Why an “ideal” weight shouldn’t be your goal and what to focus on instead
Everyone and their mother wants to lose that extra 5 pounds. It’s like those 5 pounds hold the secret to a long and happy life. But what if to lose those 5 pounds, you had to sacrifice a little bit of yourself? And hey, if abs - or some other area of your body - are your goal, what if I told you that you didn’t need to lose 5 pounds, but you needed to GAIN 5 pounds? Would you still want those abs? Or are you still tied up in the number?
When I first got out of college and put on 8 pounds, I was horrified. I wasn’t even overweight! But for some reason, seeing that number tick up scared me. I did lose that weight, but honestly, it wasn’t until I gained that weight back PLUS an extra 3 pounds from eating more and lifting weights that I really felt strong, vibrant, and happy in my skin. I can now lift my suitcase into the overhead compartment on an airplane, and that isn’t a freedom I’m willing to give up (it’s the little things).
In some instances, weight loss really can help you be healthier. But a lot of times, it doesn’t do us much good as a focus point. When I have clients who want to lose weight, there are other factors I focus on that aren’t reflected by a number on the scale. Here’s what they are:
Energy and Mood
Adopting healthier eating habits and a regular exercise routine can mean an improvement in your energy and mood, and it’s not directly correlated to the number on a scale. Focus on how you feel: what are your energy levels when you first wake up and in the middle of the day, how frequently do you feel irritable, and how often do you feel down in the dumps?
No bodybuilder status necessary. When you improve your strength, you’re building muscle. So if exercise is a part of your journey, your weight may not budge, and it may even increase. However, your body composition will probably change to be leaner (i.e. more muscle and less fat), and you’ll be able to do things you couldn’t do before (like lifting a suitcase or helping a friend move - and not just the light boxes). Focus on improvements in your strength whether it’s by your ability to increase the weight when strength training or carry out daily tasks.
Your skin is a reflection of what’s going on in your body. So, if you’re having skin troubles and adopt a healthier diet, they might improve independent of your weight. Healthy fats are also essential for skin health, so don’t fear the fat! Focus on how often you’re breaking out and the radiance of your complexion, then think about how they reflect your overall health.
This one’s for the ladies, but hey the men might get a boost, too, in the form of an increased libido! Eating an inadequate amount of calories for your activity level due to a severely calorie-restricted diet and not eating to support your hormones (think healthy fats and plenty of fiber from nutrient-dense vegetables) can negatively impact your period. Focus on the regularity and length of your cycle, PMS symptoms, flow (not too heavy, not too light), and libido.
These days, I weigh myself maybe once every two months. I don’t even own a scale, so I’ll use a friend’s when the opportunity presents itself. And when I do weigh myself, the conversation in my head is much different. My goal is to stay above certain weight because I want to retain my strength and energy, not to stay below an arbitrary number. In between these opportunities, I look at the above four factors to get an idea of how I’m doing with my weight.