Fit fitness girl measuring her waistline with measure tape on blue

It’s the age-old question, and there’s never been a concrete answer that anyone can agree on. Mean GirlsRegina George might swear that losing three pounds is all you need, but just search “how to lose ten pounds in a week” on Google and you’ll see that “three pounds” just doesn’t cut it for some folks. (By the way, please don’t try to lose ten pounds in one week, it’s probably the least healthy thing you can do.) Now, researchers in Canada have believed they’ve discovered the answer to finally put the debate to rest.

“Women and men of average height need to gain or lose about three and a half and four kilograms, or about eight and nine pounds, respectively, for anyone to see it in their face. But they need to lose about twice as much for anyone to find them more attractive,” said Nicholas Rule, an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Social Perception and Cognition at the University of Toronto, in a university press release about the study.

Countless people embark on weight-loss journeys at any given time, and with New Year’s approaching, there’s bound to be resolutions to be “more fit” or “more active” gracing the top of many a person’s list. What most of the people who swear that 20XX will be the year that they finally get healthy is that 20XX will be the year they finally get comfortable with the idea of baring their skin at the pool. And can you blame them? We live in a society where only one type of body is considered to be desirable, and it’s not the type that carries around any extra weight, be it in the face or anywhere else on the body. While lots of effort has recently been made by activists to get society to broaden its views of what it considers “attractive” body types, the sad truth is that we still have a long way to go before that type of view becomes the norm and not the exception.

An important take-away from this study is that “increased facial adiposity [fat content] is associated with a compromised immune system, poor cardiovascular function, frequent respiratory infections and mortality.” Any decrease of facial fat content – and fat content in general, since you can’t pinpoint where the body loses fat without surgically removing it — can only lead to an increase in overall health. This is a great reminder that health, and not arbitrary levels of attractiveness, should be the main motivators for weight loss and increased fitness. By linking valuable habits like exercising regularly and making healthy choices to ephemeral and subjective traits like “good looks,” you run the risk of developing unhealthy body image issues and  never making a commitment to actually getting healthy. Do yourself a favor and quit looking at Vogue as the benchmark of what you should look like, and talk to your doctor or another health professional about ways to increase your level of fitness.

But if you still decide to work out primarily for aesthetic reasons, at least now you have a clear(er) goal to reach!

For more information about the study, click here.

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