Are You Trapped by the Ideal Weight Myth?

Are You Trapped by the Ideal Weight Myth?

An Ideal Weight is Hogwash

When a woman says “I need to lose 10 pounds, or I need to lose 60 pounds, or I need to lose those last 5 pounds,” she is really saying “I want to change my habits, or I want to stop eating so much crap, or I want to workout, or I want to eat smaller portions.”

So, say that instead.

I especially dislike the phrase “lose those last 5 pounds.” If you need to deprive yourself, cut calories to a ridiculous level, eat foods you don’t like, or go on a silly “cleanse” to lose those last 5 pounds, those pounds aren’t yours to lose.

We Do Have a Problem

Nevertheless, many moms may want to lose some weight. 69% of Americans over 20 are overweight or obese.[1] Keep in mind, overweight does not mean the same as over-fat. Still, that’s a high number. Overweight and obesity are calculated by Body Mass Index, a weight to height ratio.

It’s not a perfect measurement. It doesn’t take genetics into consideration, and a muscular person with little body fat will have an inflated BMI, while a skinny person with a lot of body fat will have a deflated BMI (this is called skinny fat). But, generally, it is a decent shorthand because we are not a land of football players.

Go to the National Institutes of Health webpage if you want to know your BMI. You can decide how accurate the BMI measurement seems for you personally. However, don’t let the number scare you. As I said, it is a shorthand, not an individualized look at body composition. Keep in mind, if you have little muscle mass, even a so called “safe” BMI may not give the most accurate picture of your health. If you want to read more about the pitfalls of BMI, as well as its utility, I highly recommend this post by Dr. Bryan Chung.

Carrying around too much weight, especially in the midsection, is associated with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, osteoarthritis, pelvic organ prolapse, and on and on. That’s the bad news. The good news is you don’t need to lose much weight to reduce your health risk. Indeed, exercise, even absent weight loss, will make you healthier.[2]

Ideal Weight Honesty

Let’s be honest. Women who say they need to reach an ideal weight aren’t saying, “I need to reach an ideal reduction in my risk factors for various health problems.” Therefore, if you want to lose weight, think about WHY. Why do you want to lose a very specific 10 pounds, 60 pounds, 5 pounds?

Vanity is natural. Wanting to look good is human nature. However, monomaniacal weight obsession is a problem. It also takes a toll on your body image.

You can improve your body image as you lose weight, but you have to be honest with yourself about what you hope to achieve. Trying to reach a specific number on a scale is a goal that confuses ends (an ideal weight) with means (healthier habits).

Should we throw away our scales?



The scale measures long term weight loss progress and long term weight gain creep. This information is important. The scale does not measure an ideal weight.

A lot of women say they never weigh themselves and instead rely on how their clothes feel. This sounds like an imprecise way of doing the same thing that a scale does. I wear a lot of stretchy clothes. I could gain 15 pounds without nary a clothing complaint.

If you need to lose some weight, stick with the scale, unless you know it is a trigger for disordered behavior. Limit the weigh-ins, but occasionally check to see if the scale reflects your habits.

Instead of obsessing about a number, ask yourself:

  • Was I able to keep my calories within a range that prevents weight gain?
  • Was I able to resistance train?
  • Was I able to exercise my heart?
  • Was I able to do all this without compromising my sanity?

The answers to these questions are more important than “How many pounds do I have to lose before I’m ideal?”

Throw your ideal weight into the discard pile with other outdated ways of making you feel bad about yourself. Because, OMG, if you reach this mythical ideal weight through unsustainable habits, now you have to worry about staying there. And that ain’t no fun for you or the people around you.

Weight loss isn’t a race to a number. It’s a slow and steady accretion of habit. And, as with all habit, sometimes we are diligent, sometimes we are lax.

The big picture matters.

Numerical tunnel vision does not.

Return to Week 3

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