Are You Aiming for a Healthy Weight Goal?

Updated: Nov. 23, 2010

Unrealistic weight-loss goals are really tough to live up to. Here are five of the leading myths that lure people

Unrealistic weight-loss goals are really tough to live up to. Here are five of the leading myths that lure people into trouble with weight loss, and the truth about them:

Myth 1: Your ideal weight is what you weighed when you were first married (or graduated from college, or before you had children).

If you’re hoping to get back to what you weighed a year or two ago, fine: There’s a chance you really might get close to that weight again. But if we’re talking 15 or 20 years ago, you might want to reconsider. Many people put on weight as they get older. And no matter how hard they try, they have a tough time being as active as they might have been in their early twenties. Don’t live in the past. Set a weight-loss goal that’s appropriate for the way you live now.

Myth 2: Your ideal weight is the number listed on a standard height and weight chart.

True, height and weight are often related. Taller people weigh more than shorter ones, all things being equal. But all things are never equal. Many other factors play a role in determining what you weigh. For example, your body type: big-boned and solid, small-boned and light, or in between. Your metabolism: whether you naturally burn brightly and move a lot, or take things more slowly. The number of fat cells you have. How much your parents and other relatives weigh. The number listed for someone your height on a standard weight and height chart is just an approximation of what your healthy weight should be. Don’t let this one number be the way you determine if you’ve succeeded or failed.

Myth 3: Your ideal weight is the lowest weight you’ve been able to get down to when you’ve dieted in the past.

Okay, so you’ve lost that much weight. But the fact that you’re dieting again says you gained at least some or perhaps all of it back again. If you set a weight-loss goal that’s too low for you to maintain, you’ll get caught in the trap of yo-yo dieting — losing weight, gaining it back, and trying to lose it again. The best weight goal is one you can live with.

Myth 4: The less you weigh, the healthier you’ll be.

Not true. In fact, many studies show that if you’re overweight, even seriously overweight, losing just 5 percent of your current weight is all you have to do to get the bulk of the health benefits: Lose that much and you’ll dramatically lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. In fact, most of the health payoff comes in that first 5 to 10 percent.

Myth 5: If you don’t get down to your dream weight, you’ll never be happy.

You don’t believe that, do you? A number is just a number. And if it’s a number that leaves you frustrated and stuck in an endless cycle of losing weight and gaining it back again, it’s time to retire it for a more reasonable one.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest