Monday, March 21, 2011

The Difference Between Weight (Number) and Fitness Level

**This was previously posted on my P90X blog which has since been discontinued. This version of the article has been edited, but if it sounds familiar, it just means you've been a reader longer than other people have:) **

When you think "in-shape," "fit," and "sexy," what do you picture? Do you picture a tall, thin, model-type? Do you picture shorter, athletic, and toned? What about 30 or 40 pounds "overweight"?

Personally, I think somewhere between the first two. I have to admit that I'm more concerned with the idea of losing weight, as in numbers, than I am being really in shape ... of course, I'm doing the fitness route to get there, but I still want to lose a good 10 pounds (and ideally I'd like to lose 20!) and that's not necessarily a bad goal (though 20 pounds may literally be impossible for my body type if I want to stay healthy). But, I've really been thinking a lot lately. Being "overweight" or not-model-like does NOT mean I don't look good.

For instance, take Lindsey Vonn. Who doesn't think that woman is gorgeous? She's an Olympic gold medalist who is considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, as well as the best woman skiier. Guess what? She's "overweight" for her size.  Lindsey is a healthy 5-10, 160-170 pounds (most models at that height are 110-115; athletes of that caliber, maybe 15 pounds more than that). Coaches have made fun of her, and snide remarks were even made at the Olympics that her weight was the reason she was winning.

I'm not saying losing weight is a bad thing, but the more important thing, as the article below states, is that your goal revolve around being fit and healthy, not around the scale. I have to admit that I've been pretty discouraged that I haven't lost any weight in the last two years. I have been working so hard. Though my diet occasionally slips and I overdo my eating, I generally have stayed within 18-22% body fat in the last at least year and a half, and I generally work out 3-5 times per week. Yet I haven't lost any weight. What's the deal here?

One thing to keep in mind is that BMI is not very accurate. Consider the fact that muscle weighs much more than fat. For every few pounds of fat you lose, you may be gaining a leaner, but heavier muscular pound. Therefore, your weight and height chart may be very misleading. If you're muscular at all, you're going to weigh more but be leaner. Two people who are the same height can have very different BMI's, but the heavier person may actually be thinner and in much better shape if their heavier weight is muscle. Therefore, body fat is very important, as are measurements. I've been seeing a personal trainer at my gym the last three weeks, once a week for an hour. We talked last week and he said that my measurements are actually good right now, and I'm on the right track. He wants to get me down a few more percentages of body fat (I'm currently at 20-21%) and help me get to my weight loss goal eventually.  But the important thing here is: your fitness must be looked at as an entire, big picture, rather than just one misleading aspect.

But he also said something that goes right along with Lindsey Vonn's weight, and probably yours too -- to a certain extent, there's only so much we can do about our weight and shape. Genetics play a large role. And yes - we can ensure that we are as healthy as we can be by eating healthy and exercising, but you probably will never change your pear, or apple, or full hourglass shape. You might get to your healthiest weight possible - but still be a full-bodied athletic look, and not a slender, tall, blonde model (although some of us may not regret that! I know my husband doesn't regret the fact I never will be a Heidi Klum or someone like her!)

If you're struggling with your weight loss goals, but have been working hard to be fit and healthy, take heart to know that the American Olympic Gold Medalist for the 2010 Skiing isn't skinny either. Keep working hard, knowing that you're doing the best for your body, and that you're beautiful, whether you're 10 pounds underweight, or 30 pounds overweight.


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