Ideal Weight?

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People are starting to notice that I’ve lost weight. Judging by their reactions, the first 10 pounds disappeared without much fanfare, but it was the next five that seemed more apparent to everyone, including me. That’s pretty much how the process went too:  10 pounds were relatively easy to lose and the last five took much more commitment and focus.  And I have five more to go.

One of my friends who hadn’t seen me in a while said the other day: “Wow! You look great! Don’t lose anymore.” Although that’s a positive reaction and one that I was initially happy to hear. The “don’t lose anymore” bit has been stuck in my craw. I’ll tell you why.

I think I am a pretty good judge of my own weight and that my goal of losing 20 pounds is realistic and healthy. When I topped out at 165 pounds, I was clearly overweight. And, when I began this year at 158 pounds, it was evident that I still had quite a bit of weight to lose.  Photos confirm this, as did the many tight or impossible-to-wear clothes in my closet.

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(Above: Me with Karl Roemer, my high school soccer coach, last summer. I weighed 155 pounds at the time.)

My whole life, I’ve heard things like “You have those soccer legs” or “You have a big frame and carry weight well” and the like. Actually, I don’t have a big frame.  I have a medium to small frame, something I just confirmed by consulting several websites. The first suggested that I take my fingers on my right hand and wrap them around my left wrist. Since I can go all the way around and then some that indicates a small to medium frame.  This other website claims that the best way is to actually measure your wrist. My wrist is 6.25 inches around, also indicating that I have a small to medium frame. 

I’m talking about my body frame, because that is one of the key inputs that helps to establish “ideal weight.” Reflecting back on my weight through the years, I consider 135 pounds to be ideal.  And, as you know, my goal this year is to weigh 138. Because of my friend’s comment, I took some time to confirm that my goal is reasonable.

After my sophomore year of college, I went on a serious diet for the first time, in order to lose what I had gained resulting from the combination of a serious soccer injury and typical college drinking. Before that diet, I weighed about 160 pounds. I lost the weight and swore I would never weigh over 140 pounds again.  I kept that promise until things went a little wacky after being treated for a serious thyroid disease about 12 years ago.

Fast forwarding to today, I now weigh 143. Losing 5 additional pounds would put me at my goal of 138. Even though I know through experience that it is a good weight for me, I did research on “my ideal weight.” That’s how I found this nifty Ideal Weight Calculator.  

Self-described this way: “The Ideal Weight Calculator computes the ideal body weight as well as a healthy body weight range based on height, gender, and age. People have pursued an ideal weight formula for centuries, and hundreds of formulas and tables have been created. However, there is still no definite answer regarding the ‘best’ weight for a person. However, the results obtained by most formulas are very good. The Ideal Weight Calculator provides the results of all the popular formulas for comparison purposes.”

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(Above: My results using the “Ideal Weight Calculator”)

When I plug in my age, gender and height, these four methods of determining ideal weight come up with a very small range of between 134 and 138 pounds. And, very interestingly, this other website uses a database of survey responses to indicate an ideal weight. Halls, M.D. believes that ”almost all ‘ideal body weight’ websites use obsolete formulas or tables created in 1979 or earlier” and that his page tells “what people just like you think about their ideal weight.” Guess what? People just like me evidently think their ideal weight is 136, which happens to be right in between the range indicated by all of those “obsolete formulas.”

At any rate, I’m pleased that this exercise confirmed what I already knew to be true. Not only is my goal of weighing 138 pounds realistic, it is very close to my ideal weight. It may not be easy to lose these last 5 pounds, but at least I’m not crazy or unhealthy for trying.

Laying the Foundation

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Now that I have breezed into February without incident and it seems clear that my drinking ban is going to stick, it’s time for me to start focusing on some of the reasons why I began this social experiment in the first place. This month, I want to lay the foundation for achieving two goals, both of which were top contenders for my New Year’s resolution originally and, in my mind, are part of the package.

My theory from the outset was that eliminating alcohol will enable me to finally achieve two important personal goals that I have been thinking about for a while. They are: losing 20 pounds and running a marathon in personal record (PR) time. In this post, I’ll give background on these goals, and in future articles, I will explain my plan for and progress toward achieving them. I have also already thought of several related and interesting research topics that I will explore, as well.

Let’s start with losing weight. No, I don’t think I’m fat. And, yes, if I were destined to remain at my current weight, I would have a happy, healthy, and productive life. However, I used to be much thinner and, with my continued commitment to exercise, I should have a shot at getting back to my “ideal” weight.

I’m not comfortable giving you the exact numbers. But, I will confess that on January 1, 2012, I stepped on the scale at a personal high weight which was 35 pounds higher than my lowest adult weight. The good news is that I’ve already made progress. After going down and then all the way back up again over the course of 2012, I managed to drop seven pounds in 2013. And, I already reported that I’ve lost another six pounds so far this year. For those of you who are having trouble with the math, this means I am down 13 pounds from my highest weight.

My first challenge is deciding on where to set the marker on counting down the 20 pounds. I plugged “what is my ideal weight” into Google and got the most amazingly helpful information from Self, a magazine to which I am often subscribed. The two questions asked by the trusty Ideal Weight Calculator were my gender and my height. I am female and I am 5-feet 7-inches tall. The results?

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Thanks, Self. I already weigh somewhere in this 40 pound range (whew!) and I still remember the one day in my life when I weighed 118 pounds. I was in 8th grade and it was the most dreaded day of the school year, when all the girls had to lineup in alphabetical order to file into the nurse’s office two at a time to get on the scale. I vividly recall the nurse writing what seemed like a very large number onto a little slip of paper that she handed to me: “118.” I assure you, this weight is not remotely plausible or desirable for me as an adult.

Since I’m too lazy to do any measurements to figure out my body mass index, I’m just going to pick the stretch goal of losing 20 pounds this year. It’s near the middle of the range, it’s a weight I would feel very accomplished to achieve again, and it’s about what I weighed in 1999, when I started training for my first marathon. I have 14 pounds to go.

Speaking of marathons, the first one I ran was the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, in 2000, with my sister-in-law Moira. We crossed the finish line holding hands, with a time of four hours 41 minutes and 41 seconds. I swore I would never run another one. That feeling lasted about five years, and then, in 2006, I attempted Rock-n-Roll Phoenix. At that time, I was a very active member of the Arizona Road Racers, and I had recently achieved my PR half marathon time of one hour 55′ 55″. That’s fast for a recreational runner at my age and level. I was a bit disappointed with my subsequent marathon time of four hours 31′ 10″. Little did I know then that it would remain my PR today.

I’ve only run three marathons since: the Air Force Marathon in 2012, which I ran in about four hours and 45 minutes with a hip injury; Vermont City 2013, which I treated as a training run since it was so early in the season; and the 20th running of the Philadelphia Marathon this past November, which kicked my butt at about mile 18 and took me a few minutes longer than did Air Force the prior year.

I’m already signed up for the Around the Lake Marathon for my birthday and my goal is to do that in under four hours and 30 minutes — a PR! I am filling in my race calendar with a handful of other marathons and half marathons, kicking off my race season with the Run for the Border Half Marathon in late March. Speaking of which, it’s time for me to take advantage of the break in the cold weather and get in a training run right now.