Healthy weight vs. happy weight

A while back, I asked a group of people who were considering enrolling in the Weighless program about their experiences, beliefs, and goals relating to weight loss.

One of the questions I asked was, “How much do think you’d need to lose to be HEALTHY?” The next was, “How much do think you’d need to lose to be HAPPY?”

The responses were absolutely fascinating–and offer a lot of insight into why so many of us struggle.

Before you read further, why not answer those two questions for yourself:

In order to be healthy, I’d need to lose ____________

In order to be happy, I’d need to lose   ____________

About 2/3 gave the same number in answer to both questions: In other words: Losing weight would make them healthier AND happier.  I think many of us can relate to that.

About 10% of the people said that, while they wanted to lose weight for their health, their weight wasn’t making them particularly unhappy.  That’s a good place to be.

But here’s where it gets really interesting. The remaining quarter of the respondents were evenly split.

Half of them (12%) said that they’d have to lose more weight to be healthy than they would to be happy. In other words, these folks thought they could feel content at a weight that the medical establishment might still consider to be overweight.

And while that may seem like setting the bar too low, this attitude may be a blessing in disguise. People often get so discouraged by how much they have to lose that they can’t bring themselves to start. If you are 50 pounds overweight, losing ten pounds may feel so insignificant that it’s not worth the effort.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Losing even 5% of your body weight can dramatically improve your health—everything from your blood pressure to your cholesterol to your blood sugar—even if you are still overweight. There might be more to gain from losing more (so to speak).  But losing ten pounds and keeping it off long term would ultimately be more beneficial to you than losing 50 pounds and then gaining it back.

Of course, it’s not an either/or situation. It’s possible to lose 10 or 20% of your weight in a way that you can sustain for life. Although that’s fairly rare with mainstream approaches to dieting and weight loss, we see our members do it all the time.

But, there were an equal number of people who said exactly the opposite: They would have to lose more weight to be happy than they would in order to be healthy. In other words, just (just!) being healthy would not be enough. In order to be happy with their bodies, they would have be thin. That, obviously, makes me sad. But in today’s diet- and body-obsessed culture, it’s hardly surprising.

In the Weighless Program, your ideal weight is not simply a number on the scale or the BMI tables. Yes, of course, we want you to be healthy. But we also want you to feel happy with the way your body looks, feels, and functions. And finally, we want you to feel comfortable and content in the lifestyle it takes to sustain that body.

Our work isn’t done until all three conditions are satisfied.