Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

    PERIWINKLE88   5,700
5,500-6,999 SparkPoints

Ideal Weight?

Monday, August 06, 2012

I am entering an interesting period of my weight loss: seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I bought a bunch of new clothes (thank you, Sierra Trading Post!) in size medium for tops and size 10 for bottoms. I figured that was my goal size, so I should take advantage of the end-of-season sales, even though I'm still 15 pounds over my goal weight.

Well, interestingly enough, the tops fit NOW and the pants are close to fitting. So, what does that mean? Am I at my goal weight? No, but I can't figure out exactly what it is. I spent the morning obsessing about it, doing body fat calculators, happy weight calculators, ideal weight calculators, and of course returning to my old friend the BMI chart. Where does this leave me?

I'm 39 and 5'3", with a medium build. Even though I always felt overweight, technically I wasn't while I was young: in high school I weighed 128 and in college (and before I started having kids) I weighed 138. My BMI range is 104-140 (I was 141.5 this morning--can't wait to get into the healthy range!). The midpoint of my BMI range is 122, and the 75% point is 131. An even 70 pounds down would put me at 126.5.

I got down to 118 in my 20s and felt too skinny. It only lasted about 5 minutes, because I started having kids, and that made my weight balloon--I was 208 after my 2nd daughter. I got down to 125 in my early 30s and felt great, but I got pregnant again right away and went up to the upper 180s. I got down to 140 in my mid-30s but wasn't satisfied, threw in the towel and went up to 197, which is where I was when I started losing weight this final time. You can see that choosing the right goal weight looms large for me psychologically. I don't want to be "thin"--I like being bit curvy. But I also don't want to have worked this hard to be chubby. I just want to look fit and athletic.

I'm worried that I'll pick a number that's too ambitious and not be able to stay there and then sabotage myself, feeling like I've failed. I'm worried then that I won't push myself, picking a comfortably high number and feel like it doesn't matter anyway because it's impossible for me to be an attractive weight--and then I'll just gain it back.

Before you think that I'm obsessing too much about just one number, I realize that weight doesn't tell the whole story--how your clothes fit, how you feel, etc. is also important. I also know that the ideal should be a range, not just a number, because water weight fluctuations, etc. will cause daily changes.

But after reading Refuse to Regain I am convinced that my previous yo-yos were due to having no intentional plan for maintenance. I just got down to my goal and thought the work was over. Now I realize that I need to put as much or more effort into maintaining, and that means becoming a warrior--no excuses, no moderation, constant monitoring, and immediate correction. That also means I need accountability, and the number on the scale, while it's not everything, is a good fail-safe indicator.

In Refuse to Regain, Dr. Berkeley talks about how important it is to have a "scream weight"--a number at which you go back to your diet plan immediately. She also suggests that psychologically it's helpful to have that be a number that ends in 0. That's why I was thinking that 130 would be my scream weight, which would make my range 126-130. That means that I'd want to get down to 126 in order to start off on the right foot.

But today I started realizing that I have all these clothes that will fit me in the low 130s, and maybe I should be satisfied with that, especially at age 39. On the other hand, I don't want to cheat myself and not get to where I want to be and feel a nagging sense that I didn't quite succeed. Also, that would mean a "scream weight" of 135 or 138, and that feels uncomfortably high to me.

Ugh--maybe I'm not going to be able to figure this out until I get down lower and can see how my pants fit and how I feel and how hungry I am. But I'd kind of like to get it settled in advance (at least in my mind) so that I can be logical about it and hold myself to a standard that I've figured out makes sense.


Member Comments About This Blog Post:
THRASHEJ 9/1/2012 10:22AM

    eh...who knows what your goal weight should be now....know also it will change with weight training....pick out a pair of skinny jeans...realistic size that is your "goal" size. Try them on periodically. When they are tight you know you have to tighten up your diet some. The jeans method works best when you are weight training too since the scale will be unreliable for the most part.

