Now that I am less than 5 pounds away from my Weight Watchers goal of 146 pounds, I’ve been thinking about what my final goal should be. 146 pounds is the top of my goal range, which is the point at which, by BMI, I am in the normal weight category. But, I recognize that my goal range is a really large range. Weight Watchers puts it at 117 to 146 pounds.
Back in the day, when I became a Weight Watchers lifetime member, I received my key to the future:
At that time, my goal was 125 pounds. But, I got to goal exactly 25 years ago yesterday. That was a very long time ago. And, I’m not at all sure 125 pounds is right for me now. In fact, I’m not sure that 125 pounds was right for me then, seeing as how I didn’t maintain it.
And, to be honest, the question in the title of this post is really a trick question. I don’t think there is ever a final goal. There may be a final weight loss goal, but this blog is about being a better me. I hope that I will always have new goals to strive for in being a better me.
Still, right now I am thinking a lot about that weight loss goal. I recognize that BMI has its issues as a personal weight goal. While it is broadly applicable to populations, it has problems for individuals. Someone with a lot of muscle may have an overweight BMI, but have low body fat so that weight really doesn’t mean much. That is not every common. Far more common is the person who has a normal BMI, but high body fat. In fact I’ve read about a study that looked at BMI versus body fat. 29% of people with a normal BMI had a body fat percentage that was obese. On the other hand, 5% of those overweight and .2% of those obese, according to BMI, had low levels of fat.
Body Fat Percentage
The phenomenon of normal BMI/high body fat is all too common and some refer to that as being skinny fat. I know that I fall within that group. I use my scale to measure body fat (I know it isn’t all that accurate, but it gives me a ballpark), and currently my body fat hovers between 39% and 40%.
There is some debate about what is an obese body fat. Some look only at gender and not at age, such as this chart that says a female is obese with a body fat percentage of 32% or higher. This articles cites authorities giving either a 35% or 30% body fat percentage as obese. This article uses the 32% percentage, but then has a chart that uses age and says that in my age range the percentage for obesity starts at around 37 1/2%. So, I’m not sure what is really the correct percentage, but I know mine is too high. I think that at, a minimum, I would want to be under 35%. Ideally, I think I would like to be below 30% although that may be tough to achieve..
Back when I got to goal 25 years ago, I didn’t have a way to measure body fat. But, I did take my measurements back then. So, I plugged my numbers into a calculator to estimate body fat using the Navy method, which relies on measurements. Back then when I weighed about what I weigh now, my body fat according to that method was 34%. At 147, it was 31%. At 140, it was 29% and was 28% at 130. At 123, it was 25%. The bottom line is that even when I get to 146, there is no way I will be at 31% body fat like I was then. At best, I might get to 36% or 37%.
My body fat percentage now is about 5% more than it was 25 years ago at similar weight. That is largely due, I’m sure, to age related decrease in muscle mass which starts when you are in your 30s. I don’t have to to measure my body fat to know that my body percentage is more than it was then. Back then when I weighed 10 pounds more than I weigh now, I was able to comfortably wear my wedding ring and engagement ring. While I was pregnant, I eventually gained enough weight that I could wear it. But, a few months after my son was born I could wear the engagement ring again. I was in the high 170s at that time.
Right now, I can’t wear either ring. I’ve finally gotten to a point where I can get them past the knuckle on my finger, but they get stuck about halfway between the knuckle and the base of my finger. When the rings were sized for me, I weighed only about 5 pounds less than I weigh now. Right now, I am not close to wearing them. I doubt I will be able to wear them until I am closer to 140 pounds, maybe less.
So, that is another goal. To be able to wear my wedding ring and engagement ring.
