Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Almost Famous

My sister is famous! ...almost

Check out this recent article from the Seattle Times. My sister was interviewed and she revealed something pretty amusing about herself.

Why the doctor's scale gives us the chills

By Nicole Tsong

Seattle Times staff reporter

Karen Cheung likes to weigh herself first thing in the morning, pre-breakfast, sans clothes and alone. Sound familiar?

But at the doctor's office, with a weighing witness on hand, the same measures taken for accuracy, such as removing shoes and pulling change from pockets, can feel humiliating. There's also the tap-tap-tapping business of a balance scale that usually traps you into an unfortunate verdict.

"The doctor [weigh-in] is always more," said Seattleite Cheung, 24. "I just know it's three or four pounds off."

The doctor's office strips you down to your most naked, figuratively. For a brief moment, all the personal obsessing goes public, and the result is recorded for posterity. For whatever reasons, all that fumbling around, taking off shoes, jackets and more, never works out — it always seems as if there are a few extra pounds. And then, there are no redos unless you count next year.

There is an expert explanation for this weighty issue, with several factors contributing to weight fluctuation during the day. That's helpful for people like Cheung who know what their real weight is, but people living on Planet Denial might have to face the scale.

"I don't know people necessarily weigh themselves regularly," said Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian in New York and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "I have patients who weigh themselves when they go to the doctor's once a year. They're shocked when they see they've gained 10 pounds over a year."

Wait! I've got a false tooth!

Sandra Stufflebeam, a certified medical assistant at Minor & James Medical in Seattle, tries to help the mildly insecure feel better about obsessing over the weigh-in. A bad outcome can mess with your head.

She jokes with patients as they strip accessories that it's "Naked Friday." She tells women that mascara and lotion add pounds, their underwear is made of lead and jeans are heavy.

"I try to have them take off as much as they legally can in the hallway," she said.

People regularly set down bags and take off shoes; she has even seen men take off belts. They also pull out wallets and keys, and she had one patient remove his watch and glasses.

"Men, they try to suck it in like it's going to go somewhere," she said.

Some patients plan ahead. Rhondalei Gabuat, of Renton, once had a routine on the day of a doctor's appointment: The 28-year-old used the restroom beforehand, ate sparingly and wore light clothing and flip flops.

Gabuat no longer focuses as much on the trip to the scale during a doctor's visit. Now, results sometimes compel her into monitoring her weight more.

"The last time I got weighed, I didn't feel heavier, but the number on the scale made a difference," she said.

Your permanent record

Bridget Haney, 52, of Bremerton, said she doesn't always remember what she weighs when she gets on a scale at home. But the doctor's record feels permanent.

"It's good if you're making progress, then you see that," she said. "It's more a reality check because somebody else is weighing you."

But that number usually isn't enough to persuade her to change the way she eats and exercises.

"I suppose if I were having health issues or the doctor said you really need to lose weight, I might, but nobody's said that so far."

The weigh-in affects how you feel about yourself, though more for some than others, said Taub-Dix.

"It can have a strong psychological impact from the number on the scale," she said.

Our ups and downs

Weight fluctuates for several reasons, experts say, but it also helps to know what your base weight typically is.

Clothing, time of day, when you use the bathroom, water weight and hormones all play into weight change during the day.

"There are things you may have to take into consideration," Taub-Dix said. "Did you eat a very salty meal the day before, or a pickle? Sodium will have an effect on your weight because it causes fluid retention."

The scale also could be the culprit. Unless you know your doctor has the scale calibrated consistently, it's possible the scale is off.

But finding out more by regularly stepping on a scale at home is the most reliable way to track yourself, whether you're maintaining your current weight or trying to lose. At home, you can control time of day and what you're wearing.

Some people do well with daily weigh-ins, while others prefer once a week. Make sure to keep it reasonable so it works for you, experts say.

Cheung adds more accountability to her routine with another witness — a friend. They meet once a week for weigh-ins.

"We share," she said. "We're supposed to be in this together. We need to keep each other on track."

Now at the doctor's office, instead of fretting like she did when she was younger, she puts down her handbag and steps on.

"I kind of already know approximately what it's going to be, so it's not really a shock," she said.

The other alternative is saying no to the doctor's scale. You're allowed. Weighing is not supposed to be traumatic.

"It should be a confirmation, not a reprimand," said Taub-Dix.


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