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.

From the Mailbag

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Since the idea of my New Year’s resolution and this blog came to me rather suddenly over the holidays, I didn’t have time to develop any expectations. It took me completely by surprise that 100 people would actually “follow” me and that dozens would take time to comment here or privately. These messages range from support for my journey, to thanks for offering an inspiring example, to challenges to my assumptions and opinions. Increasingly, folks are asking thoughtful questions about me and this experiment. This “From the Mailbag” post addresses three of the most thought-provoking responses from this past month.

Why did you really start this blog?

My sister-in-law, Martha, asked me to expound upon the other reasons, besides losing weight and running faster, that led to my decision to start this blog.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about how saving money was my #9 of 9 reasons for this project. In fact, I have journal entry in my “Dry Year” diary that was written on January 7th titled “Top 5 reasons why I’m not drinking.” The list ran longer than 5, but didn’t quite reach 10. The order below is exactly as written, and may or may not reflect the order of priority.

1. I fear becoming an alcohol abuser, because of family history.
2. I’ve recently done a lot of personal research for my memoir and the theme of alcohol over-consumption is one that is difficult to ignore.
3. I want to see if I can do it.
4. I’ve tried with moderate effort and no success to cut back consumption in the past.
5. I thought it would help me lose weight.
6. I thought I would free up time for more important things.
7. I thought it would be a very interesting topic for a blog and I need one to promote my upcoming memoir.
8. I thought it might make me a faster runner.
9. To save money.

Is it common for someone to quit drinking for just a year?

This question comes from fellow blogger, Terry McCarthy. As he put it: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anybody quitting for a year. As they say in AA, take one DAY at a time.”

Many more people have written about quitting drinking for a month or even 100 days. And, although I didn’t know this when I started this project, I have found a few people who also tried this for a year and wrote about it, including this guy and this woman. My true goal regarding alcohol is moderation, so I didn’t go into this thinking that I would quit drinking forever. I felt alcohol was preventing some of my other goals, so I wanted to take alcohol out of my life for a significant length of time. On one level, this resolution is a social experiment.

If you achieve your goals during your “dry year,” why bother drinking again?

This comes from my friend Rose, who is a teetotaler herself: “I love reading about your journey and I’m rooting for you! Are you thinking of quitting for good? I mean, after you succeed in losing the weight, and you will, and running so hard that you get your PR, why go back to it? Just a thought.”

This is similar to Terry’s question, but is more direct. Of all the comments I have received, I have thought about this one the most. It is much easier for me to think about this as a one year “project.” Once I’m further down the road, I will have a better idea of what the ideal future should be. No one knows what the end of this year will bring. As I get deeper into this journey, I may come back to this question several more times.

I hope that you’ll keep the comments and questions coming. If so, I’ll do a “From the Mailbag” post every month.