Report Inappropriate Comment
BOOKWORM27S 8/10/2012 10:48AM

    I found out my ideal body weight by using this formula; 100 lbs. for a 5 foot tall woman. Then add 5 lbs. for every inch you are over 5 feet tall. I'm 5'5" so my ideal body weight is 125 lbs., but I like to be a few pounds under that to have some "wiggle room."

Report Inappropriate Comment
ESMOMMY13 8/9/2012 2:49PM

    I want you to breath. I have struggled with maintenance before and have gained all my weight back. I am now in the process of loosing and a good way from reaching my goal weight.

Like you I was concerned about my goal weight should be. However, unlike you, I have been overweight all my life. I honestly do not know what it is like to be at a healthy weight. So with my doctor and a dietician we have figured my goal should be 170. At the high end of BMI but we all believe I will feel comfortable at that weight.

So, my advice go with the weight that you are comfortable with and don't over think it. If that means you have to get new clothes, awesome! If that means you keep with the ones you have now, awesome! Either it is all about being happy with yourself and feeling comfortable.

I have friends who are on maintenance who say it is hard to do. Good luck!

Report Inappropriate Comment
PSSN4FITNESS 8/9/2012 9:16AM

    Thanks you so much for posting this honest and thought-provoking blog. Like others have mentioned, your mind often underestimates what you will ultimately find your body is capable of. I have not solved this puzzle for myself yet either, and actually posted a very similar blog a couple of weeks ago.

MOBYCARP's analogies make a lot of sense, especially the road trip one. I think you have to stop and think of what you want to feel and see and think at you goal. If you want to lay on the beach, head to LA and if you want to hike amongst the redwoods, head to Northern Cali. I think you already have some good reference points from your previous weights and how you felt at each of them. Unlike you, I had never weighed below 150 in my adult life. So I was feeling things out blindly.

I wish you the best in finding the right place for your body. Hoping I can find the right balance also.

Report Inappropriate Comment
4A-HEALTHY-BMI 8/9/2012 8:28AM

    I had a hard time stabilizing at my goal; since I'd been in a severe calorie deficit for most of the preceeding year, it was hard to figure out how much to eat, and what to eat.

There's nothing wrong with settling to where you want to be, in stages.

Instead of looking at 15 lbs to go, think about how you feel. What do you see in the mirror? Or take photos since the mirror can be deceptive. Get used to how it feels down here. Do you like it? Are there things you still want to change?

Perhaps you'll decide that you want more muscles, in which case you might adjust your exercise regime to focus more on strength. Perhaps you'll want to be able to do chinups, in which case you might adjust your food to cut more body fat (since chinups are mostly dependent on the body weight being lifted).

There's nothing wrong with setting an intermediate goal and practicing staying there for a while. I'd maintained bumpily for 2 years before I hit a new all-time low weight. Turns out I kayak better at a lower weight, so now I'm figuring out how to stay here.

Like the other people who posted, it comes down to what YOU want, and how YOU feel, and how much effort YOU might want to put in to stay at whatever size you choose.

Keeping the weight off will likely require vigilance and immediate correction, and that is work. But the lower you go, the more vigilance and more aggressive correction will be needed. Only you can decide where the right balance is for you. And it's allowed to change, depending on your circumstances. Just make sure you are managing it and that you are happy with the result.

Report Inappropriate Comment
PERIWINKLE88 8/7/2012 12:16AM

    Thank you so much, everyone, for your incredibly thoughtful, thorough, and insightful posts. I've learned a lot reading your posts, and you've given me a lot to think about. One clear message comes through: this issue is hard! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has struggled with it, and I'm also appreciative to have some better direction now that I'm getting closer to my destination (great metaphor, Mobycarp!). I'm really just feeling overwhelmed and honored that you all would share your wisdom with me. I'm going to sleep on it and see where I'm at tomorrow (at least for now--I'm realizing this is not going to get "solved" right now!).


Report Inappropriate Comment
TRACYZABELLE 8/6/2012 11:49PM

    I hate those "normal" ranges-- I am 5'3 as well and I know I will NEVER be under 140~ YOU look great!!!!!

