It’s important to remember there’s a range of healthy body weights. Aiming to keep within this means an end to aspiring to one magic weight you think you should be. A combination of factors determine your weight, and that’s why it’s difficult to set an exact ideal weight that applies to everyone. It’s important to make an objective assessment of your size. Looking at yourself in the mirror isn’t a good way to assess whether you’re a healthy weight.
You’re surrounded by images of celebrities, many of whom are underweight. Comparing yourself with these images isn’t helpful. But comparing yourself to friends and family isn’t that useful either, because as obesity becomes more common our perception of ‘average’ weight may in fact be too heavy.
How do you know if you’re a healthy weight?
There are a number of ways you can work out if you’re within a healthy weight range. You need to get an accurate idea because it’s easy to underestimate or overestimate your own weight.
Body mass index: You can check your body size using the body mass index (BMI), which assesses your weight in relation to your height.
Waist circumference: Another method of assessing whether you’re a healthy weight is to measure your waist. This gives an indication of how much fat is stored around your middle. Excess fat in this area increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Body fat: You can measure the amount of fat in your body using scales designed for this purpose, often called body fat analysers. These pass a small, safe electrical signal through your body. Lean tissue, such as muscle, and blood contain water and act as conductors of the electrical signal, while fat resists it. The greater the resistance, the more body fat you have.
Body fat is only one aspect of health.
Your GP can advise whether additional measurements such as blood pressure, resting heart rate, blood cholesterol, and fat and glucose tests are necessary.
If your BMI and waist circumference indicate you’re overweight, changes to your lifestyle could help to control your weight.
Are you underweight?
If you’re underweight because of a restriction of your diet, you’re at risk of a number of nutritional deficiencies. Young women especially are at risk of anaemia (a lack of iron), while insufficient calcium can lead to osteoporosis in later life. Amenorrhoea (missing menstrual periods) is also common among women who are underweight, and it can lead to infertility.
Are you a healthy weight but unhappy?
If your weight lies within the healthy range but you’re unhappy with your shape, you’ll probably derive more benefits from a supervised exercise programme than by restricting your diet. This will improve your fitness, help to tone specific muscle groups and enhance your overall health and wellbeing.