Fitness Articles

Find Your Perfect Weight - Part 1

Setting a Healthy & Achievable Weight Loss Goal

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You know that you want to lose weight. But how do you pick a goal weight that’s right for you? Do you find a celebrity, or even a friend, whose body you like and try to reach the same weight as him? Do you aim for a previous weight of your own, like what you weighed when you wore that junior prom dress 25 years ago?

Unfortunately, neither of these are good ways to set a weight loss goal. Finding your best weight isn't as simple as plugging your height, age, and gender into a formula and getting a number spit back at you. Your body is unique to you, and so is your ideal weight. Because it involves factors that are both objective (like your health risks) and subjective (like your personal satisfaction with your appearance), your ideal body weight is much more than a number on the scale: it’s more like a state of being.

You’re at your ideal body weight when:
  • Your weight isn’t causing (or putting you at risk for) any health problems
  • Your weight doesn't limit you from living the life you want
  • You can accept your body as it is, without feeling uncomfortably self-conscious
  • You can enjoy being in your own skin, without worrying too much about how you compare to others (or cultural ideals)
There are charts and formulas that can help you determine what the number on the scale tells you about your risk for health problems, and give you a general weight range to shoot for to decrease your risk. There are other standards and measures that can help you fine tune this big picture and focus in on optimal fitness and body composition. This article, part 1 in a 3-part series, will look strictly at these kinds of numbers—a great place to start when determining your weight loss goals.

How Body Weight Affects Health

In the best of all possible worlds, this business of picking a good weight loss goal wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, bathroom scales wouldn’t even exist. If you think about it, what does the number on your scale really have to do with any of the reasons you want to lose weight? Whether you want to look a certain way, be more attractive or popular, manage or avoid health problems, get back into all those smaller clothes you’ve got in your closet, improve your athletic performance, recapture the glories of your youth, or simply feel a little more comfortable in your own body, the number on the scale is not what determines your success or failure. There are much better ways than scale-watching to assess your progress along the way.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • I'm 5'2" with a fairly athletic build and med-large frame (easily put on muscle, thanks to years of playing sports). HANWI says I should be between 110-121?! I'd look sickly if I was that small. I think I'll go with my current goal of 135, which is higher than the table says, but is the last weight where I felt comfortable in my skin. If I go by BMI tables, 135 is close to the top of the "healthy" range for my height which is something, I guess. - 8/27/2014 2:23:50 PM
  • PEEJMA
    I agree that these charts are very low--especially for people who work out and have muscles! I'm 5'2 and, according to this, should weight from 99 to 121. I weighed 99 in high school and got accused of having an eating disorder (I was a dancer and played soccer and had a crazy-high metabolism). Anything under 110, I'm a stick. I'm 131 right now, which, though not overweight, is high for me. I look great (and wear about a size 2-4) at about 122. I like a weight at which I feel healthy and strong, not skinny and weak. - 1/23/2014 1:34:41 PM
  • I was on Dr Oz's original Transformation Nation program. Went to W.W. for the initial weigh in and end weigh in. It was recommended because I have so much leg muscle that the right weight for my ht and build was 125lbs to 128lbs. With all of the combination stresses of my neighbors in my apt building and work that this darn wt is not budging. When things calm down, then my wt drops. The last 20lbs seem like they have made my body their home. When I become of retirement age and get rid of the work stresses, I will have more time to focus on more variety in my workouts. I also am planning on moving out of here. - 10/7/2013 10:20:31 PM
  • As far as I can tell, going for a BMI of 25 seems like it would be fine. I'm 5'9, so that would mean anywhere in the 160s, of course at 227, I've still got a ways to go, but at least I'm not 309 anymore. Mostly, I'm just thinking about "onederland" at the moment, and then I'll go from there. - 10/7/2013 4:05:58 PM
  • I am 4'11" tall...which means I would weigh 95 lbs! I would look like a stick and be ill at that weight. Currently, I have maintained a weight of 125 lbs for eight months; I spoke with my doctor, and with my WW coach (that was how I started my journey, finishing with SparkPeople). It is a little high, but I have not been able to loose more weight despite a 1500-calorie a day diet, along with fairly vigorous exercise 4-5 days a week. I walk at least 2 miles every day (don't drive) and although I have a desk job, I do have to run a lot of errands, up and down two flights of stairs.

    Weight is subjective; I am no longer pre-diabetic and my knees aren't painful anymore. I'm probably healthier than I ever have been. - 10/7/2013 10:01:51 AM
  • I find it troubling that one of the criteria listed for ideal body weight is "You can accept your body as it is, without feeling uncomfortably self-conscious". This conflation of self-acceptance with a person's weight plays a significant role in many eating disorders; a woman with anorexia reading this article may well view it as encouragement to continue to starve herself, because she's still not happy with her body (Note: anorexia is not exclusive to women, but there are more women than men afflicted with it and gender neutral pronouns are a pain).

