How Much Should I Weigh?
Although only nature knows the best weight for your body, the following guidelines offer a method to estimate the midpoint of a healthy weight range (plus or minus 10 percent, depending on whether you have large or small bones). This rule-of-thumb guide does not apply to everybody - especially muscular bodybuilders and football players.
- Women: 100 pounds for the first 5 feet of height, 5 pounds per inch thereafter (45 kg for the first 152 cm, 0.9 kg/cm thereafter).
- Men: 106 pounds for the first 5 feet of height, 6 pounds per inch thereafter (48 kg for the first 152 cm, 1 kg/cm thereafter).
For example, a woman who is 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm) could appropriately weigh 100 + 30 = 130 pounds (45 + 14 = 59 kg), with a range of 117 to 143 pounds (53 to 65 kg). A man who is 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) could appropriately weigh 106 + 60 = 166 pounds (48 + 27 = 75 kg), with a range of 149 to 183 (68 to 83 kg).
Although athletes commonly want to be leaner than the average person, heed this message: If you are striving to weigh significantly (more than 10 percent) less than the weight estimated by this guideline, think again. Pay attention to the genetic design for your body, and don’t struggle to get too light. The best weight goal is to be fit and healthy rather than starved and skinny.
If you are significantly overweight, your initial target should be to lose just 5 to 10 percent of your current weight. If you weigh 200 pounds (91 kg), losing just 10 to 20 pounds (5 to 10 kg) is enough to improve your health status and significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Although you may want to lose more fat for cosmetic reasons, you should know that losing the initial few pounds, or kilograms, is a meaningful accomplishment.
Body Mass Index
Although some people believe that determining body mass index (BMI) is a good way to screen for overfatness in athletes, it is actually a poor one because it is a ratio of body weight to height; it accounts for body mass, not body fat. Hulky football players, weightlifters, and other power athletes who have lots of muscle mass easily get ranked as obese (BMI greater than 30); this is generally far from the truth.
In the general population, people with a BMI greater than 25 are considered to have excess body fat and to be at risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other medical concerns. Yet, in a study of 28 collegiate hockey players, the average BMI was 26 (overweight), but the average body fat was a lean 13 percent (Ode et al. 2007).
In my counseling practice, I use BMI to determine who is too thin. If you have normal musculature, an appropriate BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. When an athlete’s BMI is less than 18.5, I need to rule out the possibility of anorexia. To determine whether you fit this underweight category, search the Web for "body mass index calculator" and you’ll find many websites where you can use to assess your BMI.
When I counsel athletes who have a poor concept of an appropriate weight, I measure their body fat rather than rely on scales and height and weight charts. The fat measurement helps put in perspective the proportion of an athlete’s body that is muscle, bone, essential fat, and excess flab. A scale provides a meaningless number because it doesn’t indicate the composition of the weight. Although some weight is desirable (muscle weight), some is less desirable (fat weight). Obviously, the muscle weight contributes to top athletic performance in most sports. The fat weight is the bigger concern because excess fat can slow you down.
Believe me, judging from the tension that radiates from the body of a weight-conscious athlete, I believe that getting your body fat measured ranks high on the list of anxiety-provoking life experiences. This number unveils the truth. Hulky football players are often humbled to learn that 20 percent of their brawn is flab. Weight-conscious gymnasts are often thrilled to learn that they are leaner than they thought they were.
If you want to have your body fat measured, you’ll certainly want to have it done correctly by a qualified health professional to eliminate any possibility of being told that you are fatter than you really are. Inaccurate readings can send people into a tizzy. If you later want to be remeasured, try to have it done by the same person using the same technique to ensure consistency.
When it comes to measuring body fat, no simple, inexpensive method is 100 percent accurate. Common methods, such as air displacement (Bod Pod), underwater weighing, calipers, and electrical impedance, all have potential inaccuracies. The following information evaluates these options to help you decide the best way to estimate your ideal weight should you want to quantify the fats of life.
Keep in mind that body-fat measurements should include a conversation about an appropriate weight for your body. Body-fat measurements say nothing about where the fat is deposited - internally (beer belly) or hips and thighs versus abdominal love handles and muffin tops. They also say nothing about genetics. If you are far leaner than other members of your genetic family but still have a higher percentage of fat than you desire, you may already be lean for your body. For example, a 5-foot, 6-inch (168 cm) walker lost 50 pounds (23 kg), from 200 to 150 pounds (91 to 68 kg) and wanted to reach a seemingly appropriate weight goal of 130 pounds (59 kg). Because she couldn’t seem to lose beyond 150 pounds (68 kg) without severely restricting her intake, I measured her body fat. She was 28 percent fat, at the higher end of average but far leaner than anyone else in her family. I suggested that she be at peace with this healthier weight and remember that she was currently thin for her genetics.