Every morning for eight years I have weighed myself on scales that my wife bought from John Lewis.  I do this after taking a shower and before getting dressed.  The machine ‘knows’ it is me rather than my wife because I switch it on by touching the right-hand button with my big toe (my wife touches the left-hand button unless, of course, she wants to pretend to be me).  The machine immediately springs to life and reminds me that I am 6ft 2ins tall, 75 years old and a man. I find this attention to detail quite reassuring.

The machine then beeps to indicate that it is ready for me to step onto the silver pads.  The machine assumes, accurately as it happens, that I have two feet so there are four of these pads, two, apparently, are ball-of –foot electrodes and two are heel electrodes.  Mention of a word like ‘electrode’ may sound alarming but the pads look quite unremarkable.  In fact, if you didn’t know otherwise, you’d just think it was an ordinary pair of non-fluffy scales.

Within a few seconds the display gives me three pieces of information:

1       My weight (being old fashioned; I have elected to be told this in st-lb rather than in kg or lb).

2       My body fat percentage.

3       My body water percentage.

In addition to these stark figures, there is a helpful bar that compares my readings against a Healthy Body Fat Range Chart. This tells me whether my percentages for fat and water are ‘Under, Healthy, Over or Obese’. I take this on trust and because the booklet assures me that the chart has been carefully researched and verified by the Great and the Good of the medical profession.  I am therefore very happy to report that my readings fall in the healthy range.  A few years ago, when I carelessly allowed my weight to creep up, it told me my fat percentage was ‘over’ so I know that the machine is not programmed to flatter.

Anyway, as I’ve already said, for eight years this has been a daily routine – unless I am away on holiday when I must confess I miss my scales and am always glad to return and see it waiting patiently in a corner of the bedroom, eager to tell me what damage the holiday has inflicted.

Officially my scales are called a Body Composition Monitor.  It has never occurred to me to mention my scales to anyone until last night when, with friends, we fell to taking about the hazards of adding salt to meals.  I said that I had noticed how adding salt pushed up my water percentage.  My friend, Charles, wanted to know how I knew and I told him about my BCM.  Predictably, he asked how the monitor worked and, also predictably, I had to confess that I had absolutely no idea.  Charles made it clear that he was staggered by my lack of curiosity.

Today, therefore, I have carefully read the booklets that came with the machine (my wife is diligent in keeping booklets – and knowing where they are! – for every gadget we own and, come to think of it, for gadgets that have long since been taken to the municipal dump).  The booklet has a section with the heading, ‘How does it work?’.  This is what it says:

Your Body Fat Indicator measures body fat using BIA – Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis – which depends on the body’s hydration level.  BIA measures body composition by sending a low, safe signal through the body.  The signal passes freely through fluids in muscle tissue but meets resistance through fat tissue.  This resistance is called bioelectrical impedance.

I read these four sentences eight years ago when we first acquired the scales and, of course, they left me none the wiser.  No wonder I couldn’t satisfy my friend Charles.  Still, he has got to be right about my lack of curiosity.  Surely, this circular, totally unsatisfactory explanation should have galvanised me into undertaking lengthy researches?

But, and here’s the problem, I simply don’t care enough.  Life is too short and, as Charles would no doubt maintain, I’m probably shortening it still further by allowing these invisible signals to pass through my body every morning.

Spike Milligan’s grave stone says, ‘I told you I was ill’.  Mine should say, ‘He thought ignorance was bliss’.


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