Q: What is my ideal weight?
A: Ideal body weight formulas and BMI charts are often used when discussing weight. However, they are often not useful for setting realistic weight loss goals. Instead, ask yourself these three questions to determine what a healthy weight is for you.
In school, students preparing for a career in health care are taught a specific math formula to calculate ideal body weight (IBW). The calculation is based on height and gender.
Here's the problem. Often, when patients hear that calculation, they react with exasperation, and may even become discouraged. Their reaction is usually pretty negative because many have never been that weight in their adult lives.
To be honest, I haven't been my ideal body weight since I was 11 years old. And if I got down to 105 pounds, for me, I know I would not feel strong.
The other way health pros might recommend a target weight is by looking at a body mass index (BMI) chart. The calculations in this chart are a little more reasonable than the ideal body weight formula. The chart offers a range of weights that would be considered healthy. BMI is calculated using weight and height, where a score of 19 to 24 is considered healthy, 25 to 30 is considered overweight, and scores above 30 are considered obese. (Note: If you are Asian, the ranges are lower, where 17 to 22 is the healthy range.)
One downfall of BMI is that it does not take into account body composition. For example, if a person is very muscular, his or her weight could be higher, even if they have little body fat. In this case, the BMI score could be higher, or outside the "healthy" range. However, health complications are associated with having excess fat, especially abdominal fat, not excess muscle. Thus, a higher BMI could wrongly classify a fit person as having an unhealthy weight.
Like IBW, using BMI to set a target weight can be equally frustrating if the healthy weight range feels unattainable.
Ask yourself these questions to set a realistic weight loss goal.
While scientific standards and formulas are important to guide public health, everybody has a unique body shape, metabolism and health history. For individual goal setting, I ask my patients a couple of questions:
At what weight do you feel most comfortable with yourself?
What was your lowest adult weight where you felt your healthiest? If you are over age 60, add 10 percent to this number.
Whatever your long-term weight goal happens to be, remember that a moderate weight loss of 5% can significantly improve blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other health conditions.
One of the primary goals of the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) is to help participants lose five percent or more of their starting weight within six months, then maintain that weight loss for the rest of the year-long program. The NDPP has shown to cut diabetes risk in half through healthy eating, physical activity and moderate weight loss, without the help of medication. As an NDPP coach, I have had the pleasure of witnessing participants reverse prediabetes, cut blood pressure meds in half, and report reduced joint pain, improved energy, an an overall feeling of wellness.
3. If you are just starting your weight loss journey, what would a five percent weight loss be for you?
Based on your answers to the above three questions, you can determine a weight loss goal that is more personalized and realistic for you.