The One Myth That Rules All: A Person’s Weight Should Be “Ideal”


In every other area of life, people are comfortable with their personal bests as wonderful goals. Why is it that with weight people strive to be “ideal,” often at the expense of a livable life? “Ideal” is quite the lofty goal. The dictionary definition is “absolute perfection,” and it ignores the simple truth that with every human characteristic there is a wide range of what could and should be considered normal.

Many people trying to lose weight seem to be focused on their body fat percentages, their “ideal” weights, their body mass indexes, their waist circumferences or their waist-to-hip ratios. The weights and measures that a table, a calculator, a public health official or an allied health profession says they ought to possess as a function of their height, age, and sex.

Of course, all of these idealized weights and values ignore reality. Idealizing weights and body mass indexes also ignores the fact that weights will vary across races, sexes and ages, and are effected by things like frame size and musculature. For instance, over half of the NFL would be considered “obese” if we used Body Mass Index (BMI) to judge them.

The fact is, weight is influenced by a huge number of factors, some within our control and some beyond it. Genetics; coexisting medical conditions; required medications; how long and stressful our workday is; how well we sleep; how old we are; how old our children are; whether our job requires us to entertain clients; whether we enjoy exercise; what types of foods we grew up on. There is no shortage of variables that have very real bearings on our weight. Ultimately, ideal weight doesn’t matter in the face of reality, and reality, in turn, will affect our “best” weight.

Setting a massive, idealized numerical weight loss goal simply isn’t wise. If a person must suffer to get there, they probably won’t stay there. In most other facets of our lives, we accept our personal best as great. We feel if we tried our best, that’s probably good enough. What’s truly strange is that when it comes to weight, people tend to not want to accept their personal bests as great.

But your best IS great! Whatever weight you reach when living the healthiest life you enjoy is your “best” weight. You weight loss goal shouldn’t be a number; it should be whatever weight you reach while living the healthiest life you honestly enjoy. The healthiest life you can enjoy is very different from the healthiest life you can tolerate.

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