Achieving your healthy weight will help you feel physically better, feel more alive, be stronger, have fewer aches and pains, and you will live longer.
How do you know if you or a child needs to lose weight? How do you know what your healthiest weight for you would be, or if your kids are at a healthy weight?
- YES- You can be happy at any size!
- YES – Living by the scale is not helpful.
- NO- Weight range charts aren’t for everyone.
- YES- Every BODY is different and has their own healthy weight.
However the evidence is clear. There is a healthy weight for you.
I love to talk about weight loss. I love to teach about it, promote it, research it. But a healthy weight doesn’t always mean weight loss. For you, it might mean you need to gain weight, or you might already be at the ideal weight for your body and lifestyle.
Do I need to lose weight?
This list of questions, while not comprehensive, is a good start. If one is your problem, it doesn’t mean you aren’t at your healthy weight, but it can help you get real with your circumstances and get out of denial if you need to.
- Is your waist circumference appropriate? I didn’t want this one on the list, because it feels superficial. But I can’t ignore the overwhelming evidence making waist circumference a very real indicator of health. So, while it is the one thing on the list related to your physique, it makes no judgement about the scale. The association of higher waist circumference and higher mortality has been confirmed in studies. (1) A woman should have a waist circumference no greater than 35 inches, and a man 40 inches for optimal health. (2)
- Do you have enough energy throughout the day? Many weight related events can point to a lack of energy. Poor nutrition, excessive calories, insufficient calories, inflammation, physical inertia, sluggish thyroid, low vitamin B 12, low iron, or excess cortisol have been shown to be responsible. Consequently, addressing the weight with good nutrition and exercise can bring some of the energy back. (3)
- Can you perform everyday tasks with ease? There are many tasks you take for granted, until your weight gets in the way. Can you comfortably tie your shoes, get dressed, get in and out of a car, put on jewelry, do housework, go grocery shopping, or prepare meals? (4)
- For Women: Is your cycle regular? Extreme dieting, PCOS, or stress can impact your cycle. If it’s irregular, reaching a healthy weight could be a solution, especially if you need to gain weight.
- Can you breathe comfortably, or are you out of breath? Carrying excess weigh requires extra effort by the lungs to lift the chest wall. (5) Excess weight contributes to decreases in lung volume and restricted airways (6). With limited breathing, limited oxygen is available to the whole body.
- Are you obsessed with food? Do you think about food all the time? Are you always planning when to get your next meal, hiding food you’ve eaten, or spending more than half your day engaged somehow with food? Anorexia and obesity are both characterized by an unhealthy preoccupation with food. (7)
- Do you have regular bowel movements without stimulants or stool softener. Regular elimination should be possible through the appropriate amount of fluids and fiber, both which are necessary for maintaining a healthy weight.
- Can you stand up from sitting on the ground comfortably? This simple strength and flexibility test of sitting and rising from the floor actually is an indicator of health and longevity. (8) This activity is difficult when range is limited. Practice and see if you can sit and rise from the floor with comfort.
- Is your sleep compromised? This question can actually be one of the top 5 indicators of a healthy weight. There has been extensive research on obesity related sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs “when soft tissue in the throat collapses causing a complete blockage of the throat. Persons with sleep apnea do not get a restful sleep. They may wake up with a headache and fall asleep during the day.” (9)
- Is your blood pressure normal? Heart disease risk increases if a person has excess abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and high levels of cholesterol in the blood. (10) Conversely, blood pressure that is too low could indicate nutritional deficiencies. (11)
- Is your fasting blood glucose high? Blood sugar levels that are elevated for a long period of time causes damage to the nerves and blood vessels. Healthy weight individuals may adequately use insulin to lower glucose in the blood. Carrying excess weight can cause the cells to not be sensitive enough to the insulin, resulting in elevated blood sugar. Regular exercise can help manage blood sugar levels, as our muscles use glucose to stay active. Balanced meals can help blood sugar levels by including protein and fiber to slow down the release of glucose into the blood. (12)
- Are you always hungry? Do you feel like you could eat all day long and never be full? There are many things disrupting our hormones that control appetite, cause us to be hungry, even after we’ve had sufficient calories. (13)
- Do you use food to cope with emotions? Maybe one of the most common reasons for unhealthy weight is eating for reasons other than true hunger. I’m not opposed to eating for cultural reasons, or to celebrate. But the daily numbing with food to escape life will never fill you up. Ask yourself if you eat out of boredom, loneliness, anger, stress, or tired? (BLAST)
- Are you active Daily? If you are active every day, you are more likely to be at a healthy weight. This means daily walks, logging 10,000 steps on a tracker, or doing some high intensity exercise. This also means changing some of your sedentary behaviors for active ones. If you are in the habit of watching 3 hours of TV at night, make it 2, and do something active for the third hour.
- Can you go without food between meals? Frequent feeding doesn’t allow your body to properly use stored fuel. Eating more frequent meals significantly increased fat in the liver, while larger sized meals did not. These findings suggest that by cutting down on snacking and encouraging three balanced meals each day over the long term may reduce the prevalence of NAFLD” (14)
- Do you eat balanced meals? Meals that are deplete of nutrients can’t sustain you from meal to meal. Each meal should contain a balance of protein, carbs, fiber, and fat to fill you up enough till you need to eat again. Honestly answer, is each meal balanced, or do you not eat enough, or eat too much of a single food?
- Do you practice portion control most days of the week? If you don’t know the answer to this question, chances are you aren’t practicing it. Portion control is meant to make you aware of the amount of food your body actually needs, instead of letting external cues like a large bag of chips decide. If you are sitting down for your meals, and eating a modest amount of food, you could be practicing portion control. You are not practicing portion control if you have no clue how many chips you ate.
- Are your joints achy? The most common offenders if you are carrying excess weight are the knees, hips, and back. Being overweight puts a strain on weight bearing joints, and contributes to inflammation causing pain as well. (15)
- Is your resting heart rate normal? If you heart has to work overtime to pump blood, you could be carrying too much weight. Our heart is a muscle, that can weaken when you are sedentary or out of shape. To make up for this, the heart has to pump more frequently to push enough blood to the extremities, resulting in an elevated resting heart rate.
- Your weight is easy to maintain with a healthy lifestyle. I saved the best for last, because if you are honest with yourself, and are living a healthy life. You are active, you eat well balanced meals, and you aren’t overeating, your weight should stabilize at the perfect weight for you. If maintaining your weight is impossible with all those healthy habits, you may be seeking a weight that is too low. If you aren’t happy with the way you look, yet you are active and healthy in every way, perhaps it’s a good weight for you. Only you will know.
If you’ve answered yes to some of these questions, losing weight will help you feel better and live longer. After all, living your best life IS possible.