When I reflect back on my weight loss, and then weight gain journey I find the whole issue of my ‘goal’ weight very interesting. While I was losing weight I had a pretty reasonable goal weight in mind. I could not remember a time when I had weighed anything less than 11st 7lbs (161lbs) so that seemed to be a good place to get to. I got there fairly easily and the weight continued to come off – this was un charted territory for me. Not once in my adult life could I remember being anything less than that weight. I got to 11 stone (154) , a healthy weight for my height according to BMI (don’t get me started on BMI, its NOT a great indication of healthy weight) and I was over the moon, I loved my body and felt happy and confident.
Back at the start of 2009
As time went on I decided to set my goal weight a little lower – why not get to 10 and a half stone (147lbs) instead? It took a lot more effort, but I managed to get down to that weight. At this point the weight loss had slowed right down and in order to lose more I had to really focus on my diet and exercise. Around this time I started blogging and getting into running, then eventually I became vegetarian and then mostly vegan. I did the Great North Run, kept up an intensive exercise regime and quite unconsciously at the time – started minimising my food intake. I lost almost a stone in two months and then even more. I reached my lowest weight of 8st 10lbs – still within a healthy BMI range (one of the reasons I bloody hate BMI!) But clearly I was unhealthy, my periods stopped and people that had always complemented me on my weight loss began telling me I was ‘slim enough’ and ‘not to go losing any more weight now’. Probably cause I looked a bit ropey – my face was gaunt and my skin sagged more.
I was near my thinnest here, and I feel I looked rather gaunt and older too!
At the time I really couldn’t see what I was doing – all I knew was how to eat and exercise to lose weight and the very idea of seeing the scales going in the ‘wrong’ direction freaked me out. So that happy weight got lower and lower. I stressed about what would happen when I couldn’t keep up my exercise routine or if I did less one week than I did the week before. Going backwards and gaining weight or losing fitness were unacceptable.
Discovering that my periods had stopped when I came off the pill gave me the wake up call I needed – thank god! Its been a slow process since then that has seen me gain almost 2 stone, vastly reduce my exercise and start eating in an unrestrictive way again.
Now that I have been through that whole journey I feel I can look back and really see where I went wrong. I feel that part of it was that fear of gaining weight, and allowing my goal weight to drop to something that was unsustainable without an insane amount of effort, and unhealthy for my body.
This is the crux of it, we all have a different ideal weight that we should be able to maintain without too much effort – although I believe some effort should be expected considering the environment most of us live in with regards to food availability (lots of) and activity (sedentary jobs). When you are having to eat a minimal amount of calories with very little treats, and exercise intensely for over an hour a day to stay at a particular weight I don’t think that’s a natural place for your body to be at. We are all different, some of us are naturally smaller and slimmer, some of us are naturally bigger and curvier. As long as you feel good in yourself and your body is free from disease and illness and functioning as it should then that is you! We are all ‘real women’ no matter what size we are. If you are overweight and it is affecting your health and wellbeing, losing weight is one of the best things you can do but it may be that your happy weight is naturally on the bigger side. Monitor the success of your weight loss on your health rather than your dress size.
I do understand that for some women the extra effort is worth it when it comes to being slimmer – but that is an individual choice. For me, it’s just not worth the time, effort or heartache. I enjoy food too much! I also actually feel that I look better – my face is fuller, I have curves that I personally find attractive in women and I think I have more of a glow about me. This might be a bit TMI but James really loves my curves if you know what I mean ;-)
The obvious thing for me looking back was when I got to around 11 / 10 and a half stone (147 – 154 lbs) and had to push to get below that. Its interesting that now I’m eating and exercising in a more balanced way that I have returned to that weight bracket. I am this size naturally and I have had to come to terms with that. I eat well, I exercise, I live my life to the fullest – which for me includes eating cake sometimes. I understand that if I changed things I could be smaller – its like a trade off – quality of life versus being thinner. I know which one I’m choosing. I’m not saying I wouldn’t workout a bit more if I wanted to gain muscle or get fitter as long as I was enjoying it, or try and lose weight if I gained it again – I certainly would. I just think my motivating factor would be my health and how I felt rather than how I looked. I was really enjoying a lecture on my IIN course and the speaker was talking about how some women are just naturally meant to have greater body fat and that if you are eating and exercising right and still have perhaps more body fat than you’d like, then that might just be where you are meant to be.
For any of you reading this – either currently overweight or underweight, believe me the journey is worth it. Please don’t give up! The rewards of being at a healthy weight for your body, of being relativity free from being at battle with yourself over and over again is wonderful. I’m not saying I’m perfect, or that I don’t have ‘fat’ thoughts. As I blogged about the other day I felt like a blob after Christmas until I started eating more healthily again.
In terms of finding your own happy weight I think you need to be very careful when it comes to using BMI. It can be a useful guide, however its not the be all and end all by a long shot. Use other indicators of health as a measurement. If you hit a weight loss plateaux that is within 10lbs of your goal and it takes significant effort to shift past it and you are otherwise very healthy – eating and exercising well – then perhaps your happy weight is where you are at. Don’t compare yourself to others either! You are you, unique and wonderful and what is right for someone else’s body may not be right for yours.
If you are on a weight loss or even a weight gain journey do you have a goal in mind? How have you decided on that goal weight? Have you struggled with finding your ‘happy’ weight?