Monday, July 28, 2008

The Big Question: Do I Need to Lose Weight?

     Maintaining your weight throughout college is hard enough, but it seems like all the girls are trying to lose weight too. Sometimes it seems like they’re always on a diet to lose “the last five pounds.” Constantly striving for an unattainable goal is not only disappointing, but it’s priming yourself for a lifetime of an unhealthy relationship with food and body image.

     Are you one of those girls? Are you always trying to lose that "last five pounds?"

     One big problem is the perception of a “perfect” weight. You could spend half your life Googling “ideal weight” and come up with a million different answers. ( I have.) You could make yourself crazy.

     According to the BMI, a 5’5” female like me could weigh anywhere from 111 to 149 and still be considered healthy. I have never been above that, and I haven’t been below it since freshman year of high school, but I know I have been overweight and slightly underweight while still within that range, because of how my body felt.

     The Met Life height/weight tables are also highly quoted around the Internet. Originally, the Met Life Insurance Company devised them to determine what weight ranges were associated with the lowest mortality rates. Now, they’ve somehow picked up the label of “ideal” weights. Depending on your frame size and height, you are provided with a “healthy weight range.” For example, since I am 5’5’ with a small frame, I should weigh between 117-130. If I was large frame, I should aim to weigh between 137-155. So according to the Met Life tables, the range is 117-155, but according to BMI, it’s 111-149. If I weighed 112 or 150, I wouldn’t be too sure which to trust.

     The bottom line when determining whether you need to lose weight: What is the lightest adult weight you have ever been? Were you able to maintain that weight for a significant amount of time? Did you feel hungry all of the time? Unless you’ve always been overweight, you’re probably not going to be lighter than the lightest you’ve ever been. After all, you’re only getting older, right? If you were 115 pounds for 2 days in high school after you had the stomach flu in , that’s not a realistic goal. And it’s worth noting that if you don’t feel good at a certain weight, you don’t look good either.

     According to a recent survey, 75% of women exhibit some form of disordered eating. 53% are trying to lose weight, while at a healthy weight. Are you one of them?

     I used to be. When I first lost weight my freshman year of college, I still felt as if the weight was attached to me. I thought I needed bigger spaces to walk through than I did. I thought I needed to wear a bigger size. I felt like everyone was looking at me and thinking that I was fat. My beliefs were so extremely real to me that it would have been classified as a mental illness, body dysmorphia, had it not been related to another mental illness (my eating disorder.)
     Even if you don’t have an ED, there is a good chance that as college woman you have an unrealistic view of your body. Remember everyone is not looking at you. They are more likely to be worrying about their own bodies than judging yours.

     If you are sick of being on a diet, ask yourself if you feel good at the weight that you are. Do you feel as if you could go hiking if you wanted to, or run a mile? Do you feel energetic? Answering these questions will help you discern what your body needs more than picking an arbitrary number of pounds you think you need to lose. Make new goals instead. Aim to run a little bit farther, or eat a little bit healthier. Nobody has to see the number on the scale but you.

I want to know. Do you really need to lose weight?

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