What is Ideal Weight?
“What is my ideal weight?”
Calorie Counters ask in order to set a goal weight and doctors ask to assess degree of risk. Obesity is associated with "risks" like pregnancy complications, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and more, and underweight is risky too. But being a little overweight may not be a problem at all. In a meta-analysis published in The Lancet, overweight heart patients had a lower death rate compared to patients of normal weight. And so it begs the question, what is ideal weight?
Rapid Weight Assessment
The weight categories - underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese, and extremely obese - are used to describe ranges of the Body Mass Index or BMI. The BMI is a tool used to quickly determine if someone is at a healthy weight. The BMI is calculated using a person's height and weight. The numerical answer is plotted on a chart divided into categories:
- Underweight: less than 19
- Healthy weight: 19 - 24
- Overweight: 25 - 29
- Obese: 30 - 34
- Extremely obese: more than 35
These categories are traditionally used to monitor health status and to guide medical treatment. The military follows BMI and it can show up in employment files and on report cards too.
But rapidity has trade offs. The BMI has limitations because it does not indicate whether the source of “mass” is fat or muscle or anything else and, as a result, weight can be misclassified. For instance, some athletes have a large muscle mass and a high BMI but they are not obese, while a couch-potato may have a healthy BMI but too little muscle and relatively too much fat. The BMI is also less accurate in the elderly because their muscle and bone have been reduced.
Weight vs. Fat
Since two people of the same weight may have different amounts of body fat, it is important to assess "fat" separately from "weight". Waist measurement is the best assessment tool to measure dangerous abdominal fat.
Extra fat stored around the waist is riskier, health-wise, than fat stored in other places. Risk for disease increases when a man's waist is 40 inches and a woman's waist is 35 or more. To measure your waist, place a tape measure around your bare abdomen just above your hip bone, make it snug but not compressed, relax, exhale, measure, and record the number with the date. And then to differentiate between fat and muscle throughout the entire body, body composition can be measured in a several ways.
YOUR ideal weight
For most people, "ideal weight" or the healthy weight range is somewhere between BMI 19 and 24, although the range can extend to BMI 29 when a person is fit and free of health problems and fat is not stored around the waist.
A span between BMI 19 and 29 is quite a range. For a for 5'5" tall woman, that is 60 pounds from 115!
But remember individual variation is huge. There are so many different genetic tendencies. And so, it turns out that ideal weight is the weight where you feel your best and are free from disease. It is a weight you can easily maintain with moderate eating and exercise.
As for me, a healthy, medium-framed woman at 4’11” with average muscularity and body fat, I feel best at an "ideal weight" between 105 and 110 pounds. I have maintained that weight forever, although my weight is higher if I work out with weights. As a young adult, I weighed 120 pounds but I didn't feel as good. How about you?
What is your ideal weight?
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