Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Nutrition Debate #85: My Goal Weight and the BMI Table

Like many who are overweight, obese or morbidly obese (what a dreadful term!), I have spent a lot of time over the years thinking – dreaming really, about my goal weight. I think this may be especially true of those of us who have finally found a way to lose weight without hunger and now see the pounds dropping off easily. And they are fat pounds, because we have become “fat burners,” through ketosis, enabling us to burn fat for energy by severely restricting our carbohydrate intake. We are always wondering, How far can I go? How far do I really want to go? How thin could I be?

The “experts” tell us not to be too ambitious – to set modest goals, because they know how common it is to fail. They say that even a 10% (or less) weight loss will make a big difference in our health markers, especially for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). But we can dream, can’t we? We can imagine ourselves as much thinner (if we are more than 10% “overweight,” as many of us now are). As I was seeing two pounds of fat dissolve a week for about a year (about 5 years ago), I imagined that I could be just 187 pounds – half my starting weight of 375 pounds. At my low point I had lost 170 pounds (45% of me), and was just 17 pounds shy of my goal when, on a 3-week vacation, I stopped losing.

Today, after regaining 70 pounds over the last four years, I am starting to lose again. As of this posting I have re-lost 30 pounds (60%) of the 50 I am targeting towards my new goal of 225 pounds. That will represent a loss of 150 pounds (40%) from the start. That weight, 225 lbs, is my new goal weight – the one I will strive to maintain for the rest of my life.

But what do all these numbers mean? My wife told me I would look like a scarecrow if I had lost all 187 pounds. A neighbor who saw me on the street when I was near my low of 205 said, “Are you okay? Are you well?” Funny! Maybe I wouldn’t recognize myself, had I gotten there. Who knows? I certainly would have been a different man – just half the man I used to be, my wife used to joke. And at 225 I will still be clinically classified as obese. But I’ll be happy, for a time.

Goal weight is a very subjective thing. It is purely personal. My present goal is to lose 50 pounds in two stages. I started at 275 and want to get to 225. The first stage, which I started last September, was to lose 25 pounds by year’s end, then 25 more before my next doctor’s appointment in late-April. So the first part required that I persevere through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I reached the first goal, on January 3rd, a few days late.

The second 25 pounds has to be lost while we are at our winter home in Florida, and includes a week-long vacation in Aruba. I’ve never lost weight, or even been able to maintain my weight, in Florida or on vacation, when we eat out (and drink) every night. But the trip to Aruba is now history – and I made history. I went there at 250 and came home at 250! Now, the challenge is to lose 25 pounds in the next 13 weeks. That’s very doable; just 2 pounds a week. I’ve done it before, many times. The question is: Will I do it in Florida? Will I make history again? I’ll let you know – end of April.

Ideal weight is a total other thing. It is also very subjective, if a bit more impersonal.  What I call my body type (“big boned”) might actually just be my body image from having lived a lifetime looking at it. Why else would there be just one clinical standard in the U.S. (since 1998) for judging weight? It is universal and requires only height and weight and is, in my subjective opinion, totally unrealistic. I am referring, of course, to the Body Mass Index (BMI) table, linked here. In it a person (male or female of any “body type” who is now 5’-11” tall should weigh between 136 and 172 to be considered “normal “weight. The average “normal weight for a person my height would be 150 pounds. That’s ridiculous. It’s skeletal, a mere scarecrow. My father told me he weighed 150 in the Great Depression, and again when he was diagnosed with TB in 1950. After a nine-month stay in hospital put a little flesh on his bones, he weighed 175!

So, my goal weight of 225 pounds is still much higher than my ideal weight. It is in fact 75 pounds higher. It is higher even than the BMI scale range (179 to 208) allows for me to be considered “overweight.” In fact, 225 pounds is still considered “obese” for a 5’ – 11” person. The “obese” range is 215 to 279. But that’s okay. It’s my goal weight.

Lean Body Weight is another term that is sometimes used by athletes (and thin people) with only a small amount of body fat. To me it is a foreign concept, an exotic species.  It is achievable, no doubt, and the most desirable weight to be, if you have the physique ,the genetic predisposition and a history of eating right and staying “trim.” It is also a very useful weight to use when deciding how much protein to eat to avoid unwanted gluconeogenesis if you are a Type 2 diabetic and are working to achieve optimal glucose control and weight loss through diet. But that’s another story.
© Dan Brown 1/26/13

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