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How Much Should I Weigh

If you are concerned about your weight or wondering if you need to start on a diet and exercise routine, the first question that comes up is how much should i weigh. In this article I am going to take a look at some of the methods to see how much you should weigh and some health advice relating to the topic. Something to keep in mind while reading this is that this article is targeted to adults and is not relevant to children or pregnant women.

Using BMI to Calculate Your Weight Category

Probably the most widely adopted metric of your weight class is you body mass index (BMI). Your BMI is a measure of how much you weigh in terms of your height.

To calculate your BMI, it is easiest to use a dedicated calculator for the purpose such as this weight loss calculator. This calculator will calculate your BMI along with a number of other pieces of weight loss information.

There are then different ranges for your BMI that will class you as normal weight, overweight, obese, …

These BMI ranges are as follows:

BMI Range Category
The above BMI categories are not applicable for children or pregnant women.
Less than 16.5 Severely Underweight
16.5 – 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 25 Normal
25 – 30 Overweight
30 – 35 Obesity (Class 1)
35 – 40 Obesity (Class 2)
40+ Extreme Obesity (Class 3)

As mentioned above, BMI is easiest to calculate with a dedicated calculator, but lets have a look at the actual equations used to calculate this:

BMI = Weight in Kg / Height in Meters Squared

or alternatively,

BMI = Weight in Pounds x 703 / Height in Inches Squared.

So a first step to see how much you should weigh is to calculate your BMI, look at your weight category and then aim for your BMI to be in the normal weight range.

Health Advice About Your Weight, BMI and Other Factors

To go a step further than simply calculating your BMI, a source I consider to be really useful on the topic is a publication by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the US Department of Health and Human Services [1]. This is a publication released to instruct health practitioners on how to treat obesity and weight issues. As a part of this, it goes through evaluating a patients weight and associated health risks to see if they might need treatment.

The advice uses your BMI fairly heavily, but also goes into a number of other factors in the assessment.

One of the main issues talked about is that excess belly fat can actually present a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and other conditions than fat that people may put on in other areas of the body.

If a male has a waist circumference of greater than 40 inches, or 35 inches for a female, that person is considered to be at an increased health risk. In the table below, we will call people who have this sized waist circumference as having an “Excessive Waist Circumference”.

These levels of risk can be seen in this table:

BMI Range Category Disease Risk Without Excessive Waist Circumference Disease Risk With Excessive Waist Circumference
The above BMI categories are not applicable for children or pregnant women.
< 18.5 Underweight - -
18.5 – 25 Normal - -
25 – 30 Overweight Increased High
30 – 35 Obesity (Class 1) High Very High
35 – 40 Obesity (Class 2) Very High Very High
40+ Extreme Obesity (Class 3) Extremely High Extremely High

* Shows Disease risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Source: Table 2 of [1], originally adapted from [2].

The publication goes on to talk about when it is important for a health practitioner to establish weight loss goals and a treatment strategy with their patient.

This can be seen as a criteria when the health profession considers the patients weight problems to be serious enough to warrant treatment, and as such can be a good guideline to see if any excess weight may pose a serious problem.

The criteria involves looking at the patients BMI, their waist circumference and if they have significant other health risks that are known to be increased by being overweight.

Lets take a look at the overall criteria that is used first and then talk a little bit about some of the specific health risks they mention.

The criteria is as follows:

1. If a person’s BMI is over 30, then that person is obese and should be treated for weight issues as there weight may present a serious risk to their health.

Even if someone’s BMI is not over 30, there are still situations where the publication recommends treatment:

2. If that persons BMI is over 25 and they have at least two other associated health risks then they should be treated or,

3. If a male has a weight circumference over 40 inches or 35 inches for a female and they have at least two other associated health risks then they should be treated.

4. In the case that a male has a weight circumference over 40 inches or 35 inches for a female or that persons BMI is over 25, even in the absence of other health risks, if the person wants to lose weight, then treatment is recommended. This is a good example of the role of motivation in weight loss and the increased chance of success with the right motivation.

As you can see, this is starting to paint a picture of when weight issues may pose a serious health risk. The report details quite a number of health risks (or risk factors) that are known to react negatively with being overweight. Some of this is quite detailed, as the report was actually intended for health professionals.

I’ll mention a few of them here in case you recognize any of these health risks in yourself, but due to the range of other factors and the need for experience in evaluating them, this is a good example of why you should be consulting your doctor if you are concerned about your weight. A doctor should understand the full range of health risks associated with excess fat and also be able to determine if you are susceptible to these risks.

Some of the main risk factors include:

1. Type 2 diabetes: this is considered a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and its presence places the patient in a very high risk category.

2. The patient has established coronary heart disease.

3. The patient has other atherosclerotic diseases (abdominal aortic aneurism, peripheral arterial disease, symptomatic carotid artery disease).

4. The patient has sleep apnea. This may present itself as very loud snoring or stopping breathing during sleep, followed by a loud breath and brief awakening.

The Limitations of BMI and your Body Fat Percentage

The use of BMI to answer the question how much should i weigh does have a number of limitations. In the case of serious athletes or body builders, due to their muscle mass they may hive a high overall weight but a low body fat percentage. These people would often be very healthy without significant health risks and the use of BMI will incorrectly classify them as at risk.

Additionally, in elderly people, their overall lean body mass will be low for their height and their level of body fat may be higher than their BMI would indicate, placing them at a higher risk than it may appear from the above classifications.

There are also a range of other situations where the use of BMI will not be relevant.

Another metric to evaluate a healthy ideal weight is the use of your body fat percentage.

What Should Your Body Fat Percentage Be?

In order to get an idea of the levels of body fat people can expect, I thought it would be good to take a look at a few figures from Tom Venuot’s fat loss classic, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle.

Typical body fat percentages vary between the sexes as well as people of different ages. Women have on average about 23% body fat while men have about 17%. Body fat levels typically increase with age.

He also indicates the levels of body fat that may become a concern for health risks. For men, 25% is a borderline case while 30% is clinically obese, while for women, 30% is a borderline case while 35% is considered clinically obese.

Measuring Body Fat Levels

There are a number of methods to get an estimate of your body fat level, however these methods utilize specialized equipment. It may be worth asking your doctor how you might go about being able to measure your body fat percentage. Tom Venuto also recommends the use of a skin fold caliper called the Accu-Measure. This provides an economical way to measure your body fat yourself. He does indicate that the exact number produced may not be an accurate measurement and should rather be used to get a relative idea of your progress. That is by taking regular measurements you should be able to get an idea of weather your body fat is increasing or decreasing in response to your fat loss efforts.

I hope this article has helped you understand how much you should weigh. If you are planning on embarking on a fat loss process, I recommend you talk to your doctor. You might also be interested in our article on how many calories should i eat a day to understand how to count calories for weight loss.


References

[1] The Practical Guide: Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults (2000). National Institutes of Health. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. North American Association for the Study of Obesity.

[2] Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic of Obesity. Report of the World Health Organization Consultation of Obesity. WHO, Geneva, June, 1997.



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