Sunday, January 11, 2009

What's the right goal weight?

I have a new blogging rule -- if I find myself writing more than a paragraph in response to someone else's blog post, it's probably time to write my own. I am implementing it in regards to Jennette's (PastaQueen's) post "Ask a loser: What should my goal weight be?"

Actually, I'm blogging more in response to a part of a comment on that post:

I don't see how a BMI above 25 typically is going to be 'healthy' compared to one below that. Obviously there will be some exceptions, but I hear a lot of ppl discount the numbers and I just wonder if they do have something more reliable to measure when it comes to fitness or we're playing a game. I think as a Western society with poor eating and exercising habits, we tend to rationalize we can be bigger just because everyone else is. I'm not sure that's necessarily best for physical health. (Self esteem and feeling good at a higher weight is something else again and absolutely important--but to me, what helps me live longer and shows up better on my bloodwork seems like a more quantitative goal.)
I think that the importance that dieters place on setting the "perfect" weight goal is sort of a trap. Setting the perfect weight goal doesn't do much good if you can't get there -- or if you can get there but not maintain it. I liked Jennette's approach of re-evaluating once she got nearer to her weight goal, and I'd agree with her that she looked amazing at BlogHer when she was at her goal weight, even if it wasn't in some golden BMI range.

I even have photographic evidence -- that's her (right) with Shauna (left).

If health is really the real goal... and I'd like to just ask commenters like this, is it?

If health is the real goal, then I think it makes more sense to focus on behavior goals than weight goals. I like Shauna's (DietGirl's) "No Year's Resolutions" as a daily minimum, which for me would translate to: Exercise a minimum of 20 minutes a day, track my food, and get to bed at a reasonable hour so I get the sleep I need. Those are minimums would apply when things were crazy or I was feeling wiped out. I have more ambitious behavior goals for most weeks: Get in at least 2 strength training workouts, 4 cardio workouts, and 1 stretching workout a week; Keep my calories within a maintenance, preferably losing, range; and manage stress and cultivate joy by doing some daily reflections.

I figure if I focus on the behavior goals, my weight goals will take care of themselves. I know I have weight to lose but I'll let my body figure out how much. I know how I want to feel and look at my weight goal. If I feel and look that way, who cares what the scale says? If I get to a plateau and I feel like I still want to lose more, I can always push the behaviors to make myself lose faster. Changing my goal weight won't make any difference in how fast the weight comes off.


  1. Just found your blog and I'm glad I did. Interesting post. I've never thought of it that way. More times then not I am thinking of that number in my head that I want to get to. Now that number has changed in the last little bit, but still it's a number. I think this time around (I'm starting over again), I'm going to take your approach. Focus on non-scale victories and goals. IF I can focus on that then you're right, the weight loss # goal will take care of itself.

  2. I agree.

    This reminds me of something I read in "The Structure House" weight loss book: the author encourages you to visualize the lifestyle you want to achieve (eating healthfully, doing physical activities you enjoy), and then begin to implement it. Change the behaviors to what you want them to be and you body (and weight) will follow suit.

    It's easy to get discouraged when the scale doesn't do what you want, but if you're seeing improvements (walking farther or faster - that sort of thing), then you are seeing progress.

    Anyway, that's what I try to focus on!

  3. I wholeheartedly agree and not just coz I ended up landing at a goal weight over my "ideal" bmi :)

    I feel strangely nostalgic looking at that photo! Happy days :)

  4. I'm breaking out of "lurking" mode to comment on this. I completely agree with Jennette's post and yours. When I first started trying to lose weight, I decided to aim for 100 pounds, as that would put me at 161, a weight I was my last year of high school and first year of college. However, I'm open to having that changed b/c I realize that 1)I'm definitely not in high school or college anymore, and my body isn't the same, 2)I may be more comfortable at a different weight. The only thing that will bug me if I end up getting to 170 and stopping is that I will have lost an odd 91 pounds instead of an even 100! Isn't that silly?

    I also liked Jennette's advice about making non-scale goals. I would love to just be a size 12 or 14, so if I get there and am heavier than 160, I just might stop. Who knows?

    (And for what it's worth, my doctor actually told me that 160-165 should be my goal weight, despite the fact that according to BMI charts I shouldn't weight more than 155. He said my frame needs that added weight for support. I loved getting permission from my doctor to disregard a medical chart!)

    And it seems I've written more than a paragraph. Oops. :)

  5. Very interesting post to think about. I've been following one blogger who lost over 50 pounds and has maintained that weightloss for over a year and she looks awesome! Even though she might not like the number on the scale, her pictures tell a totally different story - I would call her thin but maybe the BMI chart would say she is overweight (she isn't).

    My goal for the last several years is to get out of the overweight BMI, but I'm going to rethink that ideology.

    Maybe if we all just focused on the suggested bare minimum, instead of the prize . . . well, I thank you for this post. I know what my new theory is going to be for 2009, 2010, 2011 etc.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07