Cold Weight

 

penguin on iceberg Have you noticed how you weigh more in the cold of winter?

Well I hadn’t. Not till this year. Having rid myself of the accursed diabetes, I’m determined not to go there again. And so I invested in (a very cheap model of) electronic bathroom scales. Just to keep a check on the weight.

My bathroom is dolls-house-tiny. So the scales sit in the kitchen—because, so I’m told, they have to be on a hard flat floor. Yea, well, we’ll ignore the fact that my flat (apartment to you), built 1603 by a friend of the Cromwells and intended only as a warehouse, has not a flat floor in the place. But I figured the kitchen’s non-carpeted floor was the best option. Until now.

I first noticed it around Christmas. But I’d had bronchitis, heavily dosed with a strong antibiotic, and thought the weight increase due to the utter destruction of the essential flora and fauna I’d been carefully nurturing in my intestines. I equally high dosed on probiotics. And asparagus.

I began losing weight. Slowly. Healthily. Nothing to write home about.

And then the temperature plummeted. And I put it all back on. And more.

Odd, this. I’ve not noticed any strain on my clothes. In fact I’m buying a smaller size. This makes no sense. How can I put on weight, yet lose size? Ok, yea, I do free weights: it’s muscle and bone, it’s bound to be. Right? No.

The weather improved. And so did my weight. By now I’m curious to say the least.

This last week the temperature again has dropped. And my weight has increased.

In all this time there has been not an iota’s change in my diet (except for a fortnight after the antibiotics).

Yesterday, typing away at my desk, I felt the telltale scything of my legs (more accurate than any barometer). This tells me that 1: the wind has changed direction, 2: it’s increased in speed, 3: the temperature has dropped. I checked out on the local weather site (Met Office). Sure enough, on all three counts.

Right, thought I, experiment time. Go stand on the scales.

Sure enough, I now weighed 4 kilos more than this morning. 4k! That’s over 8lb.

I moved the scales to a carpeted area—out of the draught. When I was weighed at the surgery last summer, I weighed in at 2k less than at home, despite it being after I’d breakfasted, and being fully (outdoor clothes) dressed. I remember I came home and, knowing scales weigh less on carpet, moved my scales to there. Just as an experiment. Lo! I weighed exactly the same as at the surgery—whose scales are regularly checked and if necessary recalibrated.

So that’s what I did again. I moved the scales to the carpeted area. Reset them. Weighed myself. Lo! I weighed within a point of a kilo exactly as I had last summer at the surgery.

Scales back on hard, cold surface, I filled a hotwater bottle (yes, I do live in the Dark Ages). I left said bottle for a while warming the hard glass surface of the scales. Scales duly warmed, I tried again. Lo! Those 4k had gone.

By now I’m real curious. How can this be? Googling the query only fetched up loads of ads for highly accurate scales for which one needs a bank loan to buy. But I did find one site with a possible answer.

ask.metafilter.com

“Does temperature affect the reading of bathroom scales?”

An answer was posted (in fact, several):

“Things expand and contract based on the temperature, and cheap bathroom scales don’t exactly have high manufacturing standards. Hooke’s Law (force on spring = constant x deflection) isn’t affected by temperature, so my best guess without tearing open the scale is that there’s some wiggle room at one (or both) ends of the spring inside the scale. Temperature rises, that wiggle room opens up more, basically increasing the size of the “dead” area around the zero point. Temperature drops, things inside tighten up, and the dial gets moving with less force applied.

I personally would only trust any bathroom scale to have a resolution of about +/- 5 pounds. If it tells you you gained or lost anything less, chalk it up to the margin of error on the scale.”

[posted by backseatpilot, June 8, 2008]

Another of the many correspondents replied:

“I’ve noticed that cheaper bathroom scales can be quite sensitive to unevenness in the floor and the position of your feet on the scale. One digital scale I owned appeared to just pick any random number within 8 pounds of my actual weight.”

