What is your ideal weight?
One survey of overweight dieters found their goal was to lose 38 percent of their current weight, and that they'd be “happy” with a decrease of at least 25 percent. For example, a 200-pound woman might want to reach 128 but would settle for 150. The same survey found that going from 200 to 162 would be a great disappointment for those dieters.
What brings on these expectations? Are they warranted?
No, according to Carol Normandi, trainer and co-founder of Beyond Hunger in San Rafael.
“When our health industry defines health based on weight alone, they set up a very dangerous simplification of the definition of health that has severe and lasting consequences,” she says.
Our obsession with being thin is not warranted. Some physically fit overweight people have lower risk for some diseases than thinner unfit people. Fitness is the most important thing to look at - not weight. When assessing physical health there are many variables to measure such as blood pressure; blood fats; blood sugar; cardio endurance and cardio power; bone density; blood levels of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients; strength; flexibility; balance; agility; and stress hormone levels, to name a few.
True wellness takes an even bigger view looking at happiness, connectedness to others, sense of purpose and more. Overweight individuals can score just as well on these measures, have equally low risk of disease, and have as great a quality of life as thinner people.
The struggle to lose weight can often cause frustration, depression, hopelessness, self loathing and extremely unhealthy diets. And the problems are not limited to the 200-pound woman in the aforementioned example. There are countless normal weight people trying to lose that “muffin top” or shed those last 10 pounds. I hear their frustration every day in the gym. Rather than concentrating on how exercise and diet can help them live life to the fullest, some are beating them selves up over a couple of pounds that make no difference to their health, ability or attractiveness.
Health at Every Size is a concept that includes accepting our bodies, being active for enjoyment, eating for health and recognizing and promoting the multidimensional aspects of wellness. Beyond Hunger co-founder Laurelee Roark, it all starts with learning to “love and accept the body that you have, and the self that you are.”
Once you can do that, you set up a different level of self nurturing and take care of your body in a much different way.
Losing 38 percent of your body weight may be possible if you're on The Biggest Loser, but losing more than 10 percent is not realistic without significant lifestyle changes and not necessary to achieve better health. Many of the metabolic markers such as blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol show significant improvement with just 5-10 percent weight loss. What seems to be more important for improving our health is eating good food instead of eating junk, and exercising at least 30 minutes per day.
Is that realistic in a society that offers unlimited high calorie appealing foods and in an age that no physical exercise is required to make a living that we will all be fit and thin? Of course not. Some of us will be bigger. Yet we celebrate the super fit athletes and idolize the celerity sex symbols. Many of us still prejudge the overweight as lazy, incompetent and indulgent, as flawed or lower classed. Are they really? The truth is we really don't know how healthy someone is by looking at them, and there can be health at every size.