Apparently, obesity loves company.
The number of overweight and obese Americans is increasing across all ethnicities, though at different rates. In general, overweight and obese rates are higher for African-American and Hispanic women than Caucasian women, higher for Hispanic men than Caucasian and African-American men, higher in the South and Midwest, and tend to increase with age.1
Fine. Odds are, your weight is not ideal. Which begs the question: What is your ideal weight? The answer? Depends upon who you ask.
A lot has been written about the Body Mass Index. Many simply point to that as the ideal weight indicator. Basically, you get your BMI by multiplying your weight in pounds by 703 and dividing that by your height in inches, squared. So, if you’re 6 feet tall and weigh 220 pounds, your BMI is 220 x 703 ÷ 722 = 29.83.
Congratulations. According to the charts you’re “overweight.
According to most health authorities:
• A BMI of less than 18.5 is underweight.
• A BMI of between 18.5 and 25 is ideal.
• A BMI between 25 and 30 is overweight.
• A BMI over 30 is obese.
We say “most” because the numbers on the category edges can vary a point or two between “experts” but the principle is the same regardless of your classification. The BMI does have its detractors, who claim that the system does not take into account muscle mass. Those people generally prefer the waist/hip ratio as a more reliable obesity indicator.
Still others are satisfied with judging their ideal weight based upon perception. “How am I doing compared to my friends and those around me?” The problem with that, of course: Surround yourself with overweight people on one end or extreme athletes on the other and your frame of reference is skewed.
Finally, there is a school of thought that says none of that matters. Your body wants what it wants and your ideal weight was set at birth in your DNA, much as your height and eye color were. That’s the set point theory. Do what you can. Diet like mad. Exercise like a fanatic. Your body will still fight to return to what it considers your ideal weight range, the one “set” by your DNA.
>> So now what?
Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe weight isn’t the problem at all. No matter what chart you consult or theory you like, if you have healthy eating habits and exercise regularly, isn’t that enough? Thin people who don’t exercise and live on fast food aren’t healthy, no matter what they weigh.
Which brings us to the final arbiter in the matter, and it’s one without any stake at all in the $20 billion weight loss industry: the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, “balance” is the key to ideal, healthy weight. If you’re on the wrong side of healthy (by the way, the CDC does use the BMI as a reliable indicator), forget diets. The CDC is not a fan of them.
“… Diets limit your nutritional intake, can be unhealthy, and tend to fail in the long run,” it says. “The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t
about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses.” 2
The CDC is concerned about your health, not so much your weight. Preventing diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Feeling better, living longer, those are the issues the CDC — and we — should all be concerned about. Not how the clothes fit, but how you fit the life you were meant to lead. Eat healthy — lots of fruits and vegetables. Drink water and not sodas or those “10 percent fruit drinks.” Exercise at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activity per week. Take in fewer calories than you use to lose unhealthy fat. And thank you, CDC.
So all right. Back to our original question: What is your ideal weight, really? It’s pretty obvious now when you think about it:
It’ll simply be the weight you end up after you do all the other things right.
1. Ogden C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B.K., & Flegal K. M. (2014). Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association, 311(8), 806-814.
2. Healthy Weight – it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle!, http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/index.html
What is your ideal weight really? If you’re like more than two-thirds of American adults, your ideal weight is somewhere south of your current weight.
Apparently, obesity loves company.