    Even for those without eating disorders, this conflation is problematic. Body acceptance has to come independent of aesthetics, or it will never come at all. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought I'd be happier if I lost weight, only to find that instead of hating my belly I hated my breasts.

    We shouldn't be losing weight because we hate our bodies; we should be doing it because we love our bodies and want to treat them with respect. - 9/21/2013 7:02:00 AM
  • something i love about height weight charts, they say that my weight should be between 119 and 130. but i know my body cant physically get below 140 unless i starve myself. im a large framed but athletic build so it confuses those charts lol. im at my healthiest between 140-155. i usually stayed between 140-150 but i can go up to 160 and not feel any side effects. im working on getting down to 140 but i also know i was last that weight when i was 15. im not that far from 15 but i know i may not reach 140 but i should be able to reach 150 at least. right now my goal is 170 just so im a couple sizes smaller for my wedding in may. still have 90 lbs to go. - 9/12/2013 3:25:41 PM
  • I was having a conversation with a lady about my age (47) who I noticed had lost weight and I made a commit to her about how great she looked and what did she do when the cravings started. Her response was powerful, "my body doesn't ask for it anymore"!
    So, in response to these weight determining guides, I will let my body be my guide for it tells me when I have eaten too much because it can hardly move and feels bloated,, when I need to get moving because it gets restless, when it is stressed because the acid reflux acts up and when it is exhausted because it begins to start feeling tired and unable to focus.
    Our bodies communicate to us exactly what it needs and tells us when we are doing something that is not working for it everyday.
    I believe the bottom line is we all for the most part know in our hearts where our weight should be and we are the only ones who control what goes in our mouths. That being said, I am glad I read this article and had an opportunity to put my 2 cents in (for what it is worth)...Have the best day of your life because you deserve it!! - 6/2/2013 9:02:41 AM
  • TERRIMAR37
    I read the article, and my BMI measured obese. I am 212lbs at 5'3, losing weight would be healthy idea. I have been recently diagnosed pre-diabetes with high blood pressure, my concern how about to lose weight to become healthy. My sisters believe since I am 48 years old and had a child I should not attempt to reach a healthy weight that put my BMI in healthy range because my age and I had baby, not reasonable of woman of age to get that weight goal. Is possible a woman my age to get a healthy BMI for woman at 5'3? - 5/28/2013 6:28:56 PM
  • This is great advice to use as a guage but is not going to be "ideal" for everyone of course. - 3/11/2013 3:37:10 PM
  • TFAY511847
    I find that the "Height/Weight Charts,HANWI formula" is off. I am between 5 & 5'1. It says that I should weigh 100-105 lbs (a midpoint range)???!!! NOT! I have a small (not asian tiny) to medium sized frame. I feel comfortable when I weigh 115 to 125 lbs. I have always had curves (when not overweight). If I was 100-105 I'd been a bean pole!!! I do concur that the charts are only a guideline & do not take into consideration someone muscle mass &/or fat ratio/location. - 10/22/2012 2:46:05 PM
  • BMI is a really terrible way to determine a "healthy" weight. Back in the day when I was wrestling in high school, we had our fat content tested so that we would know what was the absolute lowest we could go for weight classes. The state limit was 7% body fat (or 4% with parent approval). The chart also showed your 0% weight as a reference. The last time I had that done my 0% weight was in the 190's....yet according to the BMI that's over the normal range.

    Sure, the article mentions that it's only one way and then lists a bunch of caveats for where it doesn't work. However, since there are so many people that it doesn't work for it seems pointless to even have an article on it at all. In math and science if a formula is debunked then it tends to go away.....why hasn't the BMI scale gone away yet? - 10/16/2012 1:17:31 PM
  • NATORE43
    At 6'3" with a 12" wrist measurement , I supposedly weigh 196# according to this article. What a joke! After ten weeks of basic traing in the US Army, I weighed 205# after sleep deprivation, constant field exercise of calesthentics and forced marches of over 20 miles. Now at age 69 years and exercising three hours a day, three days a week at a gym, my weight is 256#. These charts don't take into account people of extra large bone structure & muscularture. These charts are developed by life insurance companies which charge more $ based upon a person's size. these charts need to be revised to account for actual sized people. - 9/19/2012 11:28:58 PM
  • CAMPBELCO
    I would like someone to also take into account in these endeavours, one's ethnic background. It is obvious to me that most scandinavians, for example, have a generally different body shape, height etc., than, for example, those of slavic or central american (mayan) backgrounds. We humans are simple are not genetically, all the same. - 9/17/2012 12:17:56 PM
  • Avocado here...I actually found the weight range on the HANWI to be about right for me. I have a larger frame and it put me at 143 which is where I was when I was at my healthiest. The upper range of the BMI is 154...not a big difference in the scheme of things. So, I'll shoot for 148.5 (middle ground)
    Right now my BMI is 32.5 so Ineed to get that down ASAP but at least I'm an Avocado. :)
    Thanks for the great article, Coach Dean! Your articles are always chocked full of information without all the fluff. I love it! - 9/17/2012 10:44:48 AM
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