Too many people are overly concerned about how much they weigh. Somewhere along the way, the idea took root that weight is an important and reliable indicator of health. I disagree that this is valid for most people. There are too many other factors that are much more important than some fashionable or statistically questionable perfect weight. The fashionable aspect of weight is not only suspect because it changes with historical time periods and culture, but because it is skewed by photography and misunderstanding variations in body types. Throw in the inconvenient fact that bodies change over time due to things like function (i.e. pregnancy) and aging (there are changes with nearly every age – we are not just talking “old” age here), and the attempt to decide on a “perfect” weight becomes even more illusive. Or it should.
I even suggest that when most people weigh themselves, it is unhealthy, because it does things like discourage them or cause them to avoid foods they actually need. Most people have some ideal weight in their minds that they are constantly aware of. Maybe it is a weight they associate with a romanticized memory of young adulthood. Maybe it is from a chart they saw once. Possibly, it is even based on the purported “perfect” weight of someone admired. Surely we can admit all such comparative measures of weight are unrealistic and probably invalid. Instead, shouldn’t we put our energy into things that really make a difference in health, and let “weight” fall into place, so-to-speak?
Here is a list of things that affect and support health more than struggling to obtain an exact measurement on the scale:
1. Eat a balanced, healthy diet. It isn’t rocket science, but if you’d like some encouragement in that area, I suggest reading this article on basic nutritional principles.
The idea of a balanced diet should include the acceptance of eating according to the approximate caloric needs. The body sends convenient signals that are not too hard to learn and can be distinguished from uncontrolled appetite. If you need a review of the energy value of certain foods, keep records for a few days. Learn how to compare the nutritional and caloric values of oranges and potato chips, but chances are that after doing that for a short while, you will be able to make much more thoughtful choices about food.
Predominantly eat things that satisfy hunger and make you feel physically strong, as well as leave you feeling fueled to be productive. Anticipating the coffee crowd, I will try to clarify not “stimulated”, but fueled. Nothing wrong with coffee, but that’s not what we are talking about.
If you have a food group that you know you tend to over indulge in, come up with strategies for replacing (only if it is a non-essential food group) or moderating it. Have alternatives for what to eat or what to do.
Don’t be afraid to ignore food fads, fad diets, government nutritional “advice,” and the newest nutritional studies.
2. Get the amount of sleep your body seems to really need on a regular basis, to the honest best of your ability. You probably know about what that is, but it can vary with activity or stressors in life.
First of all, tiredness is one of the times a person is most susceptible to poor choices. Additionally, lack of rest tends to make a body function in stress mode and with less mental acuity. It’s plain no fun.
3. Include some sort of regular motion in your routines. Whether it be housecleaning, yard work, running, swimming, or something like dancing, find at least a couple of activities that you can engage in that stimulate your physical systems, make you breathe, and increase your circulation. It doesn’t have to be competitive or even officially recognized as exercise to be healthy. It just needs to include movement. Our bodies need to move some.
Almost everyone feels better after something as simple as a walk in the fresh air. There is a reason that in previous centuries it was referred to as “a constitutional.” (A walk, typically one taken regularly to maintain or restore good health.)
4. Maintain a level of cleanliness that inhibits the establishment or growth of pathogens. While some exposure to “dirt” is conceded to stimulate the immune system, being “dirty” on a regular and ongoing basis is known to create fertile conditions for disease.
Attending to these four areas of your life, with little or no attention to weighing yourself on a scale, will produce more health than attaining that magic, but usually imaginary number! If you pay attention to these factors, there is a good chance that you will firm up and slim down without even trying. Oddly, you might not “lose weight” if you gain muscle mass, depending on your original state.
Another often neglected detail of feeling good about your current status is making sure your clothes fit. Frustration with feeling fat can stem from trying to fit into “desired” sizes or needing to discover what ready-made styles work with your body shape. For instance, I am a bit taller and longer waisted than the “average” woman. That means that if I try to wear any garment with a distinct waist line, it hits me at the wrong spot, usually too tightly, and I “feel fat.” Add to that the fact that I have more narrow hips than “average,” and it is a recipe for changing room crisis! I only mention my particular variations (which I talk about more in Skinny Girl Weight Loss Confessions), because those are the ones I am most familiar with. I expect there are a good many variations on the “average” that leave people feeling like they aren’t proportioned correctly, when it is really just the limitations of ready-made clothes combined with the tendency of people to buy what they think they want to fit instead of what really does.
I think we can agree that there is a point at which a person can be well beyond a body weight that is comfortable and functional. A lot of extra weight probably does stress the circulatory system and make moving much more of a chore. I remember one painfully honest landlady I had back in college who was saying how hard it was to get out for exercise because it was like trying to always walk with a suitcase on each hip. (When I knew her, she was making progress in losing a significant amount of excess weight). However, too many people are hard on themselves simply because they think they are supposed to be. They (and those who love them) could and should be happy with them regardless of the “ideal” weight.
It’s really not all that pleasant to be around someone who is continually worried about every pound or two fluctuation on the scale. He or she would probably be more beautiful if convinced to throw away the scale and smile more. Happiness, which is a choice, tends to bring out the beautiful in all of us.
And did you know that it wasn’t that long ago that if people were on the “skinny” side, the insurance companies charged them MORE? That was because of the observation that sick people tend to waste away. Thus, to be more slender than “average” was correlated with disease and dying. The same really holds true today. It is statistically healthier to be slightly “overweight” than “underweight.” But, of course, you need to measure your weight more by how you feel and a realistic assessment in the mirror than a certain scale measurement.
Ah, a realistic assessment of yourself in the mirror. What should it be based on? For me, it is a melding of what my husband likes, plus what I am comfortable with and can humanly attain with my current priorities and responsibilities. I will never be photoshopped in the mirror. I will never be any younger than I am now. I will always have something that could probably be improved on, but I will not be made happier by being unhappy with how much I weigh now. So, I have given up weighing myself, and have not done so more than a couple of times in the last few years.
There are things I find it useful to remind myself of during such moments of evaluation:
1. I actually feel pretty good.
2. I DO have large bones. While some people may use that for an excuse, it is a fact for some people, and it runs in my German heritage. I do not have a slight or petite build, as my size 11 feet attest.
3. Skin turgor affects what “shows.” It happens to everyone as they age. I am not aging faster or slower than normal.
4. Fats are extremely important to hormone function. I like my hormones, overall. Just like some young women’s hormones won’t kick into gear until they let themselves gain some weight, being too thin while aging can make hormonal changes more stressful.
5. The idea of a “perfect” figure or ideal weight can be a matter of pride. Attaining some weight does not make one a more superior person. There are plenty of struggles of habit and self-control that have nothing to do with weight and are more easily hidden from sight.
6. Weight is not as much an indicator of physical ability as it is generally held to be. Apparent “muscle tone” doesn’t even tell the whole story. I have confirmed this over the last few years by observing the body types that cross the finish lines at races. At one difficult race in particular, the young woman who won with astonishing speed was like a miniature tank! And right after the race she went and refueled heavily at the snack table! I’m sure she was healthier than 99% of the men who were there.
Not even reputable weight loss programs recommend constantly weighing oneself. It is too variable, too distracting, and too misleading. If you find certain times to use it as a tool, well, okay, but most people should throw out their scales. They have either already settled in a general weight range or weighing themselves is of little use in practical fitness goals. Anyway, most people are more beautiful at any weight once you get to know them, both from the glow a countenance emits when engaging with another soul and from the decreasing importance of outward appearance the more we love someone. Find a physical state in which you are happy and comfortable, and don’t worry about imaginary numbers.