How do you find your ideal weight?
I get asked this sometimes and it’s a tricky answer. Someone just asked me this one the other day and I wanted to do a good job of explaining this so I decided to answer it publicly so more people can benefit from the answer I give.
When we are trying to lose weight most people have a target. How do you know you have the right target? I’ll say that I think most people set the dream target too low. They often set a goal like their high school weight. This is mostly the case for women. The societal pressure is pretty strong to be smaller. Guys can avoid some of this because at least societal pressure allows more muscle mass as long as you’re ripped.
I think Body Mass Index (BMI) gives us the best starting point to try to figure this out. I decided to also use MY picture and MY weight to help make this more understandable. My picture is above and most people would describe me as lean or even skinny. Not a huge hulking beefcake. However according to BMI I am borderline overweight!
You can find yourself while we are at it because we will be talking about these ranges. I’m located at 6’3″ currently 195 pounds-ish depending on the day. I’m sitting in between the high healthy range and the low overweight. We begin to see the limits of BMI. It doesn’t do a good job (or any job) at factoring in lean muscle.
Let me repeat this. The pictures of me above are of an overweight man?
So there is some grey area I think where it comes to the top range for healthy weight. At the very least being at the top of the healthy range can be amazingly healthy and look fabulous. Let’s look at the bottom end of the healthy range. For me I can be 150 at the bottom end of the healthy range!!! That’s 45 pounds lighter than the pictures above!!!
That’s a BIG difference! I could still be healthy but I wouldn’t feel very strong. I might not look healthy either. I had to hunt for this picture because I wanted to give you an idea of what we are talking about. I try to avoid any shirtless pictures of me because I don’t like that sort of advertising (I look fabulous by the way, but that’s a gift for my wife ;o) I am making an exception on this picture from my graduation party from high school. In this picture I am about 165 pounds.
That’s 15 pounds MORE than the lowest healthy BMI and puts me near the middle of the healthy range just slightly on the lower side. I think we can all agree…I look skinny…a little too skinny. So while I could be healthy at 150, for me that seems a little low.
So…my healthy range is 40 pounds????
Let’s talk about you!
Find your bottom and your top number for the green section on the table. It’s a pretty big range isn’t it? I’m convinced you could be amazingly healthy anywhere in that range and possibly slightly above. There are only two reasons to be in the BLACK underweight category, eating disorder and cancer (there may be some who are in this category for another reason). I think it can be dangerous to live life at or to target anything below healthy weight. As a husband of a recovering anorexic, bulemic, overeater I REALLY don’t advise you to go that route. And as far as cancer goes I’m glad to be towards the top end of healthy because that means I have muscle to lose if I ever do have a cancer battle.
Having said all that I do think setting your goal weight is a personal decision (as long as it falls in the healthy range). I do want to give you some things to think about.
– Higher end of healthy will allow you to eat more food and feel stronger
– Lower end of healthy requires less food and you might do cardio a little better
– Higher end requires less perfection and effort spent on maintenance
– There are some studies that say tiny hungry people might live longer
So my biased recommendation is to be more towards the middle of the range where you can get some of the benefits of both without the negatives as much. Since I’m a guy and I like where I am I will probably stay here in the nearly overweight category. If I were a girl I might aim more towards the middle taking into consideration societal pressures.
My advice to those losing weight…
If you are obese pick a number in the overweight category to get to first. If you are overweight then pick a number in the high-healthy category. Once you reach this number then you can re-assess if you would like to restrict your lifestyle any more to reach a lower target. For the bargain basement (the lowest number) I would ask your doctor for a recommendation. It’s likely to be based on the low end of healthy BMI. I hope with what I’ve shared the lowest end of the healthy range might seem a little drastic and not worth the effort if you can be strong, healthy, and skinny in the middle of the range.
About the Author:
Jeremy “the tall trainer” Biernat is a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Strength Coach, has his Bachelors in Exercise Science, and enjoys writing, speaking, and inspiring people online and in person. See his new book! More importantly he is a husband, father, and follower of God. His practice is in upstate NY (Canandaigua) where he works with people in one on one and group sessions to make awesome changes in their lives. He doesn’t do everything perfect, cries in movies, and would love to hear from you. You can contact Jeremy by commenting to this post, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 1(800)380-7047. Please share this with friends!