Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD
January 17th-23th is National Healthy Weight Week.
I like to talk in terms of a person’s healthy weight, rather than their goal weight. A lot of times, we set unrealistic weight goals for ourselves and get frustrated when we don’t reach them. For instance, many people want to get back to their high school weight.
The trouble is that many kids in high school, particularly boys are in a rapid growth phase. Their bodies put all effort into puberty and growing taller and not creating energy stores. This creates lanky, potentially underweight kids, and is an unrealistic goal for them in the future.
Discover Your Healthy Weight Range
Instead of reaching for a potentially unachievable, or unhealthy goal, we should strive to achieve a weight that is healthy for our bodies. My ideal weight is 112-137 lbs. To reach that number, I started at 100 lbs, then added 5 pounds for each inch over 5’0″. This gave me ~125 lbs. I then gave myself a range of 10% above and below that number. For men, start with 106 lbs and add 6 lbs for each inch over 5’0″. For more details, click here.
Why Worry About Your Healthy Weight?
Achieving your healthy weight and maintaining it has many benefits. Being overweight or obese dramatically increases your chance of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gallstones, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, breathing problems, and some types of cancer.
While the food we eat plays a significant role in our weight, so does our activity level, genetics, stress levels, environment, musculature, overall build, and sleep habits. Because of this, some of us will have a “healthy weight” that falls outside of the ranges that I discussed above. It is important to strive for a weight where you feel energetic, sleep well, and move freely.
To help celebrate National Healthy Weight Week, I have put together a week of simple challenges for you to practice achieving or maintaining your healthy weight.
Challenge #1 – Take a walk
Grab a friend, your kids, or your pet and get moving. 30-45 minutes is all it takes to see some improvement. If walking in the cold isn’t your thing, head to the mall and take a few laps around before shopping, or meet a friend at the gym.
Make sure to maintain a brisk pace, something faster than your usual stroll.
When you’re done, schedule your next walking session with your buddy.
*Please note this post has been updated and was originally published prior to COVID. Make sure to follow all safety standards, if you choose to grab a friend for exercise. Make it outside and wear a mask if you’re close by.
Challenge #2 – Try a New Vegetable
Go daring with broccoli romanesco, fiddlehead, or kohlrabi or try something similar to your favorite veggies such as purple sweet potato or chayote squash.
Challenge #3 – Take Time to Relieve Stress
Meditate, read a book, join a gentle yoga class, watch a funny video, take a bath, write in your journal, make/build something, or cuddle with a pet. Just make sure to schedule some time today specifically to do an activity that relaxes or de-stresses YOU.
Stress can cause us to gain weight or be unable to lose weight for a multitude of reasons. When we’re stressed out, your body releases hormones that make us store more energy (calories) than usual. Stress can cause us to crave unhealthy, comfort foods such as Mac ‘N Cheese, chocolate, or fried foods. We also tend to eat mindlessly during periods of stress, finishing off a bag of chips, rather than stopping at one serving. Finally, we tend to lose sleep when we’re stressed which can contribute to weight gain.
Challenge # 4 – Go to Bed on Time
Tonight, plan to go to bed early enough to get 7-9 hours of sleep by the time your alarm goes off in the morning. Sleep deprivation can trigger many of the same hormonal responses as other types of stress.
While you’re at it, consider your quality of sleep as well. Are you waking up during the night because you had too much water before bed or are too hot or cold? Consider asking your partner if you snore or have some other type of sleep disturbance. Some sleep dysfunction may need to be treated by your doctor.
Challenge #5 – Record What You Love About Yourself
Avoid words that describe your appearance. Are you: Dependable? Smart? Funny? Creative? Strong? Hardworking?
Once you’ve got a list, keep it visible in a place that you frequent, such as the top drawer of your desk or your bathroom mirror.
Loving yourself as you are will make you more likely to take care of yourself as you should.
Challenge #6 – Record Your Health Goals
Your goal may or may not be weight loss.
Do you want to quit smoking or drinking? Decrease your blood pressure or cholesterol without medication? Run a 5K or marathon?
Writing your goals down and making them public will encourage you to keep trying.
Just remember to make your goals specific, realistic, measurable, and time-bound.
Challenge #7 – Try out a Fancy, Healthy New Recipe
You can use your new vegetable from challenge 2, or even try another one! Set the table with the good plates and silverware, play some fun background music, and enjoy a healthy meal with the family (who will hopefully help with the cooking and clean up!)
I hope you enjoy working through these challenges this week and that you can use them to identify your problem areas regarding your strive to reach, and then maintain your healthy weight.
Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian, mom, wife, and vegetarian in North Texas. She has dedicated Dietitian Jenn to be a source of information, ideas, and inspiration for people like her, vegetarians that live with people with different dietary beliefs and/or needs in a multivore household.