What weight to choose
It is hard to maintain your new weight—even if you are set on doing everything you can to never regain the pounds you have fought so hard to lose—without having a precise weight target and without having deffined a future weight objective that is both satisfying and realistic. I have witnessed too many failures, due in the most part to an unrealistic choice of final weight.
Many formulas exist to define a person’s ideal weight according to height, age, gender, and bone structure. All these formulas are theoretically applicable, but I am wary of them because they are about statistical individuals who in reality do not exist.
So, in place of a theoretical ideal weight, I tend to use the more realistic notion of a weight at which you can comfortably stabilize.
The best way to calculate a good stabilization weight is to ask yourself what weight you can most easily achieve and at which you will feel good. There are two reasons for basing your final weight on these factors.
Every mammal, including man, is biologically programmed to store as fat excess food consumed and not used. This fat is a strategic energy reserve necessary for survival when food is scarce. Today we live in a land of plenty and our problem is not finding food, but refusing it. However, your body’s programming to store fat in case of a food shortage has remained the same.
As you lose weight, your body goes into alert mode, trying to protect its fat reserves. It becomes more efficient at using the food you give it so weight loss slows. At this point, you reach what I call a plateau of stagnation.
Trying to stabilize your weight when it has plateaued is doomed to fail, because the effort required is disproportionate to the result obtained. If you try anyway, it would require so much effort it would be unbearable in the long run.
Furthermore, please know that for people who were substantially overweight to start with, I place far greater emphasis on well-being than on the symbolic value of an abstract and supposedly "normal” weight. If you are predisposed to being overweight, you are not just "the average person,” and you should not set a goal that does not suit who you are. What you need is to be able to live normally and happily; not burdened by the stress of an unrealistic goal. Stabilizing at this weight will be a remarkable feat in itself.
Finally, you have to bear in mind the maximum and minimum weights you have reached in all your weight fluctuations over the years, because no matter how long your maximum weight lasted, it is that weight your body will have forever recorded in its biological memory.
As an example of what I mean by the effect of your body’s biological memory, let’s imagine a woman 5 feet 6 inches tall who has, on just one day of her life, weighed over 210 pounds. It is an absolute impossibility that such a woman could ever hope to stabilize at around 112 pounds, as some theoretical tables suggest. Her body retains the biological memory of her maximum weight, and this memory can never be erased. To recommend that she stabilize her weight at 150 pounds is more sensible, at least on paper—but only if she already feels comfortable at that weight.
Another common mistake is that many dieters—ones who are very overweight as well as ones who are not quite so overweight— think that it will be easier to stabilize at a certain weight if they lose a little more so that they have a few pounds as a safety margin. However, wanting, for example, to go down to 125 pounds in order to stabilize at 150 pounds is not just an error, it is a huge mistake, because the amount of willpower wasted getting your weight down to 125 pounds will be sorely missed when you need it later in order to stabilize. The more you force your weight down, the more your system will be prone to rebound upward.
In conclusion, you must choose a weight that is achievable, high enough to be attainable and low enough to provide the gratification and well-being you will need to stick to that weight.
I call this weight the True Weight. It is not the same thing as the
body mass index (BMI) which is useful for pinpointing high-risk groups but less useful for determining particular individual’s weight and setting strategic goals.