Many people have this idea in their heads of a number that they consider to be their “ideal weight.”
So where do they get this from? Some look at the body mass index charts, which were created about 200 years ago by Lambert Quetelent (a mathematician, NOT a physician) as a way to categorize people for his research and were never meant to be an indicator of health. Also, fun fact in the 1990’s a bunch of Americans went to bed and woke up “overweight.” Their body size hadn’t changed-however against recommendations from The World Health Organization, an “obesity task force” (which was funded by the makers of a weight-loss drug) decided to lower the BMI. The reality is that BMI really tells you nothing about someone’s health or behaviors.
Some look at their weight back in high school (i’m pretty sure we aren’t all meant to have our “high school bodies” forever, bodies are meant to change as we age). Others just arbitrarily pick a number that “sounds good” to them.
Here’s the thing. Our bodies don’t read magazines, scroll through social media, or care about arbitrary clothing sizes. Biologically, we all have a set point weight range (typically between 10-20 pounds) that our bodies will fight to maintain. Our set point weight is largely based on genetics. The same way some people are tall and short. Some people are naturally larger or smaller.
We live in a culture that currently deems that “smaller” is “better” and “more attractive,” and there is often stigma towards people in larger bodies. However, this is completely a cultural construction. There are other cultures around the world where people in larger bodies are celebrated, and women actively try to gain as much weight as possible.
Your Ideal Weight Isn’t What You Think
The problem is that so many people are trying to suppress their weight below their natural set-point weight. Typically this is a pretty fruitless effort as research shows that 95 to 97 percent of people who diet, will lose weight, and then gain it back in a 1-3 year period (and sometimes go on to gain more).
However, let’s say that you are of the small percentage of people that is “successful” in suppressing your natural weight. Often those people have to spend the majority of their time obsessed with exercise, food, and their bodies. When you think about it, that’s a very large price to pay. It reminds me of a quote that I love, which says, “Don’t miss out on 95% of your life to weight 5% less.”
How to Find Your Ideal Weight
Your ideal weight is whatever weight you reach, when you are mindfully nourishing yourself with food and movement that you actually enjoy, and fully engaging in your life.
Here are a few things that could help you to determine if you have a healthy relationship to food and your body:
- I generally listen to and honor my hunger and fullness cues.
- I eat food that I enjoy and that are satisfying to me
- I engage in some form of joyful movement
- I don’t let the number on the scale, dictate how much I eat or exercise.
- I don’t engage in crash diets.
- I have other ways to process and cope with my emotions, than always turning to food.
- I am able to eat a wide variety of foods.
- I can go out to eat without anxiety.
- I don’t feel guilt or shame regarding things that I eat.
Ultimately, your ideal weight is the one where you can go out for ice-cream with friends and truly enjoy the moment. It’s where you can travel and try new foods, while making memories with people that you care about. It’s where you can chat about your hopes and dreams over brunch without calculating numbers in your head or feeling guilty about something that you ate. It’s where you can fully engage in your life because you are not constantly consumed with thoughts about food and your body.
In pouring your valuable time and energy into trying to suppress your natural weight, what are you missing out on? At the end of your life, no one is going to fondly remember you based on your weight or clothing size. Healing your relationship with food and your body will enable you to pour your energy into the things that are actually meaningful to you.
If you are struggling with this, it’s so important to seek help from a professional. Seeking help when you are struggling is a sign of true strength.
You deserve freedom from food obsession and body hate.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.