Report Inappropriate Comment
SWEDE_SU 8/6/2012 11:27PM

    you've raised some really interesting questions for me - i've also lost weight, and gained it, every decade of my life and have decided that this time (i'm 60), it aint gonna happen. i never heard of the book refuse to regain, but it sounds like just what i need! thanks for pushing me in the right direction, at one pound away from the bottom of my minimum weight for BMI, i need to be thinking of exactly the same issues!

Report Inappropriate Comment
GOING4MUSCLE 8/6/2012 9:54PM

    You have already got some great advice. Some of which even spoke a bit to me.

Here's my thoughts...

My ideal weight, as I figured it to be, was 130 pounds. In the past, this was the weight I was able to hold fairly steady, with a range up to 135 pounds. In 2010 I went into maintenance mode once I hit 129 pounds, yet as you can see from my stats (5'3" & 111 pounds) body had other plans!

I've since dropped another 18lbs, since that maintenance point, not because 'I' was seeking lower (I didn't alter anything - I just coasted along), but because my body had its own idea and I just went along for the ride. Sure, I wanted to reduce some more body fat, but I honestly thought I was never gonna go to much farther, than where I was.

Ha! Now I've reached that point, where 'I' have to take the reins back, cause my body has surpassed probably its own target, by a little bit. Sure, some of it is my own fault, as I grew more and more excited every time the scale registered a drop and it became a 'how far can I take this?" game. While it's only 4 extra pounds, these final ones dropped me down to the bare minimum with both the scale and the body fat and I can see and feel it.

Needless to say, I'm now halting the scale loss, by making certain that I eat closer to the top of Sparks 1,770 calorie maintenance amount, instead of closer to the lower 1,350 calorie amount I was averaging, far too often. So, I can't say my body was wrong in its goal target, as it had it was ME (my mind) that took it a bit too far.

Keep up the great work! You're doing fabulous!! emoticon

Comment edited on: 8/6/2012 9:55:28 PM

Report Inappropriate Comment
MOBYCARP 8/6/2012 9:01PM

    Another comment coming from seeing your post in At Goal and Maintaining . . .

Much of this blog echoes the thoughts I had as I approached maintenance. 10 months later, I still don't have all the questions resolved. I have some practical answers for myself, subject to revision with further experience; but those answers won't produce a numerical answer for you.

If I compare weight loss to a journey, it's like setting out from New York to go to California. For most of the journey, it's good enough to know you need to head west. But when you cross the border from Nevada to California, questions arise. Exactly where in California should you end up? That's the big puzzle of approaching maintenance. When you're clearly overweight, you can structure your nutrition and exercise with a bias toward losing weight. When you're down into healthy BMI range, it's no longer so clear. Exactly when should you stop trying to lose, and start trying to not gain? Beyond that, when should you stop trying to not gain and start trying to stay in a range? How do you pick that range?

I originally set what I thought was a stretch goal for weight loss. Top of "healthy BMI" for me is 182. When I was bouncing off 185 in previous weight loss efforts (that didn't include tracking what I eat, LOL), I thought that I might have a hard time getting into the healthy BMI range because I'd put on a lot of muscle lifting weights. So my initial SP goal of 175 was a real stretch, or so I thought.

Well. When I met goal, I added back some calories. And kept losing. And added more calories. And kept losing. Eight weeks later, I thought my weight had stabilized around 165.

The loss had slowed down. Now I think I've stabilized in the 160-164 range. At least, I haven't been out of that range in over four months. For the current maintenance challenge, I set my target weight at 162.

As I was approaching my initial goal, 162 wasn't even a fantasy. 165 was the fantasy, absolute lowest I thought I might be able to achieve but probably wouldn't. But it turned out that when I concentrated on "not gaining" instead of concentrating on "losing," the low 160s was where I was headed.

For now, my range is 160 to 164. I hadn't heard the term "scream weight" before you used it, but my scream weights would be 165 on the high end and 160 on the low end. Yes, I need a scream weight to keep from losing more. I don't think my weight belongs in the 150s; but I could put it there if I get serious about exercise and fail to eat enough.

