose vital statistics they claim to know intimately.

Likewise, the chances of a publicist responding to this type of query are slim to none.

It should also be noted that the celebrities who have actually revealed their weight are in a different ballpark altogether. Katy Perry (5ft 7in) said she is generally around 9.4st while Sofia Vergara says she doesn't allow her weight to drop below that number for fear of losing her curves. So who's telling the truth?

"The whole world of celebrities and their weights is so topical," says personal trainer Karl Henry, "and I'm sure it sells lots of magazines.

"I would say that they get the weights wrong nine out of 10 times," he adds. "Unless you are used to working with people and their bodies, you will have no way of knowing."

Besides, how can these magazines speculate correctly when all of our reference points are askew?

Study after study reveals that both men and women have a tendency to lie about their weight.

Most of us have two weights: the one we enter into the cardio machine at the gym and the one we see on the weighing scales.

The latter number is wrong, of course. It has to be rounded down, adjusted for clothing and calibrated to allow for the fact that the scales are faulty (all weighing scales are faulty, in case you didn't know).

And if we lie about our weight to ourselves, we lie about it to others too. Holistic health coach and blogger Suzanne Murray (ahealthyhappyglow.com) agrees: "I'd say women lie more about their weight than their age," she says. "Weight is never really a conversation I have with my friends but it is one I'd have with my health coaching clients.

"When somebody comes to me first, there's often a shame attached to their true weight and when they tell me, it's like they're letting me in on their dirty little secret."

The charade is compounded by the 'before' and 'after' celebrity fitness DVD industry where less is most definitely more. The D-Listers that claim they've slimmed down to eight stone ought to acquaint themselves with a BMI index.

Even the film industry perpetuates these myths. The opening scene of the film 500 Days of Summer describes the character played by Zooey Deschanel as being of "average" height and weight: "5ft 5 inches and 8.9st". The average weight for a teenager, that is.

The danger of these inventions is that they can shame young women into measuring up to weight ideals that are illusory and unattainable.

Surely they wonder why they are closer in weight to a pre-fight Conor McGregor (10.5st) or a pre-pregnancy Kim Kardashian (8.5st).

As it happens, Kardashian (5ft 2in) was accused of lying about her weight when she announced that she was 8.5st on Twitter in 2008. Perhaps that's why her sister, Kourtney, provided photograph evidence of the weighing scales when she announced on Instagram in April that she had slimmed down to 8.4st. "PS: I'm 5ft tall so everyone relax," she added.

Needless to say, the photograph went viral. Proof, if any was needed, that we are fascinated by the weights of our favourite celebrities, even if they're not accurate.

Model Rozanna Purcell agrees that some women can become hypnotised by the digits on the weighing scales and "will do anything to get to a certain weight".

However, she has also noticed a sea change in our overall attitude towards weight and an emerging focus on muscle gain over weight loss.

"The last time I weighed myself I was around 9.8st which I am happy with," she says. "I train weights in the gym and aim to build muscle and I understand my weight may increase the more toned I get.

"I don't focus on my weight. {I focus} more on measurements and how my body feels and functions."

She also reminds women to expect weight gain when they are weight training.

"I think sometimes people get worried when they're training and notice the weighing scales going up," she continues. "They forget that it's natural and it's more than likely a good thing as they are building muscle."

Fellow model Rosanna Davison has also noticed women replacing the weighing scales with the measuring tape.

She says she hasn't weighed herself in 10 years and instead goes by how her clothes fit and how she looks and feels.

"I haven't thought about being a certain weight since my teens," she adds.

"Perhaps some women do try to maintain their weight, or strive to go back to what they weighed in the past, but reaching an ideal or unrealistic weight is not something I've thought about for many years."

Weight is only one aspect of health, adds Henry, who says these magazine reports would be irrelevant even if the facts were correct.

"Two people weighing eight stone will look totally different depending on their muscle-to-fat ratio," he explains.

"Muscle and fat weigh the same but take up different amounts of space on the body: muscle is denser and takes up far less space."

It's easy to get into the comparison trap on these matters, but why try to measure up to a number that's been rounded down or plucked out of thin air?

Remember that the scales can lie - in more ways than one - and the only person you should compare your weight with, is yourself.

Irish Independent

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