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How to Decide Your Goal Weight
...because saying you want to fit into your jeans from high school again isn't good enough...
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The other day a client asked me if I could tell them what their goal weight should be.
Valid question, because how do any of us really know what our goal weight “should” be?!
Do we use the antiquated BMI chart and use our height to figure out a healthy weight??
No… please don’t do that. BMI fails to take into account muscle mass, which certainly impacts body weight! (Don’t get me started about how the doctor just told me I had a BMI that put me in the overweight category, so have to keep my pregnancy weight gain to a lower amount… I know BMI is bullshit and it still very much upset me.)
Anyway, when I talk to people about goal weights, their thoughts typically stem from a few places:
1. They pick arbitrary numbers that don’t necessarily have significance, like 5, 10, 15, 20 pounds, etc.
2. They want to get back to a weight that they felt a certain way at. Like, “I felt great about myself when I weighed 175 pounds, so I want to get back there.”
3. They know how much someone else weighs, likes how that person looks, so they want to weigh that too.
That’s not quite how it works.
Arbitrary numbers might not mean anything to you, and if your goal is not significant, it’ll be harder to achieve.
We can’t just go back. Things are different now; bodies, and the demands upon them, change over time. Certainly, it’s worth taking into account how you felt at a certain weight, but that doesn't necessarily mean that if you get back to that weight you’ll feel or look the same way. Equally, if you’re someone who does any strength training, you cannot equate weights at different levels of muscle mass! As someone gains strength and muscle, weight might actually increase while body composition could become leaner and there is less body fat.
All bodies are different; just because you know someone else’s weight does not mean you’ll look the same or similar if you weigh the same.
The reality is, there is very little real advice on how to choose an appropriate goal for yourself.
To this point, goal weight, or weight ranges, can be difficult to pinpoint due to differences in body composition and muscle mass. So it’s challenging to say a certain weight number.
So, what can we do instead?
Here are some things to consider:
1. Think about what you want to look or feel like. Aiming for an aesthetic, performance, or health marker is much more significant than simply a number on the scale. If you could look/feel exactly how you wanted, would it matter if you weighed 150 or 140? Likely not. To this point, you could know those aesthetic markers you are looking for, and then create a goal weight that is -3-5 pounds from where you are now, aim for that, and the compare to the body composition look when you get there. See if that suits your wants. If it does, great, if not, consider another 3-5 pound loss from there.
2. Know that there is a large range of healthy weights for various heights and body compositions.
3. A sustainable rate of weight loss/gain is about 0.5-1.5 pounds gained/lost per week. How many weeks are you willing to put effort into this body composition shift?
4. Aim for no more than a 10% weight change in any given “diet” effort.
5. Understand that the timeline and weight loss/gain effort will impact the amount of calorie deficit/surplus you’ll need to be in. If you want to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks, that’s different from wanting to lose 10 pounds in 20 weeks. You’ll have to adjust calorie intake or exercise differently. Is that something you’re willing to do?
Taking these points into account could be a good place to start!
I also urge everyone to be flexible with these weight-related goals as you work on them. For example, if you take all of the above points into account and decide your goal weight is 200 pounds, but when you get to 210, everything feels good, the aesthetic you wanted is there, you have energy, etc. then maybe you don't actually need to get to 200. And that's totally fine, and you can shift your approach to one of maintaining 210.
And, above all, as always, make sure any goals around body composition change that you're looking to achieve are actually significant to you. Just saying you want to fit into a certain pair of pants because you used to fit into them isn’t good enough on its own (and again bodies change and asking our current self to fit into old clothes may not be fair anyway!). Ask yourself WHY you want to see those changes at least 3 times to make sure it's really important. Then, remembering those WHYS will help you stick to your efforts along the way!
After we’ve established a goal weight, the next question becomes: How do I know I’ll be satisfied when I get there and not just want to lose more weight?
The question about knowing what amount of weight loss is “enough” or will satisfy you is a good one... and I imagine this is a thing that many people run into. Essentially, we can't keep wanting to lose weight forever, so how do we know when is "enough"?
I urge you to think about things aside from weight that you are aiming to feel or look like. For example, what do you want to be able to do then that you cannot now? Or how do you want to feel? How do you want to look?
Because once you identify those pieces, you can still have a weight loss (or gain!) goal, but there is also a bigger picture involved of how you feel in your body, the things your body can do, how you look to yourself, etc. and that will allow you to know that it’s satisfactory or the new perfect weight! You might even find yourself achieving those bigger picture pieces before you reach your “goal weight” and then the actual weight might not matter anymore at all!
If you're someone who takes care of themselves, has regular checkups with doctors to check in on health metrics, then your weight doesn't really have to matter, it's more about how YOU feel in your body and the things you want your body to do.
So, take a step back. Does weight really matter? What are you actually going for when you say you want to lose or gain weight? Let’s shoot for those things!
Want guidance in working through this mindset and figuring out what it is you really want to see in the mirror and feel in your skin?! Great, that’s what I do and I’d love to help guide you! Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll chat!
As always, thank you for reading,