Maintaining a stable weight after losing isn't like parking the car in the garage after driving home. It's more like keeping a boat at a designated geographical location in the middle of a body of water, when the wind and currents are constantly shifting. Frequent adjustments are needed.

The bottom end of my daily calorie range has varied from 2200 to 2900 calories while I've been in maintenance, in response to changing environment and changing ability to exercise. Those numbers may look high to you, but the important point is this: I changed the nutrition allowance multiple times in order to achieve a stable weight. Eating to plan is not that much different when maintaining than when losing. The hard part is recognizing when you need to change the plan that you eat to.

Comment edited on: 8/6/2012 9:04:37 PM

Report Inappropriate Comment
KEEPITSIMPLE_ 8/6/2012 8:26PM

    I began maintenance when my body was ready, and I was comfortable. When i stopped losing for a long period of time, not matter what i did, and I had met my goal size and far surpassed my expectations of my body image. I now fluctuate between 3-5 lbs, continue regular cardio/ST, just moving, being active, etc. Of course I continue to eat balanced, healthy meals. When i get lazy or let go with food too much, I feel it right away, and correct my habits immediately. Some days I get frustrated and I just don't want to do any of it anymore. But I never want to go back either. Thankfully, my healthy habits are engrained now, and I crave them.

Welcome to the team, and I wish you the best!

Report Inappropriate Comment
BAMATEACHER 8/6/2012 6:28PM

    In my experience, you'll know. You'll know what that number is when it's time. Mine was actually a little higher than what I originally picked as my goal weight, but now that I'm there I'm completely comfortable with it. And when I get close to scream weight, I feel less comfortable. My goal weight ended up being the exact right spot.

I'm so glad your read "Refuse to Regain." I'm afraid my maintenance would be much different - and possibly completely unsuccessful - if I hadn't. In fact, I need to read it again.

Can't wait to see what the end of your journey (or the transition to the next phase, really) holds!

Report Inappropriate Comment
TOWHEE 8/6/2012 6:07PM

    Don't choose a goal weight, choose a goal range. Make the range about 5 pounds and aim for the middle of the range. This gives you a bit of a cushion for the things that happen in life - TOM, a party, holidays, vacations, stress. If you go above your range or below your range, then you can do something about it quickly before it gets out of control.
What does your doctor or primary care person say? She/he will probably choose a number off of a chart (most are using BMI now), but she/he may have some insights that will help you with your final decision.
By the way clothes will usually give you a 10 to 20 pound range depending upon the style and ease built into the garment.

Best wishes,


Report Inappropriate Comment
ANARIE 8/6/2012 5:37PM

    I went through a lot of this, too. In the end, though, you don't have to choose a goal weight. Your body makes that decision for you. You'll get to a point where it just won't go down anymore, or else you'll get to a point where you look a little bony in places you don't want to be bony and you get extremely cranky (or woozy, or both) if you miss a meal or snack. Even though I'm only 5'1", I find I can't go much below 130. Originally I set 124 as goal because it made an even 60 pounds from my highest weight, but I just can't physically get there. My lowest was 125, and it was too low; I didn't look good and I really didn't feel right.

I'm not in the maintenance teams like I should be, so I don't know if this is all that common, but I have discovered that there's a seasonal cycle, too. I declared maintenance about this time in 2006, and since then every year my weight spikes in February, fluctuates with a slow downward trend until June or July, and then suddenly drops in late August or early September. I can't figure out any reason for it, but it's wise to remember that there are many other influences on your weight besides what you eat or how you exercise. Look for trends and patterns, and understand that it's not always completely under your control.

For that reason, I think it's a good idea to put away the scale when you get down to within 10 pounds of what your *think* your goal is, and use behavior instead outcome as the way to measure progress. Reward yourself for recording your food and for doing exercise, etc, and ignore your weight. If you eat properly and get some exercise, your weight will do what's best for you.

Report Inappropriate Comment
BEECHNUT13 8/6/2012 5:26PM

    I think something in the low-mid 130's would be good (I'm 32 and 5'4), with a scream weight of 140. But that's my opinion. If you're muscular though, that number will end up a little higher.

