Friday, August 5, 2011

Is “Happy Weight” for the Formerly Obese a Myth?

I’ve heard and read a lot about “happy weight.” I remember finding a “happy weight calculator” on the Self magazine site awhile back. The description promised that you could find your happy weight and quit obsessing over an unrealistic number on the scale.

I was so excited! I filled out the little questionnaire with excitement, eager to see an easy-to-maintain number that I could aim for.

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Imagine my disappointment when the number revealed was nearly 10 pounds lower than my goal weight – the goal weight that well-meaning friends and relatives have told me is unrealistic. (For the record, my goal weight is on the high-end of the normal weight range for my height and body build.)

I’m sorry, but that’s not my idea of a happy weight. To me a happy weight is more like what’s described in this article from The Huffington Post or in this post at Faith Fitness Fun.

My description of a “happy weight” would be a weight that I could maintain by eating healthy foods with an occasional treat, somewhere in a daily calorie range of 1500-2000 calories, and an activity level of 30-45 minutes of cardio 4 or 5 days a week and possibly 2 or 3 days a week of strength training.

That doesn’t sound like too much to ask, but I wonder if it is.

I know that Dr. H. (the health consultant on The Biggest Loser) always says that formerly obese people will have to plan on working out 1.5-2 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week for the rest of their lives to maintain their weight loss.

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Articles like this one at Fitblogger support what Dr. H. says and cite articles that bear that out.

So, is there a happy weight for the formerly obese or will we constantly have to battle our bodies to avoid arriving at a set-point that is higher than we’d like – and possibly even higher than is healthy?

I’m not trying to be discouraging. After all, I’m not considering the changes I’m making a diet, but rather a lifestyle change. I’m not considering eating healthy and being active temporary fixes that are going to cease once I’m at my goal weight.

That being said, the happy weight scenario I described above sounds very appealing – maintaining a 1500-2000 calorie a day range, running 3 or 4 (maybe even 5 or 6, but not necessarily 7+) miles several days a week, and a couple of days of strength-training. Those sounds doable.

But will it be enough?

I’m looking forward to being at the place where I can find out. What do you think, though? Do you think maintaining a significant weight-loss (upwards of 100 pounds for me) is going to require a lifetime of extreme vigilance?

I’m willing to do it, if it does, because I never, ever want to go back to being obese, but there’s a little part of me that hopes it’s not always as much work as it’s been these past 21 months.

Honestly, I’m relatively happy where I am now. I never thought I’d see 136 again. However, I’d love to lose that last 11 pounds and see what 125 feels like. I’m sincerely hoping that the last 11 pounds comes off my thighs.

When I get there, I’ll see what kind of work it take to maintain it. Who knows? Maybe I’m at my happy weight now.

This post is linked to Fitness Friday.

Do or do not. There is no try.

9 comments:

  1. Great Post.  Everytime I hear Dr. H say that; it makes me want to give up.  I don't think it is true, well not completely.  The contestants on the biggest loser who make it to the end and are told that, don't maintain that super skinny look for long.  I think, based on what I've seen, most of them gain probably 10-20 pounds back and than stay in that range.  (Yes some gain more)  My opinion is that for those of us that have that large amount to lose, aiming for the high end of the "healthy" weight is what will keep us form gaining it all back AND not have to workout 2 + hours a day.  Personally, I couldn't weight 125 pounds and stay there forever.  I would ate the restrictions but 140 sounds much more duable and 150, is probably where I will land eventually.  For me, I think finding a place where you live comfortably with excercise, eating AND with yourself is your perfect weight.

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  2. I haven't lost over 100 lbs, but I do think that you'll always have to be vigilant.  Maybe you won't have to be as stringent on calories and workouts, but you will know when things are starting to tip in the wrong direction.  Then you can make a correction and move forward.  Your changing your life patterns, to eating healthy and being more active.  You've done a fantastic job and from what I read, you'll never go back.  Keep it up!

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  3. Yeah, that's what I'm hoping -- that I can still watch the calories and activity, but maybe not as strictly as I do now. I'm really hoping I can have an extra glass of sweet tea every once in awhile! lol

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  4. Yeah, I've noticed that the Biggest Loser contestants tend to settle at a higher -- but generally still healthy -- weight. That may be where I wind up, too. I mean, I wouldn't be sad at 130.

    I also wonder if they have to be so vigilant because they lost the weight so quickly. I've lost mine over nearly 2 years, so the changes have definitely been of the lifestyle variety.

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  5. I think for anyone the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle will require a lifetime of vigilance. It's too easy to come up with excuses if it's not deliberate intentions.

    Off to read the articles you mentioned. Thanks for the links.

    Have a great day Kris!

    Life…as I see it [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

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  6. True, but I think that goes without saying. I'm just wondering if maintaining a weight-loss will require the same level of vigilance (i.e. calorie restriction, which, as I mentioned in my post about how many calories you really need, I'm questioning anyway, and 2 hours of workouts six days a week) or if it can ever become something that you do as more an incorporated part of your life (i.e. a higher, but still reasonable amount of daily calories, an hour or so workout 5 days a week). Basically, can you maintain a signficant weight-loss as part of a normal, healthy, active life without obessesing over it? That would be my definition of a happy weight.

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  7. something to think about for sure!  I've got 40# to lose for my goal/happy weight.

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  8. I have lost 143 pounds in the last 2 1/2 years using Weight Watchers.  I chose not to strive for a number picked off a chart made for the general public, but instead where I feel good, but can still feel like I am living not dieting.  I am a weight a lot of people would see as still way too high, but I learning the balance that comes with hitting goal.  It is a give and take learning curve that I thought I would handle much more gracefully, but then this whole weight loss journey is a life long learning process right?

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  9. First of all, congratulations on your incredible weight-loss. That's phenomenal. Yes, I do think weight-loss is a life-long journey. It very well may be that I settle at a higher, but healthy-for-me weight. After all, we are certainly more than a number on a scale. I do want to really shoot for my original goal-weight first, though. I just want to see what it feels like to not be even overweight and just take maintaining that weight out for a spin and see how it goes.

    Good luck on your continued maintenance!

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