So before you panic that you’ve put on weight, check out your scales. And remember:

COLD

CAN

ADD

POUNDS

WITHOUT

ADDING 

INCHES

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About crimsonprose

After years as a multi-colour octopus in entertainment, now chilling and writing
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8 Responses to Cold Weight

  1. Joy Pixley says:

    It makes sense that temperature might shift the scale results but wow, that’s a really big difference! If it’s going to be that inaccurate, it’s not really a measurement device, is it? I love how you experimented and researched to figure out the problem. That’s what I would have done too. 🙂

    • crimsonprose says:

      The research continues. I’m now weighing in every 2 hours. It’s real interesting how the weight goes down as the day warms up, despite I’m eating and drinking and ought to weigh more. Then in the evening (I live on the coast, back of the quayside, along a river, mists rise bringing icy-cold draughts in a building contructed 400 yrs ago) I again weigh heavy.
      But I’ve moved the scales onto the carpet, where I weigh in the same as I did last summer at the surgery. I reckon that’s the truest place for reading. But only that taken in the afternoon. Though being in the kitchen, if I have the oven on, which I shall shortly, it holds down my weight. It’s great fun. But it’s not an accurate measure, by any means.

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Well, if you can’t get a reliable measure, at least it sounds like you’re having fun getting the unreliable measures!

      • crimsonprose says:

        Oh indeed I am. This evening I treated myself to a high calories binge (well, for me a high calorie): roast potatoes, roast veg (carrots & cauliflower) all tossed in coconut oil (the same value calories as the worst of oils it’s just much healthier, never going rancid); fried mushrooms & 2 fried eggs (again, using coconut oil). This entailed the over being busy, plus 2 rings, for almost an hour. The kitchen became cosy-toes warm.
        Having enjoyed my meal – and a cup of redbush tea after – I weighed myself. The reading was 2.1 kg BELOW this afternoon’s reading.
        Alas to report, the heat from the cooker has now dissipated. The ‘quaint’ leaded and mullioned non-double-glazed windows are letting in cold like I’m rubbing noses with a glazier. And my meal has had time to begin its journey through my digestive system. So I’ve just weighed myself. Lo! It’s the same was the early morning reading (undressed, no breakfast yet). A jump of nearly 3 kilo.
        I think I shall not rely on these scales. At least, not till the summer returns!

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Mm, that meal sounds delicious — now I wish my menu plan for tonight involved roasted veg! And yes, your plan not to rely on the scales (but to continue having fun) seems very sound to me. I would be tempted to weigh myself only when I knew it was artificially low. 😉

      • crimsonprose says:

        I always used to weigh myself in the morning . . .before dressing, before eating, but after the bathroom. But now I think I’ll stick to the afternoon, once the room has had time to warm up. After all, it’s that time of day when the readings equal those I had at the surgery last summer. Therefore, I figure, it’s that reading which is the closest to accurate. Sorry if I’ve upset your menu plans. I don’t normally have such a heavy helping of carbs. And I don’t have grains; I’m gluten-free. So, Paleo. It works for me.

  2. Brian Bixby says:

    My version of this problem is the simpler one: I weigh myself at home in the nude, while my doctor’s office weighs me with clothing on. I’ve taken to kicking off my shoes and emptying my pockets to cut down the differential.

    • crimsonprose says:

      Yet I have found that nightwear or underwear weighs less than a point.kilo, so pointless shedding it. And my normal daywear weighs in at .5 k (1.1 lb). My aim isn’t to discover my actual weight (I’m not that obsessed) but to make sure it’s not creeping upward, unnoticed. I suppose you could say I’m frantic not to go back to where I was courtesy of the slothful days of CFS. (I can’t afford another whole new wardrobe! 🙂 ) Oh, and in these past few days of my experiment I have noticed that liquids weigh more while in the belly than does food … unless you totally pig out I suppose. But this is a transitory effect. With the more lasting effects it’s food, not liquid, that adds the fat.) Anyway, experiment now complete, I shall not be returning the scales to the hard and cold kitchen floor. At least, not till summer.

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