Find Your Perfect Weight - Part 3

You know that you want to lose weight. But how do you pick a goal weight that’s right for you? Do you find a celebrity, or even a friend, whose body you like and try to reach the same weight as him? Do you aim for a previous weight of your own, like what you weighed when you wore that junior prom dress 25 years ago?

Unfortunately, neither of these is a good way to set a weight loss goal. Finding your best weight isn't as simple as plugging your height, age, and gender into a formula and getting a number spit back at you. Your body is unique, and so is your ideal weight. Because it involves factors that are both objective (like your health risks) and subjective (like your personal satisfaction with your appearance), your ideal body weight is much more than a number on the scale: It’s more like a state of being. You’re at your ideal body weight when:
  • Your weight isn’t causing (or putting you at risk for) any health problems.
  • Your weight doesn't limit you from living the life you want.
  • You can accept your body as it is, without feeling uncomfortably self-conscious.
  • You can enjoy being in your own skin, without worrying too much about how you compare to others (or cultural ideals).
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at several of the methods experts use to determine when your weight puts you at risk of having health problems, and how you can use those methods to set a realistic goal weight for yourself. Part 2 discussed body type and how it affects not only your shape but also your weight and appearance.

The third major element in picking a goal weight that’s right for you (along with those described in Parts 1 and 2) is figuring out what it will take to make you feel happy and satisfied in your own skin.

Sure, we all care about our health. But when it comes right down to it, most of us want to look good — and feel good about how we look too! There’s nothing at all wrong with that…unless it’s someone else’s idea of “looking good” that you’re trying to achieve instead of your own.

Why does it matter? Because the more you expect weight loss to influence how other people see you or relate to you, the harder it is to be successful. Eventually, you’ll be resentful that you have to work so hard to lose weight just to keep someone else happy. And that will lead to anger and rebellion against your own efforts.

The simple reality is that you can’t control what other people think of you, no matter what you do, how much you weigh, or what you look like. If you want to feel happy in your own skin, it’s your own happiness and your own attitude that you have to focus on — those are the only things you have any control over. And that begins with choosing to lose weight for yourself and on your own terms, not to conform to other people's preferences.

This is easier said than done when you live in a society obsessed with thinness and beauty. Who doesn't have at least some desire to be accepted and admired by their peers? We all want to fit in! Because of this, being overweight means that you may not be as popular as the “beautiful" people. It means you may find it harder to get the job you want. And you might even be excluded from certain activities. Excess weight can, literally, come between people in personal relationships, too. And worst of all, it can interfere with your relationship with yourself.

When your weight causes you come up short when making a first impression (no matter how superficial or unfair you believe this to be), it hurts. And it’s very easy to start hating yourself or your own body for “causing” this problem, even though the real problem is a foolish and mean-spirited cultural stereotype.

So, is it realistic for you to think that losing weight will help you avoid these kinds of problems? Yes — but that is no guarantee. (After all, there are plenty of unhappy, frustrated, and lonely people who will tell you that being thin is no guarantee that things will go the way you want.)

If losing weight is going to change your life, it's not because of how you look, how many pounds you lose, or what others will think of you. Your life, confidence, self-esteem, and attitude will improve when the process of losing weight itself empowers you — to seek what you want, to succeed without limiting yourself, and to believe that who you are doesn't depend on how you look and how others react to your appearance. And that process of empowerment begins with choosing to lose weight the right way, for the right reasons — and for you alone.

So how do you use these principles to set goal weight? This mental exercise will help:

Imagine you live on a planet where scales have never been invented, where there is no concept of body weight at all, and no formulas like BMI have ever been conceived. On this planet, sex appeal is not used to sell or market cars, fragrances, or anything for that matter. There are no public images that tell people what's "attractive" and what's not. Friendships, social groups, and intimate relationships are a basic part of life, but physical appearance is only one of many factors that attract people to one another. Everyone wears basic unisex clothing that minimizes differences in body size and shape.

How will you know when your body is the right size and shape? What criteria will you use to decide when it’s OK to accept your body the way it is, and when you need to change something? How will you know that you feel good enough about being in your own skin?

Now ask yourself this: Is there any reason you can't answer these same questions on this planet?
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Member Comments

I've recently been working on switching from cigarettes to an e-cig. Pretty much got that under control but my focus wasn't so much on losing weight during the process. I've gained 2 pounds which I don't consider too bad. I read all three articles and have found them helpful for getting my focus back on losing weight. Especially the concept of the 'other planet'. Report
Granny701 You mentioned that you walk 2 miles each day & do cardio 3 times a week. Do you also walk 2 miles on those days that you do cardio? Just wondering because I am considering following your method since I am also 56 yrs old & have around 25 lbs. to lose. Report
I read all 3 parts of the articles. I think what he said makes a lot of sense. I am usually more comfortable at the high end or a little over my weigh range for my height. I have good muscle ratio and am very active. I look good in my clothes, usually a size 8. I still have some excess weight on waist, some loose skin, went from 335 to 135.
The fact that we all don't have to weight a certain weight is good, unless someone misinterprets weighing more, a lot more as the norm and thinks that is good..
A few pounds over weight, no harm, more than that ,dangerous for your health.
And no one should fit into the obese category.
I used to model, was good weight almost whole life,ten got obese. For 14 years I hated myself. Lost weight and am living again. Maybe being thin doesn't bring you instant happiness, but it sure beats being morbidly obese and hardly living. Just like money won't bring you happiness, but it sure makes living a lot easier. Report
Coach Dean, you are the thinkers' weight loss coach! I love how you challenge us to view things from a different perspective. It is so easy to get caught up in the numbers, but a number in weight loss is kind of like a diamond. It only has value because WE assign it value.

