Everyone has a mental image stuck in their brains about what they should see when they look in the mirror. We all have an ideal body image… but is there really such a thing as an ideal weight? Is there a magic number on the scale that signifies perfect health?
Obviously not, but it’s hard keep from wishing it were true. Honestly, it’d be a lot easier to deal with a concrete number, especially for the pragmatic folks. The truth is, ideal weight is more abstract, more of a feeling than a number. What you should really be concerned about is ideal health, not ideal weight. To do that, you must first let go of the whole notion of “ideal weight,” so let’s debunk a few myths.
4 Ideal Weight Myths
- There is an ideal body shape and size.
The human body is not a baseball cap. There is no true one size fits all for either body shape or body size (weight). If you want to gauge whether or not you’re carrying around a few extra pounds, ask yourself things like: Can I participate in all the physical activities I want to without feeling like I’m constantly out of breath? Do I feel healthy? Am I happy? Your answers to those questions are almost always more telling than the number on the scale.
- You can’t lose weight—you were born with a slow metabolism.
Sure, genetics plays a role in what kind of body shape you end up with, as do things like age and gender. But you know what else makes a difference? Activity level and diet! If one diet or fitness program doesn’t work, keeping trying until you find the right combination of diet and exercise that’ll get you to where you want to be.
- The media accurately portrays what an “ideal weight” really looks like.
We know what we see in the media isn’t reality, but our subconscious believes what it wants to believe, and mass media’s constant bombardment of skinny women and chiseled men can fool us all. Movie stars and cover models live a life that is entirely devoted to looking a certain way. (They also rely on camera angles and photo retouching to achieve the “ideal” look.) When you make millions of dollars, then you can hire a live-in personal trainer and chef. Until then, go back to asking yourself those questions from Myth #1.
- The skinnier you are, the healthier you are.
If every man and woman on the planet were at their healthiest, peak physical condition, there would still be an enormous range of body sizes and shapes. So, being “skinny” doesn’t automatically equate with being “healthy.” On the contrary, being too thin can be just as dangerous as being overweight. What your body needs is moderation, not extremes.
Beyond Weight: What Else Matters?
What really matters is that age-old philosophical challenge: know thyself. Get in tune with your own body, start really paying attention to the times (and circumstances) when you’re feeling your best, and figure out what your healthy weight range is. If you’re not sure where to start, make an appointment with your doctor and have a conversation about weight and set some goals for yourself.
Once you get started on your journey to a healthier weight, one of the best ways to track your progress—better than the scale—is body measurements. Measure your waist, hips, belly, arms and legs right now, and then re-measure every week. If you make this a habit, it’ll not only keep you motivated, but that routine will also keep you on track. Body measurements are a great indicator of healthy progress because while the scale may not change much (as you replace fat with muscle), your body will slim down and tone up.
It’s also important to examine what you see as “normal,” and not just in terms of weight. For example, if you have a group of friends that meet for coffee once a week and everyone enjoys a cinnamon roll with their cup of coffee, your brain starts to think of that behavior as normal. I’m sure you already see where I’m going with this… it’s easy for unhealthy behaviors to become norms if they’re a regular pattern in your life, especially if they’re reinforced by your social circle. Pay attention to your patterns of behavior and modify whatever might be hurting your chances of achieving a healthy weight.
Finally, be realistic. Set goals that are achievable—it’s the only way to keep yourself motivated and enthusiastic about making these healthy changes.