DAY 18 DIARY - What is a 'Healthy' Weight?
I think most of us have a weight we'd like to be, a 'dream weight' if you like. If only we could reach that elusive figure then all our problems would simply melt away along with the fat! We all know it doesn’t work like that but I must admit when, in the past, I have fleetingly hit my ideal weight it is a GREAT feeling. But, when you break it down, is that just plain wrong? Are we so conditioned by a society that idealises ‘thin’ that we have lost all perspective?
Health At Every Size (HAES)* has been gaining support among health professionals as a new way of looking at the health/weight conundrum. It promotes the idea that we need to move the emphasis away from weight as a standalone concern and focus on developing healthy habits whatever our size. And let’s face it our body shapes do vary a lot, I know plenty of people who are bigger than me but they eat healthily and exercise regularly - you can’t always tell how healthy someone is from the outside. It’s also worth stating that slim people can also be extremely unhealthy, so weight is certainly not the only indicator of health.
However, study after study has shown that being overweight is strongly linked to poor health outcomes and so whilst I agree that we should focus on our health habits rather than just looking at the scales we need to keep our weight somewhat under control if we want to enjoy a long and active life.
There is also the glaringly obvious fact that most of us don’t like the way we look when we are overweight. It may indeed be societal conditioning (Kate Moss once said that ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ - eeeek) but to try and pretend that we can just shrug off this desire to be thinner and embrace our muffin tops is extremely idealistic.
I think it is perfectly possible to reconcile the two – acknowledge that we want to be a bit slimmer (perhaps for both health and vanity reasons) but focus on adopting healthy habits in order to get there. We need to push back against faddy diets, silly supplements and curious weight-loss shakes and make friends with food again. That is my aim with this blog, if we can enjoy the process of eating well and keeping active our weight will adjust accordingly.
So, let’s get back to the question of what is an ideal weight**? Body Mass Index (BMI) is the simplest and the most widely used parameter for measuring obesity; it does have its limitations but for our purposes it’s good enough. It is essentially the ratio of your height to your weight taking in to account age and gender. You can work out your BMI using a BMI calculator, click here.
This graph uses your height/weight ratio to assess whether you are at a healthy weight or not, yes it is a fairly crude method but given it is all about weight ranges rather than absolutes it gives a reasonable indication:
According to the BMI calculator my BMI is good at 20.3 and my healthy weight range is 52.2kg – 70.6kg. My height is 168cms and my weight is 57.6kg so according to the graph I am actually in the lower end of the healthy weight range for my height. So I don’t need to lose weight from a health perspective.
The top of the weight range for my height is 70.6kg, personally I think I’d be pretty big at this weight, I did get up to over 65kg at one time and I was in size 14 clothes - I felt quite large. I've also weighed as little as 54.5kg and I looked a bit too thin at this weight, it was also after my brother died and so it wasn't a natural weight for me.
As you can see from my own example it’s very personal, there is no one size fits all - literally in this case!! So to determine a realistic target weight for yourself try answering these questions:
What is the lightest you have ever been in your adult life?
What is the heaviest you have ever been in your adult life (not including pregnancies)?
What weight would you like to be?
What weight do you think is achievable and sustainable?
Of course you do not have to set a target weight at all, for some people it can serve to demotivate, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. Why not just set yourself the goal of losing, say, 5 kilos? If you manage to lose that much you may decide you want to keep going, or you might be happy with that. As ever with StealthHealth there are no set rules; find your own way, find what works for you.
And on that note I am going to go to the kitchen and rustle up a really delicious, healthy lunch and I think it will taste even better than skinny feels!
*If you are interested in Health At Every Size click here for a good summary
** If you have any history of eating disorders or medical issues that affect your weight then a ‘target weight’ approach may not be suitable for you. Contact your GP who can refer you to a qualified dietician. For more information check out the British Dietetic Assocation website (similar organisations exist in other countries)