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Weight Loss Plateau Part 3: Weight Loss in Perspective and Reevaluating Your Goal

03.20.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

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By Jane Jakubczak MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN; Redskins Team Dietitian

This week we are looking at the 3rd consideration in reevaluating your weight management efforts; weight goal and expectations.

Unrealistic weight loss goals and the consequences of them (eating disorders, depression, body dissatisfaction, self-esteem deterioration, unhealthy dieting and exercise behavior, etc.) is something I see in my office everyday. Considering the, “You can never be too rich or too thin” culture we live in, it is no wonder many of us hold unattainable weight and body shape ideals as our goal.

From a very young age, we are bombarded by ultra thin images and a weight loss industry that promises you can be as thin as you want, as long as you buy a certain supplement or follow a particular diet or exercise regimen. We are fed (no pun intended) these images and promises hundreds of times a day.

To help my clients keep their weight loss efforts in perspective, healthy and successful - I ensure they understand the following:

BMI is not a good measuring stick: Population vs Individual

Body Mass Index (BMI) was originally developed to assess large populations' risk for health threats such as heart disease, cancer and other public health hazards found to be related to body weight. The problem with using BMI on an individual level is that BMI only takes into consideration one’s weight and height. It does not consider age, gender or body composition.

This last discrepancy is my biggest concern as a sports nutritionist and one who works with adolescents and young adults. I can’t tell you how many times an athlete has rushed into my office in a panic because they just calculated their BMI and it said they were overweight or even obese! Most of my athletes, especially my Redskins Players, fall into these categories because they have more muscle mass, bone density, blood volume and glycogen stores, all very good traits for an athlete however all result in a higher number on the scale.

It is not weight per se that increases your risk of health issues, it is the amount of body fat you possess that can cause health problems. Remember, BMI does not measure body fat.

You may realize quickly why the scale is so commonly used though - body fat measurement is a bit more difficult and the changes seen with this parameter are much slower. Ways to accurately measure can be found at shapeup.org (please note the error rate of each of these tools).

Age-Adjusted Body Fat Percentage Recommendations According to the World Health Organization:

Bodies come in all different shape and sizes:

You may notice in the table above the large range of “healthy body fat percentage” for each gender and various age levels. This large range highlights the fact that there are a variety of body shapes and sizes that can be healthy.

I’d like to point out a very important fact here, we can’t all decide what percentage within the range we want to be, our body has a genetically predetermined “healthy body percentage” and if you happen to be a 25-year-old female with a body type called endomorph, a body fat percentage of 25% may be too low. On the flip side, if you are an ectomorph, a body fat percentage of 30% may be too high. To learn which body type category you fall under, click here.

http://www.lucilleroberts.com

Take the Redskins players for instance; linemen tend to be a combination of Endomorph-Mesomorph, while most receivers are true Mesomorph-Ectomorphs. If I used the same body fat (or weight) standard on both positions we would have over-weight receivers and underweight linemen. You can imagine how this would affect their ability to perform at their best!

I use the analogy of shoe size with my clients. We are all born with a certain shoe size, we don’t usually think twice about changing that, we accept the size and work with it. We need to do the same with our body shape and size – accept your genetics and work with it, not against it.

Keep in mind, body composition/weight is a side effect of our behaviors. If we keep our focus on eating a healthy diet, which means paying close attention to our food choices, managing our portion sizes and timing (see previous blogs for a review of each) and we incorporate physical activity into our daily lives and schedule exercise for most days of the week, our body fat/weight will naturally settle at the optimal level.

This week I’d like to challenge you to reevaluate your weight loss goals. Are they realistic, healthy and sustainable for a lifetime? I encourage you to journal about your expectations when it comes to your physical self, including why you want to weigh “xyz”. Sometimes that “why” can be fulfilled much more successfully with other behavior or attitude changes.

Make it a healthy week!
- Jane

Have questions or comments for the team nutritionist? Leave them below!

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