About three days ago, I read an article on Rappler about a girl who’s about as tall as I am (5’2 1/2). She said her highest recorded weight was 150 lbs and that she’s 40 lbs overweight. While the girl’s weight loss achievement and her tips were extremely commendable, her statement about how overweight she was got me shaking my fitness amateur’s head.
Well, the fitness amateur in me is well on her way to becoming 150 lbs again. In my last article about how selfies helped me lose weight, I announced my pregnancy. For about the entire first trimester, I was on a forced hiatus from my trips to the gym and was gagging-but-not-necessarily-vomitting (sorry, TMI!).
But then, of course, this article is not really about my not-so-fun pregnancy adventures. Going back to the girl’s declaration of being 40 lbs overweight and probably still considering herself 18.5 lbs overweight when she published her article of going down to 128.5 lbs, such mindset was not one I’d like to teach the baby in my tummy.
This article, rather, is the first in my mini-series on how I lost weight the practical way. And losing weight the practical way all starts with setting a realistic goal.
Two years ago, when I was just starting out with my weight loss journey, if one had asked me what my target weight was, I’d always say as long as I’m lower than 150 lbs, I’d take things from there, see how I could push myself further. I suppose I was afraid to bite more than I could chew. Then again, if anyone prodded me what my ideal target weight was, my mind would always float back to memories of when I was at the so-called “prime of my youth”. That prime was when my youthful metabolism worked 100% to my advantage thus my registered weight of 117.5 lbs when I competed at a local beauty pageant at my town in 2001.
Ten years later, I was at my heaviest at 185 lbs and simply just wanted to lose a few pounds to get over my GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) diagnosis.
After years of bouncing between healthy and unhealthy ways to lose weight, exactly two years ago, I decided that if I were to lose weight in order to become pregnant (and yes, to get rid of my GERD), I might as well do things the healthy way.
Doing things the healthy way first of all involved knowing what my weight goal was. My desire of being lower than 150 lbs was elevated when I googled what the maximum healthy weight was for someone like me at my height and at my age (I was 28 then).
According to the website of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the maximum normal Body Mass Index (BMI) for someone my height was 24.9. That meant I had to be 138.5 lbs so I could finally say I had gone successfully from being overweight to being at a healthy weight. It must be noted though that when I found out about this, I was not even overweight! I was obese!
It was then roughly a year and seven months ago, in March of 2013, that I finally broke the overweight barrier and got down to the healthy, happy weight range. Being lower than 138.5 lbs got me thinking maybe I could reset my target weight and aim for 125 lbs as my ideal weight. By this time, it could be noted that I was no longer aiming for a healthy weight: I had already switched to my ideal weight goal.
Two aunts of mine were not so satisfied with my new target weight. They challenged me to go down further to 120 lbs. By this time, I had already managed to sink my teeth further into weight loss articles. It was then that I learned that medically and scientifically speaking, the phrase “ideal body weight” exists.
While I do not really wish to delve into the controversy surrounding the accuracy of using BMIs, ideal body weight and the weighing scale specifically as yardsticks of fitness, I knew I worked best when I had a number in mind.
If I lived in 1964, Dr. G.J. Hamwi would have told me that my ideal body weight was 112.4 lbs. Ten years later, a certain Dr. B.J. Devine would’ve upped this to 113 flat. 1983, in the meantime, would see a huge jump on what I should be per Dr. D.R. Miller: 124.6 lbs. But in the same year, Dr. J.D. Robinson would tell me I should be 117.4 lbs.
These modifications, to make the long technical story short, involved studies on a person’s body weight with or without fat while taking into consideration muscle and organ weight. Learning about all these had me thinking that my ultimate weight target was, after all, my ideal weight.
HOLD YOUR HORSES
I’d always tell myself that even if I had a goal in mind, my journey was neither a race nor a reality show. Both my mind and my body needed to gradually adjust to the steps I took to reach my goal. I was a married woman (still am!) and I loved to eat (still do!). So while my weight loss goals were not really unrealistic medically and scientifically speaking, I had to constantly keep myself in check.
Constantly in existence were temptations to put myself into overdrive. If I lost more than two pounds in a week, I’d fantasize over losing the same or more the following week regardless of the circumstances surrounding my initial weight loss. And when I failed to be at par over my initial achievement, I’d beat myself over such by treating every extra bite as though it’s fire that needed to be extinguished right away. I’d sometimes find myself as late as 11:30 pm at the condominium gym trying to burn the excessive calories even if I was already beyond exhausted.
AGAIN, NOT A RACE
In high school, I overheard a classmate declare that the maximum weight loss per week should be no more than two lbs. Mayo Clinic, in an article discussing weight loss strategies, agrees:
” Over the long term, it’s best to aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week. Generally to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, you need to burn 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day, through a lower calorie diet and regular exercise.”
Such is affirmed by numerous fitness smart phone applications currently in existence to monitor one’s food consumption and physical activity. Rarely would one see a reputable fitness device such as Fitbit and an established health company like Livestrong have app users setting their weekly weight loss goal to more than two lbs per week.
BUT HOW ABOUT REALITY SHOWS
Like what I mentioned earlier, I am not a fitness expert. But this much I could tell you based on what I’ve read, observed and experienced: Starting an intensive but healthy fitness and weight loss journey, more often than not, produces dramatic positive results during the first week. When you see contestants on The Biggest Loser record a weight loss of more than 10 lbs during their first week, I’d say don’t be surprised. It could happen to you, too.
I could go on and on about weight loss factors such as metabolism, stress (hell, yes!), age, activity intensity, hydration and caloric consumption but I don’t want to bore you. Let’s just say that don’t you, yourself, produce surprising results when shocked or rushed to do something for the first time? Well, the same goes for our bodies.
That quote I mentioned earlier from the Mayo Clinic? I’m sure you’d tell me that it produced more questions than answers. I guess I’d just say that if you tried burning 500 calories on a low intensity gym equipment such as the elliptical, you’d know that it takes between 30 to 45 minutes just to accomplish such. Now think of doing such on top of your daily physical activities because your doctor told you to exercise at least thrice a week. Isn’t that already exhausting?
But how about feeling extra, extra bold and spending three hours on the elliptical everyday just to burn between 2,000 to 3,000 calories in a gym session? Add to that your thought of skipping a meal just so you could fit into that Size 2 swimsuit next week?
Sweetie, I’ll let you use your imagination over how so much of a bad idea your boldness is.
It’s really simple, something of which I’m sure you already know: Anything that’s rushed is neither healthy nor sustainable. Set a realistic goal. Ideal weight calculators and BMI calculators are just a click away on Google. In reaching your goal though, always keep yourself in check. Steer clear of unreasonable expectations. Your weight loss and fitness tools should be patterned after your lifestyle. Shocking your mind and your body constantly over the long term isn’t healthy. Just do things gradually as achieving a healthy weight isn’t meant to be rushed. Before you know it, you’re at your goal, just like how I was when I reached 117 lbs after eight months of trial and error and constantly picking myself up and reminding myself of what was reasonable and what was realistic.
Now that we’ve established why we have to have a realistic goal before starting a weight loss journey, see me discuss in the next article why it’s highly important to make certain “investments”. And yes, it involves shelling out a few extra bucks. Trust me though, it’s worth it. And no, I’m not endorsing or selling anything. :-p