Daily weigh-ins lead to ideal fitness

Pictured with husband Meiji, left, Reiko Nakagawa reflects on her diet, with personal scale in hand.

Just stepping onto the scale every day can help those who are overweight shed excess kilograms, or help those who are underweight fill out.

Last fiscal year, a number of people who participated in the “10,000 People 100-Day Weight Check Challenge!” held by the city government of Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, experienced success. How did they do it?

“I started to look different in photos, and friends even told me, ‘You look younger.’ It felt good,” said Reiko Nakagawa, a 56-year-old cram school teacher.

Her weight dropped from 61.4 kilograms to 55.9 kilograms, and her Body Mass Index (BMI) switched from overweight to normal. She could buy medium-sized clothing instead of the usual large, and even her shoe size shrank by a centimeter.

BMI is weight in kilograms divided by the square of the person’s height in meters, with an index between 18.5 and 25 considered normal for adults.

Previously, Nakagawa tried and failed at diets that called for skipping meals or walking 10,000 paces every day. “But then I would just end up eating more than usual,” she said.

“Try it with the whole family, and we can get a prize from the city.”

First hearing about the 100-day challenge from her husband Meiji, 60, Nakagawa started stepping onto her personal scale twice a day. After a month, her weight started to drop. She said keeping records helped her to understand what was happening: “My weight started to drop around the time I started taking care of my grandchildren. I was so busy, I had no time to stop and grab a snack. I think that’s what did it.”

Not wanting to lose to her husband, Nakagawa stuck with the program even when there was no evident progress.

“I felt so happy when I saw the graph once my weight began to go down, and I became even more vigilant,” she said. “My blood pressure even dropped, and my physical condition got better.”

Yasuhito Suzuki, 54, head of the city’s Handicapped Person Support Center, kept his BMI in the normal range but dropped from 72 kilograms to 64 kilograms. Checking records of his weight helped him better balance his meals and exercise, strictly managing his calorie intake.

“I did things like eating less at lunch when I’d eaten too much at a previous meal, or eating a little sandwich instead of going for the meal set,” Suzuki said. “I no longer got sleepy during afternoon meetings.”

He said the secret to his success was “not trying too hard, not struggling, and going at my own pace.” He ate a meal set when he felt like it, and did not turn away invitations for after-work drinks. But when he put away too much, Suzuki made sure to adjust the amount he ate at his next meal.

He bought a scale that measures body weight in 50-gram units, and kept up a walking routine, logging 734,989 steps in the 100-day challenge. That was enough to put Suzuki at No. 9 on the participants’ pace ranking. He even walked over 30 kilometers in a single day.

“Seeing the pace rankings fluctuate on the program website was a big source of motivation,” he said.

Sachiko Kanada, 73, whose BMI was originally underweight, succeeded at gaining some weight through the program. She goes to an aerobics class four days a week, but Kanada worried about her condition, saying, “I would lose energy and get tired easily when my weight goes down.”

She started keeping track of her weight, and fretted when she felt she was losing weight. “I made sure to eat proper meals and get plenty of sleep.” Kanada went from 41.0 to 41.7 kilograms, and her BMI changed from underweight to normal. “I could look back on my lifestyle as numbers on a chart,” she said.

In all of these cases, the participants weighed themselves every day, mulled over the reasons why their weight increased or decreased, made changes to their lifestyle and eventually found success.

Mikako Ishiguro, the city official in charge of the program, surmised as to how they did it.

“Along with their body weight, they also made notes about their daily routines like: ‘I ate out,’ ‘I ate too much,’ and ‘I exercised.’ They started to think about how their weight’s rise or fall was connected to their lifestyle, and that’s likely what led to the changes.”

According to the city, 5,886 citizens recorded their weight every day between Oct. 1, 2014, and Jan. 8, 2015. Men in the overweight BMI category dropped an average of 0.12 units to 27.30, whereas women in the same category dropped an average of 0.27 units to 27.41.