Happy Weight vs. Ideal Body Weight

By Alexandra Caspero on April 30, 2014

Let’s talk weight. Let’s talk happy weight. Let’s talk ideal weight. Let’s talk everything in between. Because, as a dietitian, I’ve got a lot of thoughts about weight.

“Aren’t you going to weigh me?!”

(A phrase I hear almost every time I see a new client for weight loss.)

Nope. I don’t own a scale in my office, and I rarely, rarely weigh clients.

Yup, that’s right. No scale.


Honestly, I really don’t care what they weigh.

OK sure, I care if they are obese or morbidly obese but chances are, if their weight is that high, they already know. They don’t need me weighing them to tell them that they need to lose weight. They can get that at the doctor’s office.

In other words, the scale doesn’t tell me anything I don’t know. It just tells me a number. It doesn’t tell me what my clients ate that day, how they are feeling, confidence level… Nope, just a number. Throw out the scale.

Instead, when they ask me “Aren’t you going to weigh me?” or “What should I weigh?”, I respond with something like this:

Happy Weight Vs. Ideal Weight- Weight Loss And Throwing Away The Scale!

Most of us have a happy weight. That weight where you’re comfortable in your clothes, you don’t hate your closet every time you get dressed, you’re happy when you head to the gym, and you don’t deny yourself the occasional brownie, croissant, or piping hot bowl of mac-and-cheese. You’re, you know, happy

Which may or may not be your ideal body weight. Your ideal weight is what you will most often get when you ask a medical professional that wonderful question, “how much should I weigh?” Instead, I’d like you to try to think about your happy weight.

It may or may not be a number.  More than likely, it’s a feeling.

For me, at 5’4″, my “ideal body weight” is 120. 120! I’m not 120.

Sure, I could be 120. If I took out dessert, red wine with girlfriends, rest days, and avocado on my sandwiches. I could be 120 if I spent 2 hours a day at the gym and kept my calories to 1400. I could do it, sure. But I won’t.
I’m not happy at 120. I’ve been 120 and…. well, I was miserable. Not only was I miserable, but I’m pretty sure I made everyone else around me miserable, too.

BL wanted a date night? Not if I didn’t get to the gym earlier in the day. Girlfriends want to meet for happy hour drinks? Unless they were serving steamed kale and tea, I can’t go.

Somewhere after college it clicked.  In order to be happy, I couldn’t be my ideal weight. An ideal weight that I should point out was not chosen by me, but by a textbook.

Instead, I asked myself, where am I most happy? While the only time I really know my true weight is at the doctor’s office once a year, I know that my happy weight is somewhere closer to 130. That’s my happy weight, my happy space.

Girlfriends want happy hour? Of course! I’d rather sacrifice my 6-pack ab ambition for quality time with my best friends. BL wants a date night? Of course! I’ll balance my nutrient-dense entree with wine and split dessert. When I start to feel a little out of balance, no big deal. I add a few more miles, change up my meals, and I start to get back to where I like to be.

Weight To Feel Happy And Healthy

I encourage my clients, especially my weight loss clients, to aim for their happy weight over their ideal weight. Not only is it a more achievable goal, it will also make the process of weight loss enjoyable and not seem like such a punishment.

I’ve talked about this before, but when weight loss becomes a punishment, you start to resent it. And when you start to resent it, you give up. Blaming yourself and starting and stopping the process many times over.

Make this time different. When you start to look towards your goal weight, focus on the happy rather than the ideal.

What about you? Have you ever thought about your happy weight? How do you find the balance between happy weight and healthy weight? I’d love to know!


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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Chef, and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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    1. Spirals health
      July 17, 2021 AT 3:48 am

      This is fabulous! Loved the post. never thought this way.

    2. chirurgie esthetique tunisie
      June 7, 2021 AT 4:20 am

      thank you

    3. Robin
      September 7, 2017 AT 8:05 am

      Its nice to read this article. Even be though I like how I look at my ideal weight, I don’t feel well at that weight. I also, struggle to stay at that weight, its like every fiber of my being fights it. Its so strange… I feel best at about 5 – 10 pounds heavier. My body likes it and its easy for me to stay stable. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Alex
        September 7, 2017 AT 8:25 am

        Hi Robin, thanks for your comment. Really, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Finding a place that feels good to you AND that you are able to stay at. I think so many of us fight to get to a certain weight that it zaps all the joy of eating/movement to stay there. Even being a little over that place can make a world of difference when it comes to finding your “happy weight”

    4. Amanda Lambrechts
      July 1, 2015 AT 6:00 pm

      I absolutely LOVED this article Alex! I’ve noticed the same perspective shift as I have gone through my dietetics schooling. I used to weigh myself every. single. day! If my weight was not exactly where I thought it should be that morning, I would shape my entire attitude/day around that. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be thin because I thought “well who is going to trust a dietitian who’s not skinny?!?” Luckily, over the years, I have stopped using the scale so frequently and fuel my body instead of depriving it. I loved your perspective on this post in a society where weight is so heavily emphasized! Thanks for sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚
      -Amanda Lambrechts

      1. DK
        July 1, 2015 AT 8:06 pm

        Wow Amanda, thanks so much for sharing. I am SO happy that you enjoyed this article, comments like this make my day! Thanks again for sharing your story, you are going to be an incredible RD!

    5. Kristin
      May 16, 2014 AT 2:06 pm

      Thank you so much for this blog post. It was good to read and although I know I shouldn’t always focus on the ideal weight BMI charts and doctors tell me, it’s hard to let it sink in and stay absorbed. I had a doctor back in the day saying I needed to be 90 pounds in order to be healthy (I’m 5 feet). A few years ago, I reached that…and almost all of my bones were sticking through my skin. I’ve gained too much weight back and am struggling to focus on what my happy weight should be and instead, letting the dreaded number of 90 sneak back in. To summarize, there needs to be more posts like your post focusing on a happy weight and that ideal weights are not always correct. The more times we read it, the more likely it is to stick. Thanks!

    6. Shannon
      May 8, 2014 AT 8:18 pm

      Loved this!

      1. DK
        May 8, 2014 AT 8:37 pm

        Thanks Shannon!

    7. Jessica @ Nutritioulicious
      May 8, 2014 AT 3:50 pm

      Fabulous post! When I was seeing private clients I also didn’t weigh them for the most part – like you said, it’s just a number and doesn’t really tell me or them much about what’s actually going on. Sharing your post now in the hopes more people understand this!

      1. DK
        May 8, 2014 AT 7:12 pm

        Yes! Thanks for your comments and sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚

    8. Theresa
      May 5, 2014 AT 10:39 am

      This is fabulous! I’ve never thought about there being a difference between happy and ideal weight! I try to not look at a scale and just focus on how I feel. Loved this post. Thanks girl!

      1. DK
        May 5, 2014 AT 6:24 pm

        That’s it! Feeling happy ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the comment, Alex

    9. Emily
      May 3, 2014 AT 7:56 pm

      This is perfection. Thank you.


    10. Heidi Kokborg
      May 2, 2014 AT 1:53 am

      I love this post! It’s not about the weight. It’s about eing happy in your own skin and loving you life. I used to be really skinny, but like you I wasn’t happy. Now I weigh a little more and I am so happy ๐Ÿ™‚