There are numerous calculations out there that tell you how much you ‘should’ weigh for your height, but the truth is there is no hard and fast formula. When I meet with new clients, I always ask about weight history and goals: at what weight in the past did they feel healthy, how much do they think they should weigh, etc. That’s all valuable info, but I often find that when you’ve hit the right weight your body will let you know. Here are three tell-tale signs that you’re there, regardless of the number on the scale:
Both your hunger pattern and your weight have stabilized
I once had a client who stopped losing weight close to her goal, and while she felt amazing, she was compelled to shed a few more pounds in order to hit the magic number she had identified as ‘ideal.’ If you’re in that situation listen to your body – when you’ve stopped losing and your healthy meals are triggering the return of hunger three to five hours after you eat, you’ll probably have to cut back to keep losing. If by doing so, you feel hungry sooner than three hours after a meal it means you’re not eating enough, which can trigger a downshift in your metabolism and the loss of muscle. When you’re close to the home stretch it’s OK to make subtle tweaks to your diet, but in my experience, cutting back too much to lose those last few pounds always backfires – it can lead to lots of unwanted side effects, from mood swings to rebound overeating. Bottom line: when you’ve hit the tipping point where you really can’t eat less without feeling lousy and the scale has stopped moving, you’re at the finish line.
Everything is hunky dory with your health
Your body loves balance - when you’re too hot you sweat, when you're too cold you shiver – your body is pretty great at telling you what it needs and what to do - if you pay attention. At the right weight all should be in balance, including not only hunger, as above, but also menstruation, digestion, immune health, etc. If you try to achieve or maintain a weight that’s below ideal for your body, it will give you signals, like catching every cold and flu that comes around or erratic periods. Trying to achieve or maintain a weight that’s too low isn’t healthy, and definitely not worth the risks.
Your energy is through the roof
I always tell my clients that I want them to feel like they can do cartwheels down the street, and that feeling is all about energy. In other words, weight alone doesn’t determine health – two women can be the same height, twenty pounds apart in weight, and both be healthy. But in my experience, knowing when you’ve hit the right weight has a lot to do with how you feel, from the time you wake up to the time you hit the hay. If you’re carrying excess weight that puts stress on your organs and bones, or if you’ve lost too much, you’ll probably feel less than acrobatic. So tune in - the answer to your perfect weight isn’t in a formula – it’s within you.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.