So. You want to lose weight.
That’s not even a question – this is pretty much a given these days. There is the assumption that if you don’t look like this:
…then you should want to. And you are kind of lazy if you aren’t working on it.
Don’t get me wrong. As a society we ARE kind of lazy. We move too little. We eat too much crap. And we do it mindlessly in front of the TV. There are rising rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children. But in between this:
There is a lot of room for….being normal. Which is totally healthy.
I know. It’s crazy. Just stay with me here.
Let’s have a look at this traditional BMI chart. As you probably know, BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It’s really just a ratio of your height to your weight and it’s generally the way doctors will first screen you for an unhealthy body composition.
Unfortunately, it’s not a very good tool since muscle is very dense and heavy. In fact, when I taught the Personal Trainer certification course, most of my (extremely fit) students measured as having being obese or overweight on the BMI chart.
As you can see – the ideal BMI has always been between 18.5-25.
But Stephen J.C. Gaulin, Biologist & Author of “Why Women Need Fat” is calling that out:
Many M.D.s have bought this fallacious line that the optimal weight for women in terms of their health is what M.Ds call normal weight, a BMI between 18.5 and 25. And they have thought this to be true because women with higher BMis exhibit a series of physiological measures that are indeed risk factors for disease in men. But they are not systematically risk factors for disease in women. If you actually look at the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and data from studies done in other countries, the optimal weight for women who have had a kid is what doctors currently call ‘overweight’.
(If you want a tool to measure whether your body fat is in the ‘unhealthy’ zone a much better tool is your waist to hip ratio or body fat percentage.)
But let’s say for the sake of argument that your muffin top isn’t really that unhealthy.
But you don’t like the way it LOOKS.
Well – one option is to wait 10 years and maybe your body type will come back in style. Remember – this was the original fitspo:
And even in my tender young life time, body trends have varied wildly. I can remember times when Kim Kardashian’s bum would have been an embarrassment.
I clearly remember waves of wanting to look:
- diminutive (but top heavy) like Winona Ryder in Reality Bites:
- gaunt and vulnerable like Kate Moss in Calvin Klein
- powerful and badass like Linda Hamilton in Terminator….
I swear the minute we all manage to get that champagne glass balanced our our butts, they are going to announce that it’s time for us to look like Twiggy again:
So now you see that body trends are as transient and fickle as the butterfly collar or the plucked eyebrows of the 90’s that we all regret.
But let’s say you still want to lean out.
That’s ok! That’s not BAD by any means. Heck, I’m all for setting hard goals and trying to accomplish them. And if having a 6 pack is on your bucket list, than let’s do it! I’m not going to lie – I still kind of want to be Linda Hamilton from Terminator.
But let’s be realistic about the effort required.
Below is one of my favourite graphics from Precision Nutrition. As you can see – it’s not that hard to move from having an unhealthy amount of body fat to having a healthy body composition. But to get from having a normal amount of fat to being super ‘cut’, it’s a serious amount of effort:
So what if:
- Your body fat is not that unhealthy and totally within the range of normal
- The body type you desire is just a trend that’s likely to go away in a couple of years
- Getting leaner would be possible … but maybe not worth the effort.
….what if you decided you weren’t trying to lose weight?
What kind of space would that free up in your life?
Would it create room for other meaningful self improvement projects?
Would you stop punishing yourself with exercise and start participating in movement that you love?
Would you start focusing on other health metrics – like sleep, stress reduction and maintaining positive social connections?
Leave a comment below and let me know what NOT losing weight would mean to you…
Like this post? See the expanded version in Oonagh’s new book, Healthy As F*ck
Not loosing weight means less stress about food and workouts. Doing more of the workouts that I love and less stressing about feeling the burn, am I running/walking enough, did I work out long enough ect. I think just reducing the stress is the biggest component because I feel that I am stressing trying to do the best possible HIIT/ Cardio/yoga fat burning exercise and that stress is actually working against me
I totally agree, Ellen. Great comment!
I used to spend a lot of time thinking about how I would get the ideal amount of exercise in each week, then more time doing it. It was all or nothing – every session must last an hour with 10 minutes of stretching! – that kind of 1980s thinking. Now my brain real estate has been acquired by children. But really, not worrying about ideals is great. I don’t feel bad taking an hour to do something for myself that is not exercising or counting a walk or wrestling with a preschooler as exercise. Love your blog and attitude Oonagh!
Thanks, Andrea! And I totally hear you about the brain real estate being a precious commodity post-kids! 🙂
Give myself permission to back off on some of the high impact activities that are starting to feel punishing to my body versus challenging. Find other effective ways to exercise (and eat) to find similar results while still healthy for my joints and muscles.
Great poster! Great reminders! Keeping a realistic goal in mind is much healthier….. And getting less stress and more sleep. Thanks again OD!
Feel better about myself in general. Still trying to wrap my head around it being ok to not have a 6-pack anymore & doesn’t make me a failure & I don’t have to have that as the goal…
Not losing weight means loving myself as I am. It means being OK with my age and appearance. It means enjoying a healthy lifestyle, making informed choices regarding my diet, and knowing that the care I afford myself each day = long term benefit. It means moderation in everything! “Denial” is not just a river in Africa…. and having a dessert now and then, or an indulgence on occasion doesn’t put me off the rails!