What’s a Happy Weight?
Around the lifestyle blogosphere, especially in the circles of healthy living and intuitive eating, we hear a lot about “Happy weight” or “healthy natural weight” or even “ideal weight”. Everyone defines it differently, whether it’s your current weight that you should just accept, no questions asked, or a carefully calculated number. It’s confusing, and I think it drives a lot of people crazy. The idea of a happy weight might have us chasing a number that we’re not ready for, or that’s no longer appropriate for us.
I’m not writing this to add fuel to the fire, but to throw in my two cents on what might be a confusing topic. I’ve been thinking about “happy weights” lately, because I feel that I’ve finally gotten a handle on intuitive eating and I notice I’ve lost a few pounds. I can fit into a pair of jeans that I couldn’t even zip up in January, and I just feel lighter. I’m listening to my hunger and fullness signals, paying attention to what foods make me feel amazing and which ones mess with my system. I can tell when my blood sugar starts getting low and I usually know what to eat when that happens, and I’m learning to synchronize the rise and fall of my glucose levels with my hunger cycle because it’s annoying when I start feeling lightheaded but my stomach’s not hungry.
Now that I’ve got all this down, I should be well on my way to my happy weight, right?
Right, but what does that mean? Does this mean losing five pounds, or twenty? Does this mean staying at my current size 10-12 or shrinking back to the 6 I was a couple years ago?
I honestly don’t know, and it doesn’t bother me.
Here’s my definition of my Happy Weight:
The weight my body maintains when I feel healthy and comfortable with my lifestyle.
I honestly have no idea what that specific number is. At the moment, my lifestyle’s working out really well for me. I usually eat just when I’m hungry or when my glucose gets low and rarely for emotional reasons; I mostly choose healthy foods that make me feel good and I minimize the ones that don’t. I walk or run most days, I do yoga sometimes and I walk to my work ten minutes away. I get enough sleep, my stress is under control, and I don’t obsess over food anymore. Quite an improvement from a few months ago.
If my body decides it’s comfortable here, that’s fine. I don’t think it will, but that’s ok.
I’ve spent most of my life obsessing over food one way or the other and my weight never stayed the same for long, so I really have no idea what my ideal weight is. The few teenage years when I didn’t obsess, I was always either losing weight or maintaining a low weight of about 135, which was totally comfortable at the time. I currently eat a bit more than I did then, but I get a lot more exercise. Unfortunately, that period didn’t last and I started eating emotionally again.
So who knows? The bottom line is, I’ve arrived at a place where my happy weight is more a mindset than a number. That number could always change. What if I fall in love with mountain biking and lose a few pounds, or what if I take up French cooking and gain a few? What if my body changes after I have a baby? What if my metabolism changes as I get older, even if I maintain my muscle mass with strength training? As long as my happy weight mindset is in place, who cares about the number? As long as I feel healthy and I take care of myself, whatever my body decides to do is fine.
Sometimes, our body may be happy where it is, but we don’t always accept it because we’re still chasing a number set by someone else, whether it’s the size we were in high school or some number in a diet book or fitness magazine. Most of us have a specific number in mind. Think, where did you get that number? Have you ever been at that weight, and was it easy to maintain, or did you constantly have to police your food intake and exercise habits?
Spend some time thinking about your lifestyle and how you feel about it. Do you feel energetic and healthy? Do you listen to your body? What would make you feel healthier? What can you maintain?
I’m excited to see what my body does, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!