Bellingham Athletic Club

Ideal Body Weight

It is quite evident that everyone can not, and should not, be as thin as some of the movie stars and models you see on the covers of magazines these days.  These pictures are not only commonly airbrushed, but most certainly unattainable for the standard adult.  Common sense and sound nutrition and exercise principles mandate that you should avoid setting “hard and fast” body weight goals.  Rather, you should strive to achieve a body weight that is compatible with a healthy lifestyle by combining both sensible eating, and regular exercise.

To determine ideal body weight, you shouldn’t rely solely on a bathroom scale, height-weight measurements, or body fat percentage measurements.  What represents a safe, realistic, and perhaps even more importantly, attainable body weight for you will depend (to a large extent) on the following factors:

1.  Medical History: Your current medical history, to include a thoughtful review of your personal health risk factors, should be taken into account when attempting to define your ideal body weight.  For example, if your blood pressure is elevated, a modest weight reduction could be quite beneficial.  Extra body mass means that your heart must work harder to pump blood through miles of extra capillaries that feed that extra tissue.  People with diabetes are examples of medical conditions that can be positively affected by weight loss.

2.  Family History: Body weight, like most other physical characteristics, is strongly influenced by genetics.  If your parent and siblings are extremely heavy, it is highly unlikely that you will ever be really thin.  As unfair as this may appear, such a limitation should be kept in mind when establishing your ideal body weight goals.

3.  Body Composition: Leaner bodies are more effective calorie burners.  The more muscle or lean body mass you have, the more calories you burn.  Men naturally have more muscle mass than women, and as a result have higher metabolic rates.  Furthermore, individuals who exercise on a regular basis tend to have more muscle mass and higher metabolic rates compared to non-exercisers.  Add a strength-training program to your fitness regimen and build the muscle needed to raise your metabolic level.

4.  Body Fat Distribution: Body fat located in your upper body region is very risky in terms of your health.  If you have a high amount of upper body fat, you should consider losing weight (specifically body fat) through a combined program of sensible eating and exercise.  One accepted method of determining whether you have an excessive amount of upper body fat is to look at your waist-to-hip ratio.  This is determined by dividing the waist circumference by the hip circumference.  Measure the waist at the smallest point, the hips at the largest.  Men with WHR values exceeding 1.00 are considered to have an excessive amount of upper body fat, while those with less are deemed to have an acceptable level.  Women with WHR values above 0.80 are considered to have an unhealthy amount of upper body fat, under 0.80 is acceptable.

5.  Functional Ability: If your existing body weight inhibits your ability to effectively and efficiently perform your activities of daily living, and comfortably engage in the recreational activities of your choice, it is probably not an ideal level.

To whatever extent genetics determines how you store and lose fat, the body you’ve been given wants to be appreciated and treated well, even if being thin is not in its future.  Exercise and low-fat eating are two of the most important ways that you can help to make your body healthier.  Focusing on pleasurable activity and nutritious foods helps you feel good for who you are, not what size you wear.

There are simply two rules to getting in better shape, and losing body fat.  If that is your goal, why not start every day with this affirmation to yourself…”Today I will eat a little less, and move a little more.”  Tape it to your bathroom mirror, and repeat it throughout the day.  Then get out there and DO IT!!!