Today we'll look at a simple question: How much should I weigh? I'm taking these figures from a book called Eat Well, Live Well by Dr. Pam Smith (1992); despite the age of the book, they still represent the typical advice you'll get. However, my personal advice is almost certainly influenced by the fact that I was underweight for most of my life, so be aware of that. (Most doctors wouldn't tell you upfront if they had a bias. But I'm not selling anything, so I will.)
We're going to calculate your so-called "ideal weight." Personally, I find this to be somewhat subjective, as muscles weigh more than fat, so a very fit person could weigh considerably more than a larger but "softer" person. (I'm going to try and avoid the word "fat," simply because it gets abused by almost everybody selling their own fitness plan.)
- For men, start your calculations with a base of 5 feet and 106 lbs, then add 6 lbs for each inch over 5 feet to find your weight if you have a medium build. Small-framed men should multiply that result by .90, and large-framed men by 1.10.
Since this book came out, doctors have found that most people are healthier if they weigh about 10 lbs more than is traditionally recommended. That would put a medium guy at around 176 lbs. But I'm not at all sure these figures assume you're an active guy. Personally, I wouldn't consider myself bigger than medium-size, but I currently weigh around 185 and I'm not carrying much fat. My friends who fit the numbers struggle to do things I handle pretty easily, so I'm inclined to think the "large-frame" numbers should be the norm for medium-size active people.
- For women, start with a base of 5 feet and 100 lbs, then add 5 lbs for each inch over 5 feet. Then use the multipliers if you have a smaller or larger frame.
My guiding principle for figuring ideal weight is simple: Pay attention to inches of fat, not lbs. If I was 5'10" and weighed 200 lbs, but I didn't have a layer of fat around my middle and my muscles weren't flabby, I'd just say screw the charts and keep doing what I'd been doing. (Obviously I'm just talking from a weight standpoint here. If the things that got me that way had driven my blood pressure through the roof or caused some other major health problem, I'd re-evaluate the situation. But weight alone is not a reliable indicator of health. I think a healthy skeleton is a contradiction of terms.) Still, I think these figures can give you a ballpark idea of where your weight should be.
Are you with me so far? Good. Next time we'll talk about how many calories your ideal weight needs each day.