A healthy weight is a person’s natural weight, one that is achieved and maintained with healthy attitudes and behaviors. It’s very individual, based primarily on genetics. For instance, if you come from a long line of tall, slim ancestors, you have a good chance of looking like them. If your ancestors are short and stocky, that’s what you might see in the mirror. All the healthy eating and exercise in the world can’t change that. It can only optimize your basic nature.
In addition to genetics, there are certain attitudes and lifestyle behaviors that will contribute to you finding and settling at your healthy weight. Ask yourself if you are doing these 5 things:
5 Steps to Finding Your Healthy Weight
- Eating according to internal cues for hunger and satisfaction. Weight loss diets teach restrictive eating. “Eat this, don’t eat that, eat this much.” There’s no room for eating based on what you feel like in the moment, whether it be how hungry you are or whether you’d much prefer ice cream to an apple. Yet listening to your body and letting it be your guide is the true path to healthy eating. Our bodies are designed to do this, if we know how to listen and respond intelligently. See our FitBriefing, “Mindful Eating Strategies for Successful Weight Management.”
- Enjoying a mix of foods that leaves you feeling well. Diet rules tell us to narrow our food choices, selecting foods that have the fewest calories and preparing those foods in a way to keep the calories as low as possible. Think steamed vegetables sprinkled with dry herbs instead of sautéing them in a tasty oil that contributes its own important nutrients. When we enjoy our food, we digest, absorb and metabolize it more efficiently, thereby better supporting our bodies’ ability to manage what we eat from a nutrition standpoint. Commonly “forbidden” foods eaten in balance with more nutritious foods can add up to an eating plan that truly supports health because it supports happiness, an often ignored foundation for good health.
- Being physically active with a goal of well-being rather than weight loss. The truth is, we can never make up for unhealthy eating with exercise. It just doesn’t work that way. What happens more often is that we end up hating exercise because it is done as a punishment rather than a path to feeling good. When we connect with the pleasure of physical activity, while we’re doing it and after, it begins to truly motivate us to move. An added benefit: Physical activity wakes our bodies up, helping us better read internal signals that effectively guide us in when, what and how much to eat.
- Accepting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes. Size acceptance is a tough task in today’s weight-stigmatizing world. A world where it’s not about how you feel but about how you look. Size acceptance is not beating yourself up for your size nor is it just “giving up.” Instead, it’s about understanding the factors that go into you being the size you are and then, if you choose, optimizing those factors to make the most of who you were born to be.
- Living a full life that isn’t focused on how you look. This last step is important because of its relation to stress management. Consistently high levels of stress send many of us to food to cope, simply because food is such a great source of pleasure. Emotional eating, which is what stress eating is, is part of normal eating and it can be something that actually supports our health — except when it’s our only tool to cope. Then it starts to create more problems than it solves. So much of the stress in women’s (and increasingly, men’s) lives today comes from their worries about eating and weight. Starting to relax about our eating, and then spending our time focused on what is truly meaningful to us can transform our health. This, instead of a number on the scale or the size of our clothing, is the true source of a life well-lived.
If you are practicing these behaviors and attitudes most of the time, you feel well, and your weight seems to stay within a certain range, you may be at your healthy weight. A scale won’t tell you if you’re there. Your body will.