Here is another goal. I keep reading that health risks go up for a woman who has a waist size over 35 inches. So, a key goal is to have a waist under 35 inches. One problem is knowing where to measure. Some say to measure at the narrowest part of the waist, some at the belly button, others above the hip bone. This study looked at where to measure to assess metabolic syndrome. One authority said to measure midway between the lowest rib and the iliac crest (top of the hipbone), another said to measure at the umbilical level, and the other at the iliac crest. The bottom line was that 21% few women met the criteria for metabolic syndrome if measured at the unbilical level crest, than at the iliac crest.
For me, all of this is depressing. Measuring at the narrowest point (which is about the midpoint between my ribs and hipbone), my waist is 36 inches. But measured at the iliac crest, it would be 38 inches, while at the belly button is 36 3/4 inches. The CDC says to measure just above the hipbones. So, I’ll go with that which means I have 3 full inches to go to get below 35 inches.
When I was getting to goal way back when and weighed what I weighed now, my waist was about 32 1/4 inches measured at the narrowest point. So, I was probably just below 35″ at the iliac crest then. But, that was then. Now, I think my waist at the narrowest point would need to be no more than 33 inches for me to be less than 35 inches at the iliac crest. I’m thinking I’m a long way from that point. My narrowest waist was 39 inches when I weighed 30 pounds more than I weigh now. So, it took 30 pounds for me to get from 39 inches to my current 36 inches (at the narrowest point).
One reason this is really important to me is that I know that I am an apple shape which means I have abdominal obesity which increases my health risks. And, I want to improve my health risks. Yes, getting to a normal BMI helps, but to really improve my health risks I need to get that waist size down.
As far as I can tell, the only real way to do that is to reduce my body fat. And, to do that I have to lose body fat all over since you can’t spot reduce.
So — What is My Weight Goal?
I don’t know. Weight Watchers sets my goal range at 117 to 146. If I was at 146 and had less than 30 percent body fat and a waist under 31 1/2 inches (which is apparently low risk), then I would call it done. But, as it is, I haven’t really earned the right to weigh 146. To just stop because I hit that number on the scale would — for me — be a big mistake given my body fat and waist size. Maybe I could get there through just losing weight. I think to do it that way I would have to get to 125 or below. I’ve always had a large waist relative to my weight. When I weighed 119 pounds, my waist was almost 28 inches and I still felt it was too large.
I also know that it isn’t enough to just lose weight, I need to add muscle mass. I want to be stronger as I get older and need to add muscle to get there. This is why I’m starting to go to a personal trainer to do strength training. If I add muscle, then my weight will likely end up higher than it would if I just lost weight. So, maybe I end up weighing a little more, but have a better body composition.
What is my weight goal? Something between 117 and 146. I have two sets of goals:
- Basic goal – Body fat under 35%. Waist at iliac crest under 35 inches.
- Advanced goal – Body fat under 30%. Waist at iliac crest 31 1/2 inches.
If I meet those goals, then I’m happy and can work on other areas of self improvement. If I was now at the body fat I was at the first time I got to goal, I would be at the basic goal already and would be at the advanced goal at about 132 pounds. But, I’m not where I was then so unless I build a lot of muscle I think I would need to now weigh under 140 for the basic goal and low 120s for the advanced goal. Of course, I do plan to gain muscle.
Will I meet the advanced goal? I’m not sure. My weight that I end at has to be sustainable for me. I didn’t sustain a goal weight of 125 before. And, I was 25 years younger then and my basal metabolic rate was higher. From that standpoint, it is much harder now for me to weigh 125 than it was then. On the other hand, I know a lot more about nutrition and exercise and weight loss and maintenance than I knew then. I wouldn’t make the same mistakes now that I made then.
I would personally hope to get to the advanced goal while in my 130s, but that will take a lot of work on body composition. People vary in their genetic ability to build muscle, so I’m not sure how well my body will respond. But, whatever happens, it will be better than it is now and I feel confident I can meet my basic goal.
The weight? It will end up where it will end up somewhere in the healthy weight range. But, once I get to 146 pounds losing more weight is purely a tool to use to reduce my body fat and my waist size.