Volatility of Human Body Weight

Ever since I shed roughly 20 kilos over the course of the second half of last year, I’ve become extremely weight-conscious. Given how quickly I shed so much weight, I’m paranoid that I might gain back so much again as quickly. This means I monitor my weight as closely as I can, limit myself in terms of “sin foods” and check my weight as often as possible, typically whenever I manage to make it to the gym (about twice a week on average).

Having been used to analog scales lifelong (there’s one at home, but it is wrongly calibrated I think), the digital scales (with 7-segment display) that are there at a gym provide me with a bit of a problem. I think they are too precise – they show my weight up to 1 place of decimal (in kilograms), and thinking about it, I think that much detail is unwarranted.

The reason being that I think given the normal cycles, I think the weight of the human body is highly volatile and measuring a volatile commodity at a scale finer than the volatility (when all you are interested in is the long-term average) is fraught with danger and inaccuracy. For example, every time you drink two glasses of water, your weight shoots up by half a kilo. Every time you pee, your weight correspondingly comes down. Every time you eat, up the weight goes, and every time you defecate, down go the scales.

Given this, I find the digital weighing machine at my gym a bit of a pain, but then I’m trying to figure out what the normal volatilty of the human body weight is, so that I can quickly catch on to any upward trend and make amends as soon as I can help it. Over the last couple of months, the machine has shown up various numbers between 73.8 and 75.5 and I have currently made a mental note that I’m not going to panic unless I go past 76.

I wonder if I’m making enough allowances for the volatility of my own body weight, and if I should reset my panic limits. I have other metrics to track my weight also – though my various trousers are all calibrated as “size 34” some have smaller waists than the others, and my algo every morning is to start wearing my pants starting from the smallest available, and go to work in the first one that fits, and when I know that I’m having trouble buttoning up my black chinos, that’s another alarm button.

Yeah sometimes I do think I’m too paranoid about my weight, but again it’s due to the speed at which I reduced that I’m anxious to make sure I don’t go back up at the same rate!


Economist Ajay Shah sends me (and other members of a mailing list we belong to) this wonderful piece he has put together on weight management. Do read. But my question remains – how do you measure your body’s weight volatility?