My happiest memories have nothing to do with the size I was. Having my babies, getting married- those days would have been just as wonderful even if I weighed my current size. But I can say that some of my worst memories are related to weight- specifically health issues.

But as far as what is enough- you're right! I'll know it when I get there and it won't be about the number on the scale- it will be about what I see when I view my profile in the mirror. I don't know what that number will be, but I'll know the moment when I see it!

Thanks for a great article. Report
Wow! I feel like a light bulb just went off! It wasn't until I read the last page of this article, that whole little scenario of imagining myself on a planet where weight/body size/shape didn't matter . . . I really imagined myself there, I could see it. I could feel what it would be like to not have the emotional weight of "not fitting in". And for the first time, I've got a grasp on doing this for me and not someone else! I can see myself taking the focus off the numbers, and putting the focus on reaching the place where I can breathe, and move, and LIVE! Wow! I can't even explain how different my mindset is just from reading this. Thnak you! Report
In 2000 I weighed 430 pounds. I underwent weight loss surgery (RNY) and lost 135 pounds before my weight loss stalled. After three years of unsuccessful dieting, I had my RNY revised to a Duodenal Switch and lost an additional 160 pounds. While I was within the healthy BMI range, I looked terrible at 135 pounds (I'm 5'3"). I was horribly underweight, emaciated, and looked like an Ethiopian refugee. I was told by my weight loss surgeon, hematologist, and internist to gain back weight until I reached 175 pounds. Now I weigh approximately 242 pounds and have a BMI of 43 and body fat of 49%.

I have come to the conclusion that since I have always been overweight (since age 4), I will never be a size 0 or weigh what the Metropolitan Life Insurance Height/Weight Charts say I should weight (115 pounds). According to my body fat percentage, I am carrying 124 pounds in valuable lean muscle mass. To weigh 115 pounds would mean losing muscle mass and that is pure insanity. So I have decided to set my goal weight based on my lean body mass with a body fat percentage of 25% or 165 pounds. Once I reach that goal, I will try and maintain it for at least six months to see if I am truly comfortable with that weight. If I discover that I would prefer to be a little leaner then I will lower my body fat to 20% for a new goal weight of 155 pounds.

My ultimate goal is to reach a body weight that will reduce my risk for diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer (all in my family history) and let me enjoy life to the fullest. Trying to be stick thin like a fashion model just isnít in the cards for me and I accepted that fact. The most important thing is to maintain a good body weight for the sake of health and not appearance.
The hardest part of my journey has been TO STOP CARING WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK!

I thought my obsession was centered around being born and raised in California and an American. Now living the past 6 months in Northern England, I do see it as a global problem. Once I stopped being focused on what I thought other people (STRANGERS) wanted me to look like, told those thoughts to "SHUT UP" and focused on what my eyes saw and want to see, my healthy lifestyle hasn't been a struggle to maintain.

I am a UK size 12 and wear a bikini to the beach and walk around in it. I walk into a room with confidence, my head held high because I know I LOVE what I see in the mirror before I leave home.

I no longer let the numbers on a scale or strangers form my opinions about myself.

I so agree with this article and how to decide if you really are at an acceptable weight. Made me rethink some of my issues. And to get moving to get losing.. thank you Report
This article echoes how I feel. I am actually okay with being "overweight". What I'm not okay with is being "obese".

I remember what I looked like when I weighed 175, and I looked GOOD. Even though I was overweight. I've seen my husband drool over pictures of me from then.

175 is not dangerously overweight. 225 IS.

To quote something I saw on Pinterest the other day,

"I'm not training for a 5K. I'm not preparing for a competition. I'm not trying to set a new record. I'm not trying to impress you. I'm saving my life." Report
Dean, you have helped me more than anyone. your articles are great. I have lost over 50 lbs in 9.5 months. But it has been the journey what I have learned about myself along the way. god bless you. Report
This article really helped me to re-think my 'perfect' weight. It will be a weight where I can do all the physical things I need this 55 year-old body to do and not based on a page from a fashion magazine. I am not sure that is the actual weight that holds us back from living life fully as much as how we feel about it.
Thank-you for a different, more realistic perspective.
Kathy Report
I don't need scientific evidence to know that people judge you on the way you look, but charisma and personality count for a lot, too. Report
This is one of the best articles on this topic I've read here, and in my opinion Dean's best.

I just want to feel strong, and that means having a low mass to strength ratio. Which for me is usually around 150 lbs, assuming I'm also around 15-19% body fat. Report
Thank you so much for all of these great words. I read this article very early on and I just re-read it today to confirm my convictions. Several years ago I was at a weight more than ten pounds lower than my goal weight. I am now more than thirty pounds heavier than back then, but because I have become happy about who I am and what my body is, I am far happier. I think I am healthier too, because certainly I am fitter and eat better food. But I could never be happy if I didn't accept certain things about my body.
Back then, I wanted to be an ectomorph so badly, but I am a meso-endo (or perhaps endo-meso) with broad hips. That HANWI formula made me crack up! Even after starving myself for months I wasn't even close to my "desired" weight. Now that I know how to dress for success and how sexy an athletic meso-endo can be, I really look forward to being a healthy weight. Report
As one of the others have posted, I have had issues with an eating disorder for 25 plus years.

This article is just what I have been looking for as I quit smoking March 2nd and have gained 5-8 pounds, it depends on which day I way. This article is something I needed to read years ago and it is the same thing my DH has been telling me for a long time.

Thank you!



About The Author

Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.
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