How to Find Your Happy Weight02.04.13
Let’s face it – most of us have a specific number in mind when asked what we think we should weigh. And according to the number of people on diets in America – 45 percent of women, 25 percent men, data from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), –most of us are not at that weight.
How did we settle on that number? The most likely reason is societal influences – the fashion industry, for instance, plays a huge role in glorifying thinness. But even more recently, major health organizations (including the NIH and WHO) began dictating what we should weigh, and even categorizing obesity as a type of disease. Clearly it’s reasonable for people to want to get leaner.
We also know that dieting can make matters worse. NEDA reports that 95 percent of all dieters will regain their lost weight in one to five years, fueling the vicious cycle of severe calorie restriction, leading to intense hunger, followed by overeating and further weight gain.
So the million dollar question is this: what is the right weight for me? Ask a nutrition professional and they won’t give you a number. Instead, the recommendation is to focus on your health and how you feel, and your body will settle into the weight that’s right for your body.
You’ll know your body is at the right weight when:
• You can do what you want physically, with enough energy to spare, meaning activities that are more strenuous not just a walk from the fridge to the couch.
• You feel good in your skin, and although you weigh yourself from time to time, you view the scale as tool to help you understand your body, rather than being fixated on one number.
• You have a good relationship with food – meaning, you eat when you are hungry, and you stop when you are full.
• Your metabolic risk factors are as low as your genes allow (e.g. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.).
Now the next question is this: how can I get to my happy weight? Here are four key steps you can take:
• Pay more attention to your body, and to the food you’re putting in your mouth, by slowing down when you eat. When we slow down, we have time to consider two things. First question: Am I truly hungry? And the second action is to actually taste the food, stimulating our brain satiety (fullness) centers.
• Avoid processed foods with added sugars and fats. When we eat foods high in sugar and fat, our brain wants to keep eating them after we are full. When we eat the right foods – whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, legumes and lean proteins – they stop tasting good when we are full, and we stop eating.
• Eat more frequently, but smaller meals. Not necessarily “grazing”, but eating five to six small meals each day actually helps our bodies maintain metabolic and appetite hormones within narrower parameters, limiting the large surges that can stimulate appetite and lower the metabolism. This generally happens with yo-yo dieting.
• Get your heart rate up daily, and frequently. Physical activity is required to maintain a healthy weight. There is no such thing as a healthy sedentary person – period. Focus on getting your heart rate up as often as you can – feel your breath getting faster and your pulse rising, even as you walk briskly from your office cubical to the bathroom. A daily total of at least sixty minutes is best, and doing it in smaller intervals can be just as effective.
Still want a number? Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI = kg body weight divided by meters squared) and compare it to the standardized classification of a so-called healthy weight range of 18.5 – 24.9. Are you big boned? Shoot for the higher range. Do you have a more petite body frame? The lower end may be OK for you. But be aware that BMI can overestimate body fat in persons that have a lot of lean muscle tissue (Arnold Schwarzenegger has a BMI in the “obese” category), and underestimate body fat in persons with too little muscle.
Written by: Andrea Q Vintro, MS, RD, CSSD, LD