Slave to the scale

Pssst. Wanna lose a few pounds? Slip into something a size or two smaller? Have I got a diet for you.

No, not one of those “eat a pound of butter and watch three pounds melt away” tabloid teases. A real honest to goodness drop a whack of weight in a day regime. Don’t even have to change what you eat. Not much, anyway.

All you have to do is lace on a pair of runners and go. And go. And go.

The proof is in the scales.

Normally, I have a natural aversion to scales. Don’t generally like they way they talk to me, especially those medical types – the ones with the weight you have to keep sliding further to the right until it is balanced. It takes a lot longer to balance the things than it really should.

Most of my Sunday mornings for the past few years have started off at a local community centre, where a few dozen like-minded people get together to put in runs of anywhere from 20 to 35 kilometres. And pretend later that it didn't really hurt.

A few weeks back, they stuck one of those medical-style scales in the locker room. It was right around the time that CBC-TV's Maureen Taylor reported on the importance of keeping hydrated when you exercise in the heat.

"Since everyone's fluid requirements differ," Taylor reported, "experts said the best way to tell if you're getting the right amount is to weigh yourself before and after a run. If you've gained weight, you need to drink less, and if you've lost weight then drink more."

There's a fine line between being hydrated and having too much water and sports drink sloshing around in your belly. It's the same line that separates exercising comfortably from doubling over with stomach cramps.

Most of us have taken to weighing ourselves before and after those long runs.

I was pretty shocked the first time I got on that scale. After two hours on my feet, there was six pounds less of me – even with the two litres of fluid I took in while exercising. A week later, a few kilometres longer and a little less fluid and I was down nine pounds – or about five per cent of my total body weight.

Loss of more than one per cent of your body weight can lead to dehydration. For every pound lost during exercise, experts say drink 2 cups of non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic liquid within a few hours of exercise to restore hydration. In my case, about four-and-a-half litres in the hours after exercising, that first week.

That’s a lot of water – and a lot of weight to put back on right away.

I’m paying a lot of attention to that scale these days. On the bright side, the following week the scale told me that only six of those nine pounds had come back.