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Ideal Body Weight, Formulas For Calculating Men And Women's Ideal Weight

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ideal body weight

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Dieting

Each of us, save perhaps those fortunate few who have all the right pounds in all the right places, possesses some idea of what we would like to weigh and want our ideal body weight to be.

And—at least if our experience is any guide—that "some idea” can be translated into two or three very specific numerals for most teens and adults.

Now, the discrepancy between this ideal body weight and our actual weight is often, shall we say, a tad unrealistic—either by virtue of the size of the gap that needs to be covered or by virtue of the complete impracticality of the goal in the first place. But that doesn’t stop us from trying! Americans, by and large, are driven by goals and numbers.

How much do you make? What’s your dress size? Your bust size? Your SAT score? Your GPA? In short, we like to keep score. And even though it adds stress to our lives, we yearn for targets that can be quantified (110 by prom! Size 4 by summer!).

Of course, this kind of goal-oriented behavior does have its good side. When properly channeled, it can help us excel in the classroom, in the workplace, and on the playing field. But it doesn’t always work so well when we attempt to apply it to our own metabolism.

Sometimes our systems just don’t get it, even if we eat the right foods in moderation and exercise with the devotion and intensity of an Olympic athlete. It’s worth noting, too, that fewer women strive to gain weight than lose it.

If our guess is correct, you’ve rarely, if ever, had a friend confide over lunch that she was desperately trying to pack on another 12 pounds before swimsuit season, but just couldn’t seem to add the weight fast enough. Sadly, not meeting our weight goals or ideal body weight almost inevitably makes us feel as though we have failed to one degree or another.

And while many women are able to shrug off this sense of failure quickly and accept their bodies "as-is,” a small yet significant number of us refuse to acknowledge defeat, and become preoccupied with dieting, weight control, and food in general. This is the first step down a slippery slope that all too often culminates in severe eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

To avoid this path, you need to set a realistic weight goal for yourself—one that will allow you to enjoy a full, well-rounded diet that furnishes all the calories and nutrients your body requires for mental alertness, physical stamina, and overall good health. So what’s the magic number for you? Let’s try to find out!

Calculate Ideal Body Weight Formula

Your Ideal Weight (Well, Maybe) A rough rule of thumb for determining your ideal weight states that you should weigh about 100 pounds for your first 5 feet in height, plus an additional 5 pounds for every inch above the 5-foot mark.8

Thus, if you are 5’4” tall your ideal weight, according to this scale, is 120 pounds; if 5’2”, 110 pounds; if 5’7”, 135 pounds; and so forth. Keep in mind, however, that this is an extremely inexact guideline. While useful perhaps in a very general sense, it assumes that everyone is of identical build, and makes no allowances whatsoever for individual variations in body type, lifestyle (active or sedentary), or metabolism (fast or slow).

Yet as we all know, these factors really do matter, sometimes quite a lot. A woman with relatively wide hips, broad shoulders, and thick bones may, for example, tip the scales at 6, 8, even 10 pounds above her so-called ideal weight, yet look slimmer, feel better, and be healthier than a small-framed woman of the same height and lower weight.

Muscle mass is another important factor. Muscle weighs more than fat, but looks leaner on the body. So if you’ve recently started a weight training or resistance program to build mass, what the bathroom scale tells you now may not mean the same thing as it did when you were less muscular.

Ideal Body Weight For Women

Ultimately, then, the ideal body weight for you probably falls somewhere within a fairly broad range, depending mainly on the size and shape of your frame and how muscular (or not!) you happen to be.

To illustrate, let’s go back to our 5’4” woman. If she is very small framed and sedentary, forget 120—she might not want to weigh more than 112 or 115. If of medium build and reasonably active and fit, then perhaps 120 is just about right. If large framed and muscular, she may feel and look best when in the 125 to 135 pound range.

In addition, it’s not uncommon for a woman’s weight to fluctuate a bit according to the time of day she weighs herself, whether or not she is menstruating, and the amount of water she is retaining at any given moment. We advise you to ignore these minor fluctuations: They really don’t tell you anything meaningful about your actual level of fitness or your overall health, and are too often the cause of needless worry and concern.

Some experts, in fact, suggest that there is no such thing as an "ideal” weight, and contend that—even if there were—it would be pointless and unproductive to focus on it.

From this perspective, you take care of business by (1) eating a healthy, balanced, low-fat diet; and (2) exercising aerobically on a regular basis. Then, you let your weight find its own level, and ignore the scale. So far, so good, huh?

But other equally qualified experts worry that by completely ignoring weight, we also ignore the many health problems associated with obesity, such as excessive stress on the bones and joints, high blood pressure, heightened risk of diabetes, and increased strain on the cardiovascular system. From this perspective, the more weight you carry, the harder your body has to work and the more likely it is to break down prematurely.

Since there is, at present, no definitive answer to this interesting and important debate, it seems to us that drawing positive elements from both points of view is probably the most sensible course of action.

The Goal Of Reaching Your Ideal Weight

For practical purposes, we suggest that you determine your ideal body weight as closely as possible by using the guideline above and making minor allowances for your size, shape, and lifestyle. Once you’ve done that, ask yourself a few basic questions, such as:

Are you reasonably close to your deal weight? As in horseshoes, close is good enough in the weight game. Wedding yourself to a specific number, as we have seen, can be a recipe for disappointment at best, disaster at worst. Don’t go there!

Do you feel healthy at your present weight? And by this, we mean: Do you have plenty of energy, stamina, and strength? A good (but not insatiable) appetite when meal time comes around? The ability to concentrate when you need and/or want to? If so, then leave well enough alone unless you are more than 20 percent above the target number or your doctor advises you to lose weight.

Do you find that you have to practically starve yourself to even approach the ideal weight you’ve calculated? In this instance, you need to recalculate upward.

After all, there’s absolutely nothing ideal about an ideal body weight that renders you sluggish, hungry, and mentally zapped. When that happens, ditch your preconceived notions of what you ought to weigh, and give yourself the nourishment you need. You’ll feel—and most likely look—better for it and obtain your ideal body weight.

Ideal Body Weight

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