Advertisers, the media, and pop culture celebrities love to shout well-intentioned, but sometimes confusing messages from the rooftops about your weight. You're too heavy! Love your body! You're too skinny! Never change! Change today! If you feel baffled and overwhelmed, you are not the only one. People often wonder what number to hope for on the bathroom scale. What is my ideal weight?
When searching for the "ideal weight," remember that you're looking for the right weight for you. So many factors go into a healthy weight range. Height, gender, and how active you stay make a big difference. Are you a gym junkie? Do you work from home in front of a computer? The question of your ideal weight has a complex answer. Let's dive in.
The Importance of a Healthy Body Weight
Beliefs and standards about what constitutes a healthy body weight are evolving. Traditional beliefs hold that maintaining a healthy weight can help protect you against a variety of illnesses, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It can also help you to perform at your peak capacity on a daily basis. Extra weight can make certain activities more taxing on your body, which can drain you of energy.
Being underweight can also hurt your health. If you are underweight, your organs are less protected and your bones may have less density. You also probably aren't getting enough nutrients to keep your body's various functions running, like your immune system. If you don't have enough fuel to maintain good health, your energy levels could bottom out and you might feel extreme fatigue.
It should be noted, however, that some health experts, such as those at The Association for Size Diversity and Health promote the principles of Health at Every Size or HAES. As a part of their commitment to size inclusivity in healthcare, they promote the idea that anyone of any size can be healthy and as a result, they de-emphasise weight loss as a health goal.
Most mainstream health organizations, however, still encourage us to reach and maintain a weight that falls within specific parameters. Certain measurement methods, such as body mass index and body composition tests are often used to evaluate whether you are at a healthy weight.
Body Composition and Body Mass Index
When determining the ideal weight for your body type, you need to factor in several things. Body composition and body mass index are two methods that might be used in clinical settings to evaluate your weight and your health. But these are two very different approaches.
Your body is made up of two types of tissue: lean body mass (LBM) and body fat (BF). Your lean body mass is everything that is not fat and includes your muscles, bones, organs, skin, blood, and water.
Body fat lines your skin and cushions your organs. When considering the ideal weight for your body type, body composition - or the ratio of lean body mass to body fat - can play a significant role.
Body composition is measured as a body fat percentage. Healthy fat composition shakes out like this:
- Males: 8% to 18% body fat (can go up to 25% with aging)
- Females: 14% to 23% body fat (can go up to 31% with aging)
Body composition can be calculated in a number of ways with varying accuracy, including skin fold testing, hydrostatic weighing (essentially water displacement), and other methods.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Body mass index is simply a weight to height ratio. It is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. But don't worry if you don't like math. You'll find plenty of BMI calculators online, like the one below that can calculate the number for you.
Your BMI number is used to classify you as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. Studies have suggested that BMI is a good measure for predicting obesity and determining your risk for certain chronic diseases. But the tool also has limitations. For a typical body type with moderate musculature, the BMI is a fairly reliable indicator of whether you are a healthy weight for your size. However, it loses reliability if you are either super fit or weak as a kitten.
What Is the Ideal Weight for My Body Type?
Most people can determine the ideal weight for your body type by using the BMI chart or by using a healthy body calculator. If you're looking for an ideal body weight chart, Rush University offers a BMI calculator and weight-by-height chart. These types of tools are widely available and work well for those with an average body type.
If, however, you are either as muscled as a Spartan warrior or as frail as a ladybug, you may find that you deviate from these standardized charts. How do those who aren't "average" determine a healthy weight? By finding a tool that takes into your frame size and musculature.
Unfortunately, standard tools tend to favor those who meet the median. If you are on the far end of the spectrum - in either direction - it may be more difficult to find a tool that will help you to determine your healthy body weight. If you are in this situation and can't find a tool to find out on your own, you may want to speak with a healthcare professional.
What to Do if You Are Over or Underweight
If, after calculating your ideal weight, you determine that you are either over or under by a significant percentage, then there are measures that you can take to reach and maintain a healthy weight if you want to. Eating a balanced, nutritious diet and getting daily physical activity are the most trusted pathways to reach your weight goals. But remember, you should only change your weight if you feel the need to do so. A number on the scale, your BMI, or your body fat percent doesn't tell the complete picture of physical and mental wellness.
If you're unsure about changing your weight or you want to know the ideal weight for you, based on your current health status, check with your healthcare provider. They can help you set reasonable goals to obtain your ideal weight in a careful and controlled manner.