Have you been repeatedly frustrated with your weight management efforts because you were not able to reach or maintain your goal weight? You may have been setting unrealistic goals for yourself, based on an “ideal of slimness” that comes from society.
Popular magazines and commercial diet programs still show you pages upon pages of beautiful, ultrathin models, many of which have been carefully touched up to make the models appear even thinner than real life. You may be comparing yourself not only to a model, but to an unreal model.
And then there is the Barbie doll. Barbie has the features of an anorexic person, but she still is a child’s role model. Her message is “if you get the body, you can get the guy.” Junior high and high school girls have described the ideal girl as 5’7”, 110 pounds, size 5, long blond hair and blue eyes. TV still shows the slim as the ones that are popular, successful and happy.
The ads keep you aware of how far from their ideal you are, and promote the feeling of failure. It is not surprising that we set goals that are not reachable or maintainable. Nor are they desirable.
The flip side of the drive to become slim is the continuing expansion of the fast food and the sweets industry. Advertising associated with this drive are directed at your emotions. They make it hard to resist unhealthy foods, and they confuse people. You feel guilty if you eat the advertised food, and deprived if you don't.
How can you develop realistic goals? Here are practical considerations:
• Slimness is not the only goal. Other health issues are just as important, including the maintenance of normal cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels, smoking cessation, stress management, and regular exercise.
• Your personal weight history and physical activity history should be taken into account. If you are a forty-year old woman who weighed 100 pounds when you were running track in high school, then 100 pounds might not be a realistic goal now.
• Metabolism slows with age. If you continue to consume the same amount of food as you become older, there will be a gradual weight gain throughout adult life. Frequently, you can compensate for this decrease in metabolism by increasing your physical activity.
• Metabolism slows with weight loss. When you are thinner, you require fewer calories to maintain your weight. Again, an increase in physical activity may help significantly.
• The ideal body weight, frequently determined from Life Insurance tables, is neither a good measure of your body fat, nor the best measure of the medical risk of obesity. Body mass index (calculable from your height and weight), the waist hip ratio, and body fat measurement by electrolipoanalysis, are much better ways by which to assess your appropriate weight.
When setting weight goals for yourself, remember this: don't compare yourself with someone else. You are an individual and your body likely behaves differently from someone else's body. When losing weight, make sure you exercise regularly. Feeling good and obtaining the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes is the real goal.