What is my ideal weight?
It's not an easy question to answer. Our health expert explains why you could be fooled by the widely used Body Mass Index calculators.
Thu, Apr 14 2011 at 11:09 AM
One of the most common health questions asked is, “How do I find my ideal weight?” While it may seem at first glance to be a simple task, discovering your ideal weight is actually a complex science.
If you do an online search for “Find my ideal body weight” you’re likely to come across dozens of free Body Mass Index (BMI) calculators that are simple to use. Type in your height, weight and gender, and voila, your BMI is calculated.
Private health insurance companies reference BMI charts to, in part, determine health insurance coverage and premiums, based on if an individual falls within a healthy weight range. Since its widespread use in the 1970s, the BMI has been one of the most popular determinants of whether a person is underweight, average, overweight or obese.
Problems with BMI
But the BMI, just like your bathroom scale, fails to take into consideration important factors such as:
- Body fat percentage
- Lean body mass percentage
- Water weight
- Body composition (thin-boned, average, or stocky and muscular build)
- Fitness level
According to the BMI, many professional athletes (take NFL or NBA players for example) would be considered overweight. Even a non-professional, physically-fit male who stands 6 feet tall and weighs a muscular 180 pounds would actually be considered slightly overweight by BMI standards.
Instead of relying on BMI or any other methods that don’t take the above parameters into account (for instance, the Met Life Table), if you want to figure out what your ideal weight should be, first don’t be so focused on a set number on the scale.
If the BMI isn’t perfect, what’s a better way to determine my ideal weight?
How do you currently look and feel? Do you feel bloated? Does it look like you’re belly or buttocks has gotten flabbier? If so, your goal shouldn’t necessarily be losing weight or even finding your ideal weight. Instead, be determined to shed body fat and gain more lean muscle mass.
If your goal is to drop 10 pounds so you can fit into a wedding dress, keep in mind that going on a diet and skipping meals may lead to a lower number on the scale but it’s really not worth subjecting yourself to low energy and mercurial moods that come with a typical starvation diet.
Are you a goal-oriented person who needs to set a numeric target, say 10 pounds? Modify your goal statement. Try this one: “I will lose 10 pounds of body fat in 12 weeks.”
This will only be accomplished by daily moderate-intensity exercise and altering your diet. Avoid sugary foods and simple carbohydrates that easily convert into sugars, which when not burned off, ultimately get stored as body fat.
Try to eat the fewest calories possible and consume nutrient-dense foods that will give you the longest lasting energy. For example, ditch the orange juice and instead eat an orange. The natural fiber and longer-burning fruit sugar of the orange will help you reach your ideal weight better than chugging orange juice will.
Keep in mind, however, that even though a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, muscle, per square inch, does in fact weigh more than fat. So if you don’t notice the pounds coming off right away, don’t be discouraged.
The scale in your bathroom can be your best friend or your worst enemy. But even when you think it’s your best friend, it’s a false one at that. It’s not telling you the whole picture. Pay attention to how your clothes fit, how your body looks and what you’re feeling.
It’s not a bad idea to strive for a more ideal weight, but you might want to instead set a goal of simply feeling better, looking better and not being so focused on what you weigh.
Judd Handler is the above-mentioned 6’0”, 180-pound slightly overweight (by BMI standards) athlete. He can be reached at CoachJudd@gmail.com.