Your ideal weight is . . . ?
You probably have one. The number you ultimately want to see when you step on the scale. But, is it your ideal weight? The ideal weight for your height, your body type, your health?
You may have been told you are slightly overweight for your height; however, no one is too worried because your Body Mass Index (BMI) calculation is “healthy.”
But BMI is meant to provide a simple and non-invasive way for the government to determine body fat percentages for the general population as a whole. It’s not meant to be an indicator of a healthy weight for every individual.
According to BMI, a 5’6” woman is considered “healthy” weighing between 114.6 and 154.9 lbs. That’s a difference of 40.3 pounds! If a person’s weight fluctuated that much, there would certainly be an impact on their health.
“There is no one-size-fits-all test for determining ideal body weight. Two people of the same height and same gender, but who have different bone and muscle structure, should not weigh the same,” says Dr. Mary Ellen Moore, a family medicine physician with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
Dr. Moore says that BMI can overestimate fat in some very fit people with a lot of muscle and can underestimate it in certain people who are of a “normal weight” but carry too much body fat.
“It also gives no indication of nutritional intake, whether you regularly exercise and are maintaining strength as you age. Nor does it indicate whether you have a healthy body fat percentage and the right types of fat,” Dr. Moore explains.
For most people, BMI can give a false sense of health, Dr. Moore says. To stay healthy, she recommends:
- Eating the majority of your calories from real, unprocessed, low-in-added-sugar foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, some full-fat dairy (low-fat dairy is high in sugar) and lean cuts of meat.
- Exercising 3-5 times a week, getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat.
- Strength training at least twice a week.
- Getting plenty of sleep, usually 7-9 hours a night.
- Drinking half of your weight in ounces of water.
- Limiting your alcohol intake.
- Eliminating sodas, both regular and diet.
Dr. Moore says you can have your doctor test your nutrients and blood lipids to see if you are in true healthy ranges for weight and body fat. However, if you do all of these things and make them habits, you will begin to feel healthier, and your actual ideal weight will reveal itself over time.
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”