What is a Healthy Weight?  

Body weight can be a hot topic in January. A lot of us labor over the digits on a scale as we work through our new year’s resolutions and try to achieve our ideal weight. But one person’s ideal weight may differ from the clinical definition of a healthy weight.    

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a medical screening tool that measures a person’s height-to-weight ratio to estimate the amount of body fat they have. BMI’s accuracy and relevance has been debated over the years, but historically, it has been leaned on as a reasonable indicator of a person’s body fat. 

Determining a healthy weight depends on what is proportionate to a person’s size. Let’s dive into some of the factors that separate a healthy weight from an unhealthy weight.   

How does BMI work?

BMI is a person’s weight in pounds divided by the square of height in feet. It’s not perfect, but studies have shown that BMI levels correlate with body fat and future health risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems BMI an appropriate screening measure for obesity and its health risks.  

What is a healthy BMI?

Everyone’s BMI fits into these five bands:  

  • Under 18.5 – This is described as underweight.  
  • Between 18.5 and 24.9 – described as the ‘healthy range.’ 
  • Between 25 and 29.9 – described as overweight. 
  • Between 30 and 39.9 – described as obesity. 
  • 40 or over – described as severe obesity. 

You can find out your BMI by using the CDC’s adult BMI calculator 

Whether you use BMI or not, everyone concerned about their weight should consult their primary care provider (PCP) to perform appropriate health assessments that evaluate health status and health risks.  

Measuring your waist

Another way to estimate disease risk is measuring your waist’s circumference. Excessive abdominal fat can put a person at greater risk of developing conditions related to obesity, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.  

According to the CDC, your waistline may indicate a high risk of developing those conditions if:  

  • You are a man with a waist circumference of more than 40 inches.  
  • You are a non-pregnant woman with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches. 

As is the case with BMI, don’t automatically assume you will develop the conditions listed above if you have a large waist circumference. Always get in touch with your PCP to perform appropriate health assessments. 

If you are trying to lose weight, fad diets usually fail; the right combination of exercise, healthy foods and portion control should get you on the right track. If you are concerned about being underweight, talk to your PCP. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Healthy Weight Gain web page for information and advice on how to gain weight and remain healthy. 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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