Fitness Articles

Find Your Perfect Weight - Part 1

Setting a Healthy & Achievable Weight Loss Goal

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The only real reason to even think in terms of a “normal” or “ideal” body weight is because there is a statistical correlation between your weight and your risk of having certain health problems that can lead to premature death or disability. Although your weight may or may not be the cause of these health problems, it’s clear that people who weigh more—or less—than “normal” are more likely to have these problems.

Experts who study these things have come up with several different methods of estimating your health risks based on your weight and size, as well as a set of calculations that are routinely used to determine whether your weight/size is in the normal range or not. Here are three of the most commonly used calculations:

Body Mass Index (BMI) is simply the number you get when you divide your weight (in kilograms) by your height squared (in centimeters). According to years of health research, the further your BMI deviates from the normal range (whether above or below), the higher your risk for obesity-related health problems (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, heart disease, and bone/joint disorders). Calculate your BMI here. Similarly, you can calculate your goal weight and see if it fits in with these ranges. If not, then your expectations might be unrealistic.

Height/Weight Charts, such as the HANWI formula (below), have been around since the 1950's. BMI has pretty much replaced the older height/weight charts as the most common way to assess health risks related to weight. But variations of these charts are still used today as quick and simple ways to estimate the normal weight range for your height. Here's a simple formula you can use:
  1. Women: Allow 100 pounds for the first 60 inches of height, plus 5 pounds for each additional inch (i.e. 130 pounds for someone that is 66 inches tall). Men: Allow 106 pounds for the first 60 inches of height, plus 6 pounds for each additional inch (i.e. 154 for someone that is 68 inches tall).
  2. The number you get above is the midpoint of the normal range; subtract or add 10% to get the low and high ends (117-143 pounds for the female above, 139-169 pounds for the man).
  3. People of average frame size should weigh close to the midpoint number, while those with large or small frames should be closer to the high or low end of the range. To determine whether you are large, small, or average frame, make a circle around the wrist of your dominant hand at the widest point (over the bones that protrude) with the thumb and middle finger of your opposite hand. If your thumb and finger don’t touch, you are large framed; if they just barely touch, you are medium, and if they overlap you are small framed.
  4. Does your goal weight fit well within these ranges? If not, you might want to adjust it.
One potential problem with both the BMI and height/weight tables is that neither formula distinguishes between fat weight and lean tissue (muscle) weight. BMI, for example, may incorrectly put people with unusually large amounts of muscle weight in the overweight category (even when their level of body fat might be normal), and people with poor muscle tone into the normal category (even when their level of body fat might be excessive). Another drawback to these formulas is that they don’t take into account where you store your fat. That's where this next formula comes in.
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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

  • 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
  • COWKID
    I have always been very discouraged by these weight guidelines they give us. For one thing, I am, and always have been a very muscular person (bucking hay bales and packing 30# buckets of grain since I was about 8 years old). I am 5' 5" when I stretch a little and am very short waisted, (only 5" between bottom rib and hip bones) so of course my waist-hip ratio is high (36" waist and 43" hips). Determining frame size on me is interesting also, I would say large boned (although not long boned ) as my hands and ring size (not puffy or fat at all) are as large as most men's (Larger than some). One time in my adult life I actually got down to a very unhealthy 138# and ended up in the hospital because I was starving myself. And every chart says I should weigh no more than 143 #. - 9/17/2012 10:15:40 AM
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