Of all the numbers that you remember—passwords, credit cards, social security number—there’s one number that always drives you crazy. Not because it’s hard to remember—in fact, it’s probably always on your mind. This number represents your ever-elusive “perfect” weight. If you could only achieve it—and stay there—you’re certain your life would be better in many soooo many ways.
But what is this magical number, and how do you arrive at it? Is it a reasonable weight that falls within the ranges provided on doctor-approved charts? Or is it a weight you dropped to once, several years ago, after a major breakup? Or, is it the weight you were when you got married or what you weighed when you graduated from high school?
All too often, the women I talk to have a number that they’ve arrived at but have no basis for that number and yet, they constantly feel “heavy” or “fat” because they exceed that value. When it comes to a “perfect” weight, it’s one that keeps your body fat in a healthy range and helps protect your body against certain diseases that are driven by excess body fat, including certain types of breast cancer. And everyone is slightly different so even if your friend is the same height, her perfect weight is most likely different from yours.
Stepping on the scale only tells you your absolute weight: it doesn’t tell you how much of that weight is fat versus lean tissue, bone or water. That’s why I always focus on helping women reduce their percent body fat through diet and exercise rather than being too concerned about overall body weight. A body fat between 25 and 30% is a good goal for most women; athletes will be somewhere between 12 and 18% and fit women will be around 18-22% body fat.
How Much Should You Weigh?
Each of us has a weight that our body will be healthy and helps us perform at our best. Even women of the same height, won’t necessarily have the same body types as your body weight and body fat are impacted by your genetic background, how much you exercise and to some extent, how old you are.
Calculate Your Healthy Weight
The MetLife Height Weight Tables were used for years to determine if you were at an optimal height. The Body Mass Index replaced the MetLife tables as the standard medical professionals use to determine whether or not you’re at a healthy weight or have too much body fat. I think they’re more appropriate for women than the standard BMI charts. Of course, using a body fat scale (ie Tanita scale) is an excellent option for anyone who is concerned about their physique.
To use the MetLife table, you’ll need to know if you’re a small, medium or large-frame. Here’s how you can tell:
Measure the circumference of your wrist.
Small frame = wrist size less than 5.5″
Medium frame = wrist size 5.5″ to 5.75″
Large frame = wrist size over 5.75″
If you’re between 5’2″ to 5’5″
Small frame = wrist size less than 6″
Medium frame = wrist size 6″ to 6.25″
Large frame = wrist size over 6.25″
If you’re over 5’5″
Small = wrist size less than 6.25″
Medium = wrist size 6.25″ to 6.5″
Large = wrist size over 6.5″
METLIFE HEIGHT WEIGHT TABLES
Waist to Height Ratio
Where your fat is at is also important because fat that’s deposited in the hips and butt is less of a health risk compared to ab fat. Carrying extra weight in your middle increases risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and other chronic conditions. Despite being the most harmful place to store body fat, the good news about being an “apple” is that the fat in your middle is easier to whittle compared to fat that resides in your hips and butt.
A new way to asses risky body fat has been developed in the UK that is thought to be even more sensitive than simply measuring your waist. This calculation accounts for your height in relation to your waist measurement. So, if you are 5’6″ tall, your waist should be less than 33 inches and ideally, around 26-31 inches. Another easy way to think about it: your waist circumference should be less than half of your height. (33 inches is half of 66 inches or 5′ 6″ inches tall)
I prefer the waist to height chart, you can also simply measure your waist to see if you need to lose weight.
To calculate your waist size, put the tape measure horizontally around the level of the top of your hip bones. Take the measurement at the end of a normal breath (don’t suck in your stomach). Pull the tape measure until it’s snugly around your middle but isn’t pushing into your skin.
If your waist is over 35 inches, you are at increased risk for adverse health effects and should take steps to cut back on calories. (A man’s waist should be less than 40 inches.)
What’s Your Number?
Leave a comment below letting us know if you have a goal weight number in your head; and if you do, how’d you get to that number?
–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD