Ideal Weight or Happy Weight?
Maybe you've been working on getting back to the weight you were at in high school or on your wedding day. But do you really need to go that low? Or can you weigh more than your ideal weight and still be healthy?
If you're overweight, losing just 10% of your body weight is linked to many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar, and reducing your risk for heart disease. This kind of weight loss is also easier to reach and keep for the long run.
Your Weight "Set Point"
Just as your body temperature is programmed to stay around 98.6 degrees, your body weight is naturally regulated to stay within a range of 10%-20%, says Thomas Wadden, PhD, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at University of Pennsylvania Medical School. This weight range is known as the "set point."
A complex set of hormones, chemicals, and hunger signals help your body keep your weight within this range, says dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD.
It is not just about your genes. Your eating and exercise habits can also help to determine your set point.
"Overeating swamps the internal regulatory system, and, as a result, the set point increases -- which is much easier to do than it is to lower it," Wadden says. The body adjusts to the higher weight and "resets" the set point to defend the new weight.
It's still possible to set your range lower. "With changes in healthy eating and exercise behavior, you can lower your set point," says Blatner.
The 10% Solution to Weight Loss
Losing 10% of your body weight, and keeping it off for six months to a year, helps your body reset your set point, notes George Blackburn, MD, in his book, Break Through Your Set Point: How to Finally Lose the Weight You Want and Keep It Off.
When you lose large amounts of weight at once, you set up an internal struggle and hormones spike to make you hungrier as your body tries to defend its comfortable range, Wadden explains.
That's why experts recommend losing 10% by changing your eating and exercise habits, and then maintaining your new weight for a few months before trying to lose more. Your body will get the signal to lower its "set point," and you'll get used to new food choices, smaller portions, and regular exercise.
Blatner says she has seen people who lose 10% of their weight "start to realize how a little weight loss impacts their health in very positive ways... They feel better, sleep better, have more energy or less joint pain, and some people are able to reduce medications."
How Much Should I Weigh?
Most people overestimate how much weight they can lose, which leads to frustration, says Blatner. To find your happy or healthy weight, Blatner suggests looking back on your weight history as an adult and identifying a weight you were able to maintain fairly easily.
Information by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD (WebMD Feature) found on Web MD at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/ideal-weight-or-happy-weight
Is Your Weight Loss Goal Realistic?
I once read a story about a woman who complained to her doctor about her frustration with weight loss. The woman had lost 25 pounds but was not satisfied. "I will not be happy until I lose 25 more pounds," she declared.
Her doctor then asked her a series of questions: Are you feeling better? Do you sleep better? Is it easier to climb a flight of stairs? Can you bend over and tie your shoes? Do you feel better about yourself? The patient answered "yes" to all of the questions.
Her doctor was incredulous. The 25-pound weight loss had substantially improved her health and her quality of life, yet the woman was still not satisfied.
It's not uncommon for dieters to set lofty weight loss goals for themselves. Some reach back umpteen years to their wedding day or college weights. Others fantasize about looking like a supermodel, even though their naturally large frames may make this an impossible goal.
A 2001 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that on average, overweight people set a goal of losing 32% of their body mass. That's three times the amount needed to achieve better health. The truth is, it's unlikely that most dieters will be able to lose one-third of their body weight. Setting extreme goals is a setup for disappointment and failure.
You can achieve your goal weight -- as long as it is reasonable and attainable. Remember that you're on a journey to improve your life and health and gain control over your weight. It's not about perfection.
Instead of shooting for a size that has not been seen in your closet for 10 years, set more attainable goals. Even modest weight loss can improve your blood pressure and your cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels. Losing as little as 10 pounds can put the zip back in your step and make you feel terrific about yourself.
To help keep you motivated toward meeting your ultimate goal, set mini-goals you can reach within a month or so. Track your progress, and reward yourself along the way for improving your eating and exercise habits.
For example, on weeks when you get to the gym five times, treat yourself to flowers, a movie, or a ball game -- whatever feels like a reward to you. This will help keep your attitude positive and remind you of the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.
Changes You Can Live With
You can lose weight on virtually any diet. But to send those extra pounds packing without a round-trip ticket, you must find healthful strategies that you can stay with forever.
The reason we call the food component of the Weight Loss Clinic program an "eating plan" is because it is not a diet. A diet is something you can go on and off of; an eating plan is for life.
Information by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD (WebMD Feature) found on Web MD at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/is-your-weight-loss-goal-realistic
Loose Weight Fast: How to Do It Safely
Working on weight loss? Then you probably want results -- fast.
Let me save you some time: skip the fad diets. Their results don't last. And you have healthier options you can start on -- today!
You can safely lose 3 or more pounds a week at home with a healthy diet and lots of exercise, says weight loss counselor Katherine Tallmadge, RD.
How to Lose Weight Fast
If you burn 500 more calories than you eat every day for a week, you should lose about 1-2 pounds.
If you want to lose weight faster, you'll need to eat less and exercise more.
For instance, if you take in 1,050 to 1,200 calories a day, and exercise for one hour per day, you could lose 3-5 pounds in the first week, or more if you weigh more than 250 pounds. It's very important not to cut calories any further -- that's dangerous.
Limiting salt and starches may also mean losing more weight at first -- but that's mostly fluids, not fat.
"When you reduce sodium and cut starches, you reduce fluids and fluid retention, which can result in up to 5 pounds of fluid loss when you get started," says Michael Dansinger, MD, of NBC's The Biggest Loser show.
Information by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD (WebMD Feature) found on Web MD at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/lose-weight-fast-how-to-do-it-safely
Diets for Fast Weight Loss
Dansinger recommends eating a diet that minimizes starches, added sugars, and animal fat from meat and dairy foods. For rapid weight loss, he recommends focusing on fruits, veggies, egg whites, soy products, skinless poultry breasts, fish, shellfish, nonfat dairy foods, and 95% lean meat.
Here are more tips from Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet :
"Even if you write it down on a napkin and end up throwing it away, the act of writing it down is about being accountable to yourself and is a very effective tool for weight loss," says Bonnie Taub Dix, MA, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It .
Besides jotting down what you ate, and when, you might also want to note how you were feeling right before you ate it. Were you angry, sad, or bored? We often focus so much on foods and calories, but our emotions are a huge part of our eating habits.
If you see a persistent pattern in your emotional eating, please consider talking to a counselor about it. They can be a big help in finding other ways to handle your feelings.
Additional Information and External Resources
Much of the information on this page was found on Web MD, if you would like further resources and information on obesity and weight loss please visit: www.webmd.com
Another source of good information is Healthypeople.gov!
If you are interested in more information on general or specialized diets please visit the "Diets" section of our website by clicking Here.