Thursday, January 26, 2012

Secrets to Being Fit and Fab: Secret 1 Find Your Ideal Weight Zone

In August 2010 PHS editor Michelle Styles weighed 200 lbs and a US size 20 (if not wearing elastic in the waistband). She decided to change her lifestyle. In October 2011, she weighed 137 lbs and was a US size 2/4 (UK 6/8) and knew enough was enough but how to maintain the weight loss?   Could she even maintain it?

The sad truth is that about a very high percentage of people who lose weight end up regaining and in fact regaining more than they lost.

  I am determined NOT to become part of that statistic which regains. It was that determination that led me to Tracy Anderson in August  of last year  when I feared I was starting to head towards 200 again. The determination enable me to lose  35 lbs very rapidly, going from a US 10 (UK14)to a US 2/4 (UK 6/8) in a matter of about 8 weeks.
Last October when I suddenly realised that my size was getting down there, and that I didn’t want to become underweight, I started looking around to find out what came next. How do you maintain your weight?  And you know there isn’t a lot out there.  Loads about how to lose but maintain -- not much. Suddenly all the support goes.  And if you lose a lot quickly, you have to deal with a suddenly changed body image and the different way in which you are treated. Plus there is always the spectre of regaining hanging over.  This column is an effort to readdress the balance and provide some of the information I learnt.

The first thing you need to know if you want to maintain your weight — is what is your ideal weight? And are you ready to make the mental leap from *I need to lose a few more pounds* to *actually I am happy with the way I look and how clothes fit me*? It is a huge mental leap and a shift in gears and it is not an easy one to make.

First finding your ideal weight: BMI tables are often used but the weight range is huge. For a woman who is 5’ 6” (okay 5’ 5 ½” but I round up!) a healthy BMI weight is somewhere between 118 lbs and 153 lbs.  You could use a ready reckoner of  100 lbs for the first 5 feet plus 5 lbs for every inch and then  +/- 10%. I discovered this ready reckoner in Nancy Clarke's Sports Nutrition Book.  Using 5’ 5 ½” it gives me 127 lbs  +/- 13 lbs.

 But where on the range? 26 lbs is better than nearly 40 lbs but could be several dress sizes. I wanted to narrow it to about 10 lbs.
 Frame size does play a part. I have a medium frame which means if I ever got down to 114 - 118 lbs, I’d look  way to thin.  You must trust me on this.

The easiest way to tell if you have a small, medium or large frame is to your thumb and index finger around your opposite wrist bone. If you can overlap, you are small framed. If they just touch, you are medium and if you have a gap, you are large.  Smaller frames should be at the lower end of the scale and large frames at the top. I have a medium frame.

You can also look at clothes size and your lifestyle. How much effort does it take to be a certain size? I also enjoy my food and while I like exercising, doing one hour of cardio and a half hour of muscular structure 6x a week is enough for me.   I prefer to eat more liberally and exercise more. Other people have different preferences and that is  fine.

Being between a 2/4 US( 6/8 UK) is small enough for me. Any smaller and it is difficult to find clothes to fit. Even when you are down at 4 (UK 8), stores tend not to stock very many clothes.
But why a weight zone, rather than a specific target weight.

People’s weight does not stay the same. Your weight can go and up down by 5 lbs in a day.  The time of the month can factor in. That is why it is best to have an ideal zone rather than a specific number. My ideal zone is between 130 -140 lbs. And it was not easy for me once I decided I had reached the zone.  Suddenly I had to admit to myself that I was comfortable with my weight.,,after a lifetime of being uncomfortable. My life had not suddenly changed but my outlook had.

The other thing to remember is that your ideal weight is personal and a function of your lifestyle and how you look to you. You need to love your shape and embrace it. Write down a list of the reasons why you like you at this weight. Put it somewhere where you can see it. Add to it. When you look in the mirror, look for the things you like about your body, rather than the things that need fixing. Repeat that list while looking at your body. Embrace your imperfections as they make you you.

Once having decided you are at your ideal weight, you do have to decide on a plan for maintenance and what will you do if the weight starts creeping up. Having a plan means that you can start to own your weight, rather than fearing that your new body is just a loan, ready to be whisked away at midnight by some fairy godmother.

  That is next month’s topic — traffic lights, zoning  and adjusting your diet and/or your exercise. In other words using your scale as a tool rather than as The Enemy.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Hisotrical.Her next book, His Unsuitable Countess will be published in August 2012 in both the US and the UK. You can learn more about Michelle's books on


  1. Congratulations on making such a change in your lifestyle, resulting in a healthier you. (And yes, I do know it's not all about looks & dress size . . . but you look fantastic!)

    I am a WW Lifetime/ Gold member and found the original losing very easy as compared to the maintenance. I've managed to keep all the weight off for almost four years, but every single day I have to make healthy choices and often I struggle.

    I really like your tip about a list - thanks for a great idea.

  2. I've seen you in the flesh Michelle and you look fabulous! Congratulations on your weight loss and here's to a fabulous maintenance programme!

  3. Yes I agree that every day is a struggle. It is the maintenance that is hard. Congratulations on keeping it off for four years. It does take a certain amount of determination. I do think the recent research in Leptin resistance and breaking that circle might offer some hope and respite.
    A list helps because sometimes you focus on the negatives rather than the postives. Sometimes you foget the plus side.
    Thank you for the compliment. I think feeling that you look good means you have a more postive approach to life. If you are positive about you, then you approach the world differently.

    thanks Scarlet. I have to keep it up now.