Report Inappropriate Comment
MERAINA 8/6/2012 1:21PM

    emoticon as you continue your journey, I believe you will find the zone in which you feel happy with the way you feel, the way your clothes feel, the reflection you smile at cuz you kept going, your over-all health factors will tell you when you have reached that stopping point of satisfaction. You are nearly there!

Report Inappropriate Comment
EMMANYC 8/6/2012 12:28PM

    I think it's a good idea to start thinking about your maintenance range before you get there, but it is hard to settle on a precise range until you really are there (and have been there for a little while). For one thing, the same number of pounds can look and feel different at different stages in your life and depending on your physical fitness, lean muscle mass, etc. So how you felt and looked at certain weights in the past isn't necessarily a good predictor of what works now. That said, I think you can develop a rough estimate of where you want to be when you're finished losing weight and based on your blog, it sounds like somewhere between 125 and 135, which looks like it would be a BMI between 122.5-125.

When I was figuring out my maintenance weight/size, two of the most important factors for me were: (1) maintainability (not achievability); and (2) practicality.

With a lot of initial and ongoing effort, I can get my weight down to about 122-125 (on a 5'7" frame), but that weight requires me to take a very strict approach to what I eat practically ALL the time (whereas now I'm careful about 80-90% of the time and eat what I want in moderation, regardless of calories, about 10-20% of the time). I also have to exercise a lot, which is hard to fit into my lifestyle and presents a greater risk of injury (I'm prone to overuse injuries.)

On the other hand, I can comfortably maintain my weight around 127-130, without having to be hyper-vigilant about what I eat and with moderately strenuous exercise. (My usual routine is to walk to/from work for a total of 30 minutes, 6 times per week; do about 4 cardio workouts totalling 2.75-3 hours per week); and 2-3 strength training sessions of 20-40 minutes each.) To get my weight down to 125 or less, I have to add about another 90 minutes of cardio per week and more ST to my schedule.

FWIW, my sister is a little over 5'2" with a medium-sized, muscular body (and she's 50). She generally weighs between 118 and 122. But she's a triathlete and a marathoner. When she's training hard, her weight is around 188 but that involves intense cardio workouts totaling about 8-10 hours per week, not including yardwork around the farm etc.

From a practicability perspective, I have a fit problem with clothes when I weigh 125 or less. I have very broad shoulders and fairly widely spaced hips. That means that no matter how little I weigh, I'm never going to fit into tiny sizes. At 125 pounds, my waist and bust would fit into a size 4 or even a 2, but my hips and shoulders need at least a 6 (or sometimes an 8). So at 125 or less, small clothes don't fit my hips and shoulders and larger sizes look like tents. At 127-130ish, I fit comfortably into size 6s and 8s.

Report Inappropriate Comment
COCHESE321 8/6/2012 12:13PM

    I am not, nor have I ever been, close to my goal. But there is no time limit on it. Why not decide on one that you know you can maintain and live with it for a while. If, at some point later, you feel like you want to lose more, then do it and see how you feel there.

Report Inappropriate Comment
DRAGONCHILDE 8/6/2012 12:05PM

    Let me tell you about goal weights.

They're useless. :)

No, seriously!

A weight is not a static number. You can't *be* 120, because it's impossible! Now, you can hover around that weight for a while, but you'll gain and lose a few pounds in the period of hours. You can have a range.

But here's what your weight doesn't tell you: How well your clothes fit. How you feel. How strong you are. How *fit* you are. Come on, there are bodybuilders with 0% body fat who are technically obese because of what the scale says!

Don't stress over the "ideal" weight. There isn't one. Go for what feels right, and if that number is a couple pounds more than some chart, who gives a flying rat's behind? You look good, and feel good, and that's what matters.

