Updated: May 19, 2019
We often hear the term "ideal weight". What does that mean? If we are talking about BMI, now regarded by many as antiquated and over simplified, we are talking about taking limited information and assigning a narrow range in which your weight should fall within. Forget the fact that muscle weighs more than fat and all that jazz, meaning that some of the strongest among us with the least body fat would be considered overweight or even obese. I cannot believe I once thought it was a reasonable measure of health, but many of us do.
"The ideal weight for a woman that is 5'9" is 135-169 pounds," I read and so I locked this number into my head as the target. This is until reading Dr. Yoni Freedhoff's take on goal weights. I was both riveted and totally thrown for a loop as I read that, in fact, our goals should not be a number on a scale or a clothing tag. I know. Stay with me here. Instead, he says, we want to be striving for our "best weight." Our goal is to live the healthiest life we can enjoy and the weight that we achieve doing just that is our "best weight." So, if I have to give up everything that I love to eat in order to fit into a size 8 dress, that is not my "best weight." If I have to spend hours a day doing exercises I hate and forego other activities and relationships that I do enjoy in order to weigh 120 pounds, this is not my "best weight." My best weight is a weight that I can sustain because I still eat foods I enjoy, maybe just less of them or less often. I move my body in ways that I like so though it takes some effort to be active, I am able to do it.
Does this mean that there are no changes to be made? "Well I must be at my best weight eating junk food on the regular, never using that gym membership I pay for monthly and eking by on fours hours of sleep per night?" Not at all. But we need to look at ourselves honestly and see what we are willing to do in order to achieve this "best weight," always keeping in mind that sustainability is king. If we won't do it the rest of our lives, there's not much point in doing it now because if we stop, the weight is likely to come back.
Dr. Freedhoff gives us two primary goals in his fantastic book that I wish everyone would read called The Diet Fix:
1. Eat the smallest number of calories you need to truly live a full and wonderful life.
2. Exercise as much and as often as you are able to enjoy.
Once you do this, the weight you achieve is your "best weight".
As I was losing my weight many people would ask what my end goal was and for a long time I didn't know. I started out at over 270 pounds and thought if I could get under 200, I'd be pleased. When I reached that goal, I was still happily (but slowly) increasing exercise and feeling satisfied nutritionally. So, I set new goal after new goal believing that I would know my "best weight" when it arrived, which I did. It wasn't a number I reached, or a size, or the way I looked, but instead it was getting more and more challenging to continue a caloric deficit that would allow me to continue to lose. You see, as I lost weight I needed less calories in order to continue losing weight so every 20 pounds or so I would need to reduce my target calorie intake for the day. As I approached 150 pounds, it became tougher and so, I was done. And by done I mean I was just getting started with maintaining. I knew my "best weight" when it arrived. It is a weight that allows me to have a glass of red wine on the weekend with my husband, to shake my bad thing at Zumba three times a week with some of the best women I know, and to have a small piece of the birthday cakes I make each of my four children (I have to taste it to make sure it's not poisonous!). It is also a lifestyle that I feel I can sustain with little effort. In my case my "best weight" did fall within that range that the BMI dictated to me years earlier and in the end yours may too, but the feeling of realizing a weight that fits MY lifestyle, interests, and family is a much different experience than trying to chase an arbitrary number that fits into a prescribed box because some guy said I should. Only you will know when you have arrived at your "best weight" - one unique only to you and what fits YOUR life. There is something powerful and motivating in that, I think.