When I start something, I generally like to know what I’m getting into. I don’t go to movies without checking the run time, I don’t go to the grocery store without a list, I don’t understand the point of just walking around the mall aimlessly or without a purpose. Maybe it’s just me, but I like to know what my end goal is. So when I decided to get serious about changing my lifestyle and healthily losing weight, I immediately started thinking ahead. I knew where I was starting out, but where was I going to end?
How on earth does one go about choosing a goal weight? A quick Google search for “healthy weight ranges” will bring up a plethora of charts all indicating that a healthy weight for your height may fall anywhere within a 40 pound range! How on earth does that help to narrow it down at all? What weight is truly a healthy weight for you? Several things factor in to choosing a healthy and realistic goal weight, which can make setting your goal a confusing and overwhelming process.
Here are a few physical and psychological things to keep in mind as you try to determine what your goal should be.
Height plays an important factor in weight. Taller people naturally have more “lean mass.” Lean mass is anything in your body that isn’t fat. This includes things like bones, organs, muscles and fluids. Taller people simply have larger organs, for example, which will weigh more than those of a shorter person, regardless of diet and nutrition. Taller people are naturally, healthily, heavier than shorter people. So if you’re 5’11’’ and aiming for a 110 pound body, you might need to rethink your goal, so that you don’t get discouraged by not being able to healthily reach your “goal weight.” Remember that healthy is more important than any number ever could be!
Another thing to keep in mind is your body composition. At 5’7’’ and 190 pounds, I am considered “overweight” and even bordering on “obese” by the popular standard BMI calculations. However, at a 26 percent body fat percentage, I’m also smack in the middle of the "healthy” body fat percentage range for women aged 20 to 40 (which, if you’re curious, is 21 to 33 percent). How on earth is this possible? Simple. I’m very muscular. Muscle is much more dense than fat is, and so the more of it you’re carrying around with you, the heavier you will tend to be. This isn’t a bad thing! While a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same (just like one pound of feathers and one pound of bricks both weigh…one pound) muscle takes up significantly less space in your body! This means that even though the scale reflects a higher number than you might be comfortable with, your clothes and measurements will probably tell you a different story. If you’re like me, and tend to develop and carry a lot of muscle, your goal weight should probably be a little bit higher than our naturally less-muscular friends. For example, my current goal weight is 160 pounds. For some 5’7’’ twenty-something year old women, this number might be too high. For me, it’s perfect.
Once you pick a goal weight, it’s not set in stone. As you begin to lose weight, and you learn more about your body and how it responds to different combinations of nutrition and exercise programs, your goals may change. Similarly, if you’re just beginning a journey into a 60, 80, 100 or 200 pound weight loss, picking an “end goal” might make your journey seem impossible. If focusing on where you want to be when you’re “done” losing weight makes you feel at all hopeless, don’t do it. Don’t even think about it. Instead, set smaller goal weights. Where would you like that scale to be this time next year? This time next month? Research shows that losing just 10 percent of your body weight can yield tremendous health benefits…think you can do that by your next birthday? I think you can.
Remember that the scale is NOT the only indicator of progress. You will go through weeks, maybe even months, where that scale will not move, or may even move in the wrong direction, even if you’re doing everything right. Take pictures, take measurements, pay attention to how your clothes fit you, and most of all do not lose hope. Trust in your body. Trust in your dedication. It will all pay off.