No doubt you have heard that each of us has an ideal weight based on our height. For instance, if you are a 5 foot 5 female with a small frame then your weight should be somewhere between 117 and 130 pounds. If you are a 6 foot man with a medium frame then 157 to 170 pounds would be considered ideal.
Some people worry constantly about weight gain and drive themselves crazy trying to maintain or achieve their ideal weight, but what they may not realize is that you can still be healthy even if you don’t hit that perfect number.
Just as our eye color and sex are genetically influenced so is something called our weight set point. According to Harvard Medical School, “set point” is determined at conception. Your body weight set point is the number on the weight scale that you normally hover around. The only factors that can influence it are excessive eating and a lack of exercise. If you are slightly over or under your set point it doesn’t mean that you are going to get diabetes or heart disease. That happens when you become obese.
Weight Gain vs. Obesity
In reality if you are over your ideal weight you are considered overweight; however, that doesn’t mean you need to panic and start coming up with ways to lose weight. Being 10, 15 or even 20 pounds overweight is not necessarily making you unhealthy. Many people are a few pounds overweight and are comfortable with it. Obesity is a different situation. Obesity is an abnormal amount of body fat; 20 per cent or more of an individual’s ideal body weight. Doctors say that anyone who is 100 pounds overweight or has a body mass index of 40kg/m2 is considered morbidly obese. Morbid obesity means you are putting yourself at risk for serious health problems and possibly death.
Should You Lose Weight?
If you are physically comfortable with your size, but wonder from time to time if you need to lose weight, one way to find out is to look at body mass index. BMI is a measurement of your body composition. It estimates the amount of body fat you have based on your height and weight, and it gives you a better indication of overall health risks. According to the official BMI scale, generally a calculation of under 18. 5 is underweight, 25 to 29.9 would be overweight. To estimate your BMI, multiply 703 by your weight in pounds, divide the result by your height in inches, and again divide that result by your height in inches. If your BMI is high then you could be at a higher risk for diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Going Too Far in the Battle for an Ideal Weight
When the subject of ideal weight comes up, most people zero in on the idea of needing to lose weight, yet there are many people who aren’t a perfect weight for their height and body frame, but it has nothing to do with obesity or even a few extra pounds. We forget that many people have the opposite problem; they are underweight. This can pose just as many health concerns as someone who is fighting weight gain issues. Being way under your ideal weight can be hard on your immune system and heart.
It can also impact your bones, and your hormones. Some scientific studies suggest that being too thin is more harmful to your health then it is to be a few pounds overweight. Statistics Canada, Portland State University, Oregon University and McGill University researchers all say that underweight people are more likely to die earlier than those who are overweight.
Dieticians or staff at your local health department can assist in figuring out whether you are overweight, underweight or obese, and they can outline options for a healthy lifestyle.
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