Functional Maintenance

I put a simplified version of this as a Community Journal on Sparkpeople.

This is a Community Journal inspired by a definition of “ideal weight” from the Beck Diet Solution blog.
“I first want to tell you about our concept of ‘ideal weight’ – it’s the weight that you get down to when you’re eating and exercising in a healthy way that you can maintain. Now this weight may not the weight of your thinnest friend, it may not be the weight you were at in college, and it almost definitely isn’t the weight of the celebrities we see on television.”

I was messaging another leader on Sparkpeople’s “At Goal And Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance” team and we were talking about the idea people get in their heads about what it means to be at goal. Even the addendum “Transition to Maintenance” suggests that we are still headed somewhere, presumably downward on the scale.

One thing I’ve learned in losing over 25% of my body mass is that I don’t know exactly where I’m going. I was overweight my whole life, so I don’t have a wedding dress or magic jeans I want to fit back into. I don’t have a weight I was when I graduated from high school or even middle school (I’m already past that).

So I’ve relied on the BMI metrics of obesity and overweight (even though I used to think they were bunk). Even though I reached the goal of normal BMI and my husband says he’d be concerned if I lost more, I still have saddlebags and a belly pooch. But you know what? So did Helen and Tara in the Biggest Loser Season 7 Finale. And I thought they looked better than the finalists of Season 8 who frankly looked unhealthily thin to me.

How low is low enough? The National Weight Control Registry reports that a 10% reduction in bodyweight, if maintained, confers significant health benefits of reduced obesity. It may be that the health cost of obesity is not from the actual amount of fat we have, but whether we are gaining vs. maintaining. When we gain weight, we are adding fat cells which can smother our organs, unbalance the connective tissues (which host immune and inflammation response cells) and increase Leptin activity.  You’re most likely to hear about Leptin’s effect on appetite, but it also increases angiogenesis, associated with cancer and macular degeneration.

Is it worth it to maintain, to watch what you eat and exercise consistently, even if you aren’t at your dream weight? Is it worth commemorating? It is a bold speculation, but perhaps the same physiologic conditions that are making that last 5 to 15 pounds so tough could be lengthening my life. I wouldn’t discourage you from trying, this is not a “fat and fit” or Rethinking Thin screed.  It’s more about whether you have taken control of your health even if you can’t dictate your weight.

So I guess there are three questions in Functional Maintenance. What are you willing to eat? How much are you willing to exercise? And then, perhaps most importantly, how is your stress level? Is your healthy lifestyle helping or harming your overall wellbeing? Eating right and exercising should both ameliorate stress, not increase it.

Further reading on Leptin:

and on my thoughts about obesity as disease:


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