What is your ideal body weight? Before you answer, think about all the things you’ve based it on. Maybe it’s on BMI or what seems healthy. Or perhaps it’s the number you were before childbirth. Regardless, after learning what makes a body weight “ideal,” your goal might change.
To start off, here’s what you should remember
- Skinny doesn’t equal healthy
- Fat doesn’t equal unhealthy
- Health is not defined by one body
Ideal weight is not one size fits all! Instead, it’s about increasing your lifespan, lowering the risk for chronic disease, and feeling good.
What About BMI?
Body mass index, or BMI, measures body fat based on one’s height and weight. A BMI of 18.5–24.9 is considered normal, while 25–29.9 is considered overweight. At 30 or higher, a person is considered obese.1
The problem with BMI, however, is that it doesn’t distinguish between muscle and fat. This means a fit person could have a high BMI, making them “obese” or “overweight.” As for the fat? BMI doesn’t show where it’s located, which is important to consider.
How To Tell If You’re At An Ideal Weight
BMI is a useful starting point! Yet, there are other points to consider.
1. Measure Waist-Hip Ratio
Pay attention to where you store fat. According to the World Health Organization, this is a greater prediction of chronic disease risk.
Is most of your fat around the waist? This is called central or abdominal obesity. It’s linked to higher rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and early death – regardless of BMI.2
To determine your waist-hip ratio, measure the waist and hip around the widest part of the butt. Divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement.3 For men, a ratio of .90 or less is safe, while women should have a ratio of .80 or less.4
2. Refer To Health Tests
Fitting into old jeans won’t matter if your blood pressure is through the roof. And, while being overweight or obese increases the risk of this, it’s possible to be skinny and have high blood pressure.
That’s just one example. You need to work on your blood pressure if a blood test points to the following results
- High “bad” LDL cholesterol
- Low “good” HDL cholesterol
- High total cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- High blood glucose
Weight plays a role in determining one’s blood pressure. However, other factors like diet and cigarette smoking matter, too.
Overall, these factors increase the risk for heart disease – the number one cause of death in the nation – and type 2 diabetes, the seventh cause of death.5
3. Look At How You Feel
At an ideal weight, you’ll feel good from the inside out. You can’t put a number on that! And, there isn’t one way to “rate” feelings, so think about daily habits like
- Sleep: Do you get enough rest? Can you sleep comfortably, without feeling like you need to depend on caffeine? If you’re overweight, sleep issues are likely.6
- Appetite: Do you have a regular appetite? Do you eat when you’re hungry, or when you’re bored? Can you tell when you’re satisfied? If you’re obese, you might crave sweet foods and not be satiated easily.7
- Diet: How do you feel after eating a meal? Do your eating habits leave you energized or sluggish? If you’re overweight, you might feel tired and low often.8
- Energy: Can you walk up the stairs without feeling winded? If you’re healthy, you should be able to do 150 minutes of physical activity a week.9
- Focus: Can you concentrate on tasks during the day? Can you pay attention at work or school? Obesity has a negative effect on cognitive functioning.10
As you can see, the “ideal” weight has many factors. Finding yours might take time and patience. But, it’s important to remember that health is more than just a number.
|↑1||Overweight & Obesity Statistics. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑2||World Health Organization. “Waist circumference and waist-hip ratio: Report of a WHO expert consultation, Geneva, 8-11 December 2008.” (2011).|
|↑3||Measuring Obesity. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑4||Adult—waist-to-hip ratio, N.NN. Australian Institute Of Health And Welfare.|
|↑5||Leading Causes of Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑6||Health Risks Of Being Overweight. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑7||Volkow, Nora D., Gene-Jack Wang, and Ruben D. Baler. “Reward, dopamine and the control of food intake: implications for obesity.” Trends in cognitive sciences 15, no. 1 (2011): 37-46.|
|↑8||Breymeyer, Kara L., Johanna W. Lampe, Bonnie A. McGregor, and Marian L. Neuhouser. “Subjective mood and energy levels of healthy weight and overweight/obese healthy adults on high-and low-glycemic load experimental diets.” Appetite 107 (2016): 253-259.|
|↑9||Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑10||Chan, John SY, Jin H. Yan, and V. Gregory Payne. “The impact of obesity and exercise on cognitive aging.” Frontiers in aging neuroscience 5 (2013).|