Report Inappropriate Comment
62NVON 8/6/2012 11:30AM

    I could have written this blog post. And my husband accuses me of being obsessive. LOL

My goal weight has been a moving target. I got down to 135 a couple of years ago, but my husband thought that was too low... in his words, I looked "scrawny." I adjust up to a 140-145 range and maintained that for a year. Towards the end of last year, I got lazy and quit weighing. I knew I'd gained, but when I finally owned up to the scale, I was at 155! So in January, I got serious again, and got back down near 135, which oddly enough, hubs doesn't call "scrawny" anymore. I think he was afraid I was going to go even lower. He tells me now I'm at the absolute low end of the range for him.

I'm pretty happy where I am right now, hovering around the 135 mark. My "scream weight" is 140. I weigh myself every day now. That seems to be what works for me and keeps me on track.

I've been working on the maintenance thing for almost two years... it definitely takes effort, but it's very much worth it!

emoticon emoticon

p.s. By the way, I'm almost 5'4". =)

Comment edited on: 8/6/2012 11:31:15 AM

Report Inappropriate Comment
HOUNDLOVER1 8/6/2012 11:26AM

    I saw your post on the maintenance team and wanted to share my experience. Most of us go through the process of losing the last 15 lbs. very, very slowly. I finally figured out that for me I could only lose the last 10 lbs. by going low-carb because it changes the way your body uses calories by reducing the amount of insulin produced. Even when I was exercising 2 hours/day that was not enough. I am currently under 130 for the first time since I was 16 (49 now) and am shooting for a new maintenance weight of about 124. My height is 5'7'' and I have a small frame.
Don't worry about the exact number where you will end up, you are already at a healthy weight. Focus more on sustainable habits, clean eating etc.
Best wishes,

Report Inappropriate Comment
TXSASSY76 8/6/2012 11:09AM

    I think you know exactly where you want to be... but you are like me... afraid to set it in stone... because of the possibility of failure. I say... FACE your fears & just DO IT! If you know that a "scream weight" of 135 or 138 feels uncomfortable, then DON'T go there! If you feel that you may have a nagging sense of cheating yourself out of achieving success... then DON'T! DON'T cheat yourself! I completely understand not wanting to have a goal set in place that you are constantly trying to reach... but truthfully... How will you know that you can or can't? Unless you actually TRY! I say, keep your original goals... strive to reach them, and once you do... re-evaluate your feelings. If you feel like this is a healthy weight and where you want to be... then maintain it. If you feel like you are "too thin" then work to gain some back... the right way! I think you know the answers to your questions... but fear is holding you back... It's the same way for me! Best Wishes & Keep GOING STRONG! YOU CAN achieve anything you set your mind to!!

Report Inappropriate Comment
KENDRACARROLL 8/6/2012 11:04AM

    I'm with SYZYGY922 concerning the clothes. They do have smaller sizes if you need them.

Set a target, let's say 130, and see how that feels when you get there. Not really useful to expand all that energy worrying about it. Your target weight is not set in stone and it will probably take a while to arrive at the one that's just right for you.

My goal is to stay within 3% of of my goal weight.
The trick to maintenance is that you keep monitoring and make immediate corrections when things start to slide.

You can do this!

Report Inappropriate Comment
SYZYGY922 8/6/2012 10:30AM

    I should read Refuse to Regain!

I have no idea what my "true" goal weight is, really. I'm focusing on my body fat percentage. When I first started, my goal weight was 150 even though that's still "overweight" for me. I chose that number partly because I knew what I was like around 170, and I figured 150 would be good based on my frame size and muscularity. Also, I have thyroid disease and a couple of other problems and I never thought I'd get smaller than that! Now I'm a little under that, and people seem to think I'm a nice "average" size (I wear a 10), but I'm not happy with all my extra flab. I'm only 5'1" so I'm still overweight and I'm now more confident that I can continue to lose. I have a large build, but I think I want to get a bit below the top of my BMI range and I may want to get down into the 120s, with 130 being my "scream weight."

I would say don't let the clothes dictate where you want to be. Get where you want to be and the clothes will follow.

You've gave me some things to think about.

Report Inappropriate Comment

Add Your Comment to the Blog Post

Log in to post a comment.