It’s a question I receive during consultations so frequently that I couldn’t deny writing something more elaborate about it.
Before I delve into my take on this question, one of the best responses I’ve heard to this is by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff. His response:
“…Whatever weight a person reaches living the healthiest life that they can honestly enjoy. Because truly there will become a point where a person cannot happily eat less and a point where a person cannot happily exercise more and their weight is what I’d refer to as their best weight.”
It’s really hard to find any disagreement with this statement.
When a potential client sits down with me and we begin to discuss where weight is currently versus where they would like it to be, that variance can be large.
This, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If there is considerable weight to lose, then the numbers are what they are.
…until they’re not.
Suppose Susan (not a real client) got married at 26 years of age, she is now 48. In the last 22 years she has had two kids, both of whom are either out of or on their way out of college and focusing on their career trajectories. Susan herself has settled into the routine of a fairly sedentary job and lifestyle. As time has passed, her eating habits have become more lax and her weight has steadily crept up.
She has embarked on several trendy diets over those last 22 years (especially the years after her first child was born) and nevertheless has reached a weight that she can no longer tolerate. Susan has now decided it’s time to take back control over her health and get this weight off once and for all.
The line of questioning might go something like this:
Me: May I ask, roughly or accurately, do you know what your current weight is?
Susan: Last time I checked, I was around 220.
Me: Thank you, and do you know where you would like to be?
Susan: Hmm…I think I’d really like to be 150.
Me: When was the last time you were at 150?
Susan: (laughs) Oh geez, maybe my junior year of high school when I was playing softball!
So, we’re looking at a 70lb journey with a woman who is likely in or near peri-menopause/menopause and has had two children since she was last at her proposed weight goal.
Is this weight goal possible? Sure.
Is it realistic? I really don’t know.
You see, what Susan may or may not be cognizant of is that her body has gone through a tremendous amount of change since that junior year of high school. Marriage happened, two kids happened, stress in all manifestations happened.
And so, if we play the whole calories in vs calories out game (which is the overly simplified version of how the ‘magic’ happens), Susan will lose weight.
If she is patient, continues to be mindful of her eating habits, trains responsibly, etc. she may very well get to her mind’s eye weight of 150.
But at what cost?
What will Susan have to sacrifice and compromise to lose 70lbs as she is inching closer to 50 years of age?
Well, for starters, it will affect much of her personal and professional life.
Her husband may or may not also be looking to lose weight and while he claims to be supportive, he has different motivations, goals, needs, etc.
Her co-workers may also ebb and flow with weight loss and weight gain. They all mingle together to talk about the next round of trendy diets to come across the newstands, social media, Dr. Oz, and late-night infomercials.
So, when Susan tries yet again to lose weight, she’ll have to determine which boats she is most willing to rock.
And let’s assume that Susan is really (no, really) ready to get serious and lose the weight this time.
If we take an industry standard weight loss timeline of 1-2lbs per week of loss, it could take Susan anywhere from 8-16 months to reach her goal weight. If we throw in every possible holiday, hiccup, work social, etc. into the mix, it could even double the timeline.
There’s a strange thing that can happen with weight loss that I wish more people considered before they started:
Sometimes the weight a client used to be no longer wears well on their bodies.
And while that arbitrary dream number that they tell themselves they must achieve sounds nice in conversation, it just isn’t a good place to be mentally or physically.
I’ve watched clients become so driven on the end goal (whether it be a goal weight of “X” or total pounds lost of “Y”) that they lose sight of other, more important markers like:
-How has my social life changed?
-How is my sleep?
-How are my energy levels?
-Can I “live” this way?
Not to mention, other things can change and not always for the better. The face may show more signs of creases/wrinkling. The cheeks can become more gaunt. The elasticity of the skin can be so much more dramatic that cosmetic surgery is the next elective in line after the weight goal is attained.
I should be fair in saying that none of these changes are inherently bad. A healthier body is a healthier body. But if we lead back to Dr. Yoni’s statement, are you living your happiest life?
The actual process of weight loss: eating in a deficit and training consistently is not easy and it can frequently be “not fun.” Once you’ve accepted that given amount of discomfort and displeasure to reach a healthier weight, you may have to ask yourself: Is my original goal the best goal for me now?
For Susan, she could get to 150 and look and feel like a million bucks. That is one reality.
And another, perhaps a more likely reality, is that maybe she gets to 170-180 and tells herself “You know what? I’m not at my goal but I feel pretty damn good. I like how I fit in my clothes, I like the luxuries I can now afford myself with food and even though I’m probably never going to see 150 again, I’m proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished.”
The journey is yours to succeed with. The outcome is yours to be satisfied with.
The numbers…well, let’s just say, they never tell the “whole picture.”
So, what should you weigh?
Ask your happiest self.
“We Make Great People Greater.”
(This is Heather, down 26lbs, healthier and happier than when she started and her journey is still going.)