The “Target Weight” Illusion

For most of my life I had no idea what I should weigh. I had no concept of what a woman of my height, at my age and with my bone structure should be. I knew that I was horribly overweight, so just being “less than now” was all I ever really thought about. When I signed up for the medically monitored program on which I lost the last 100 pounds, they asked me to put a “goal weight.” I’d tried and failed at so many different diets at that point that I didn’t really think it was possible to be less than 230 pounds – the lowest I’d ever been that I could remember (after being put on a crash diet by my mother in junior high). So I put that as my goal. At the time of that final push I weighed 270 pounds.

I quickly dropped below 230 and the program leaders asked me if I was going to transition to maintenance now. I said no, I’d like to see if I could get to 200. When I closed in on 200 they asked if I was transitioning. I said that since I had a hard deadline to be off in a few more weeks, I’d wait until then (I was getting married – the first time- and going overseas for my honeymoon. They had a rule that if you couldn’t be medically monitored, you had to move off the hardcore weight loss phase and into maintenance). I made it to 192. But I thought, still, that 192 was still very heavy and that what seemed like a good weight for a woman was 150. Still a little high, I thought, but it seemed like a good round number that wasn’t outrageous for a woman to weigh.

Now, keep in mind that most women are significantly shorter than me, so hearing about, for example, a 5 foot tall actress weighing 130 and being considered overweight may have skewed my understanding. There really aren’t many women as tall as me, so getting reliable data about how much women my height weighed was pretty much impossible.

So I went on the honeymoon, then I spent 6 months working hard in the maintenance program, and after that period I was eligible to go back into the weight loss phase. I weighed around 185, so I’d lost some in maintenance. I put 150 as my goal when I started hardcore weight loss again. I did not make it to 150. I made it to around 168, and my body absolutely refused to go any lower. Period. No matter what. I was a size 10/12, but I looked emaciated – my face looked drawn and the lines deep. All I saw was the number on the scale and the number in the clothes. For the first time in my entire life I could shop in “normal people” shops. I’d been shopping in large-size clothing shops since I was in elementary school. I still wasn’t happy, and I thought, “If I could just lose 20 more pounds, I would be happy at that weight.”

After 2 years of keeping my weight in the 170-180 range, I had the excess skin surgically removed. I spent a month convalescing from that surgery, it was a massive, 10-hour procedure. I went home with 4 drains and a catheter bag and spent a whole weekend not moving. Over the course of the month I was recovering, I lost a bit of weight and reached the lowest weight I’ve ever reached in my entire life – 159. I thought, “Nine more pounds!”

I steadily gained back to be in the 170s. I worked hard, but I could NOT stay at what I wanted to be at, and I couldn’t reach 150. I thought, well, I can at least stay under 170. Nope. Despite all my efforts – running 4-5 times a week for 5-7 miles a shot, monitoring my food intake heavily, avoiding social food situations. There was nothing I could do to get to or stay at those low numbers.

I would occasionally call up my mentors at the program and do another round of the weight loss program. But no matter what, if I wanted to live my life in a semi-normal fashion, my weight was going to be higher than I thought it should be. I mostly sat at 185 – a weight at which the online BMI calculator told me I was overweight and, “People falling in this BMI range are considered overweight and would benefit from finding healthy ways to lower their weight, such as diet and exercise.” I laughed bitterly at that advice – I needed to try diet and exercise, this stupid site is telling me? But I thought I looked healthy, and so did everybody I knew.

Note: I will not provide a link to the online BMI calculator. If you want it, go find it yourself.

I spent years fighting to find the right “target weight” for me. The guidance I got from the BMI metric was absolutely useless. Here’s a picture of me when I was approximately 185 pounds. Overweight, according to BMI. So whenever I weighed 185, I thought I should try to lose.

Overweight, according to BMI. Fabulous, here in the real world

I would duly place myself on severe restrictions and diet back down. I yo-yo’ed up and down pretty heavily for the first 5 years of maintaining. Then, with the passing of years of this a lightbulb finally went off. Nobody maintains their lowest weight ever. It’s almost impossible, because you attain that weight while you are dieting hardcore. But unless I intend to maintain the diet and exercise regimen of a full-blown weight loss routine, I am not ever, ever, ever going to weigh my lowest weight. It doesn’t even make sense that I should.

So I came up with my own theory about what I should weigh. I should weigh whatever weight it is at which I am exercising regularly (6-7 days a week), eating “clean” (definition: the vast majority of my food comes from fruits and vegetables) and only indulging in restaurant or social eating once or twice a week. I seek to strike a balance – I maintain that weight at which I am eating the absolute fewest amount of calories I can reasonably eat while still enjoying myself and not obsessing unduly over my intake. I still obsess unduly about getting my exercise done.

I keep my weight under 200, I’m a happy girl. Here’s me today, a little under 200.

200 pounds of feeling healthy

People don’t really have any idea what a woman should weigh or look like at different weights. I have this thought in my head that people are horrified at the thought that a woman would weigh 200 pounds, because people expect women to all conform to unreasonable fashion-industry standards. I read an article recently that said fashion models of my height should weigh 115 pounds. I don’t know anything about that, my husband thinks I look gorgeous at 200. And so do I. And I still have to work hard to maintain it, I’m just not killing myself anymore, and making my partner miserable while I’m at it.

The only wisdom I guess I have to impart is, don’t buy clothes at your lowest weight, though the temptation may be strong. It’s a lot easier to maintain a weight that you didn’t get to through full-blown diet mode.


3 Responses to “The “Target Weight” Illusion”

  1. Princess Dieter aka Mir Says:

    You look WONDERFUL!

    I know I set a particular goal weight that’s still “overweight” according to charts/BMI/etc. I don’t care. I don’t believe I’ll be able to keep off a “normal” weight. In fact, I’m happy where i am now, but know I can do better, so I’m working on it. I do think that you’re tall and can carry that 200 or under weight just fine, look good, look sexy.

    I feel good at this “overweight” weight, and if an angel came down and said, “You ahve to stay at this weight now”, I’d go, “Okay. Still fattish ehre, but I can do that” and go on with a happy life. It’s perspective, too. Like you, I don’t want to subsist on super-meager calories, though I know I can never be self-indulgent again. Never. I have to say goodbye to food frenzies forever.

    Here’s to using BMI as a general guide, but telling it to take a hike as needed. It’s about ehalth, manageable eating, satisfaction…

  2. Trystan Says:

    AMEN. I wish someone had told me 5 years ago not to buy clothes at my lowest weight, hah. Ugly lollipop-head girl had some expensive tastes!

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