Are you wondering how much should I weigh?
To determine how much you should weigh, the following factors have to be considered:
- Muscle to fat ratio
- Body frame
But before we go into that much detail, let’s take a quick look what the US Army considers as the maximum weight that you can weigh, if you wanted to join the US Army. Since the Army needs to have fit men and women, it gives you a quick idea what weight the US Army considers too high to be considered fit.
Source: US Army Weight Rules
The weight table above is the upper limit of what you can weigh to be considered fit enough by the US Army.
4 Measures To Determine Your Ideal Weight
There are 4 measures (BMI, Waist to Height Ratio, Waist to Hip Ratio, Body Fat Percentage) to determine what your ideal weight should be. If you are looking for an answer that would tell you what your exact weight should be (for example that YOU should be weighing 115.2 pounds or 180.3 pounds), no measure will be able to tell you that.
What the 4 measures will be able to tell you is, given your circumstances, what is a healthy weight range for you where you have no increased health risk of developing illnesses like cancer, diabetes or heart problems.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
This measure just focuses on weight and height. This is a good method for people with an average body frame and average muscle-fat ratio. If you are very muscular, this measure will not work for you. Since this measure focuses just on weight and height, it does not differentiate between a 200 pound muscular athlete and a 200 pound couch potato.
Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR)
This measure focuses on your waist measure and height and has shown to be a better predictor of health risks than the BMI.
Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR)
This measure focuses on your waist measure and hip measure and has shown to be a better predictor of health risks than BMI or WHtR.
Body Fat Percentage
This measure focuses on how much fat you have in your body (total fat in pounds divided by your total weight in pounds). While the body fat percentage can be used by everyone, it is especially useful for athletic people with significantly more muscle mass than average.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
As discussed above, this measure just focuses on weight and height. BMI was developed around 1850 by the Belgian mathematician Adolphe Quetelet.
The formula for BMI is your weight in pounds times 703 divided by the square of your height in inches.
For example, if your weight is 180 pounds and your height in 6 ft (72 inches), your BMI is 24.41, based on the following calculation:
- Step 1: 180 pounds x 703 = 126,540
- Step 2: 72 inches x 72 inches = 5,184
- Step 3: 126,540 divided by 5,184 = BMI 24.41.
Now you can see where you fall within the BMI range categories. Using the above example, with BMI of 24.41, you are considered to be of normal weight.
|Less than 16.0||Severely underweight|
|16.0 to 18.5||Underweight|
|18.5 to 25.0||Normal weight|
|25.0 to 30.0||Overweight|
|30.0 to 35.0||Moderately obese|
|35.0 to 40.0||Severely obese|
|Over 40||Morbidly obese|
Calculate your BMI
To calculate your BMI you can use the BMI calculator below by inputting your weight in pounds and your height in inches (just remember 1 foot = 12 inches).Alternatively you can also use the charts below to see what your BMI is, and where you fall in terms of obesity.
Source: Vermont Department of Health
Shortcomings of BMI
BMI does not distinguish:
- between small and large body frame
- between male or female
- fat from muscle
- fat distribution
Small vs Large Body Frame
If you have a large body frame, you will naturally need more body mass to support your frame. BMI does not provide a range based on your body frame size.
If you have a large body frame, one way to determine if you are in a healthy BMI range is to shift the ranges by 10% (Source:Wikipedia). Add 10% for a large body frame and deduct 10% for a small body frame. Using this method, if you have a large body frame, you can use the following ranges to determine if you are overweight.
BMI Ranges for People with a Large Body Frame
- BMI below 20.35: you are considered to be underweight.
- BMI from 20.35 to 27.5: you have a normal weight.
- BMI from 27.5 to 33: you are considered overweight.
- BMI from 33 to 38.5: you are moderately obese.
- BMI from 38.5 to 44: you are severely obesity.
- BMI above 44: you are morbidly obese.
How to Figure Out Your Body Frame Size
According to the National Institutes of Health, you can determine your body frame size by measuring your wrist with a tape measure. Use the following chart to see where you fall in terms of body frame size.
- 5 Feet 2 Inches (157.5 cm) or Below
- Small: wrist size less than 5.5 inches (14 cm)
- Medium: wrist size 5.5 to 5.75 inches (14 to 14.6 cm)
- Large: wrist size over 5.75 inches (14.6 cm)
- 5 Feet 2 Inches to 5 Feet 5 Inches (157.5 to 165 cm)
- Small: wrist size less than 6 inches (15.2 cm)
- Medium: wrist size 6 to 6.25 inches (15.2 to 15.9 cm)
- Large: wrist size over 6.2 inches (15.9 cm)
- 5 Feet 5 Inches (165 cm) or Above
- Small: wrist size less than 6.25 inches (15.9 cm)
- Medium: wrist size 6.25 to 6.5 inches (15.9 to 16.5 cm)
- Large: wrist size over 6.5 inches (16.5 cm)
- 5 Feet 5 Inches (165 cm) or Above
- Small: wrist size 5.5 to 6.5 inches (14 to 16.5 cm)
- Medium: wrist size 6.5 to 7.5 inches (16 cm to 19 cm)
- Large: wrist size over 7.5 inches (19 cm)
Men vs Women
Most men have bigger frames than women, and are more muscular, so for those men, having a higher BMI than a woman of the same height is expected. However the BMI ranges do not differentiate between men and women.
Fat vs Muscle
Athletes tend to have higher muscle mass and weigh more, and sometimes fall under the overweight category. For these people, it does not necessarily mean that they need to lose weight or they are unhealthy. They just have lots of muscle (not fat) that make them weigh more. So they are not the same as someone who is the same weight but has hardly any muscle.
If you are athletic and are falling in the overweight category using BMI, make sure to also use the other methods mentioned below (body fat percentage, waist-to-height-ratio, waist-to-hip ratio). If they are all within or below the acceptable range, there is probably no health reason for you to lose weight.
On the other hand, if you’ve been exercising and have gained weight, don’t be too quick to assume that all of that is muscle. Some people end up being very hungry and eating more after exercise, especially if they’ve just started to incorporate an exercise routine. You may want to check your body fat percentage to make sure you are not gaining more fat than muscle!
BMI does not capture the one very important indicator of potential health risks in the future, which is where the fat is distributed in your body.
According to one study, the risk of death of people with normal weight but with high belly/abdominal fat was 2.08 times greater than that of people with normal BMI and waist-to-hip ratio.
So even if you are in the healthy category based on your BMI, if you have a high concentration of fat in your belly area, you are at double the risk of death than people who have a regular belly size.
Still a Good Starting Point
Keeping the above shortcomings in mind, BMI is still a good starting point to figure out how much you should weigh and your current obesity level, whether you are male or female. According to Weight Watchers, for both male and female, when the BMI increases above 25, the number of health issues also rise.
However again BMI has its limitations, so to get a more accurate and comprehensive view of where you are in terms of your health, make sure to calculate the below ratios (Waist to Height Ratio & Waist to Hip Ratio & Body Fat Percentage).
Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR)
As discussed above, this measure focuses on waist measure and height and has shown to be a better predictor of health risks than the BMI.
The Waist to Height Ratio is calculated by dividing your waist in inches by your height in inches.
For example, if your waist circumference is 40 inches and your height in 5 ft (60 inches), your Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR) is 0.67.
- 40 inches divided by 60 inches = WHtR 0.67.
Now, what does that mean?
As discussed above, since high abdominal obesity has shown to increase the risk of death, even for people in the acceptable BMI range, it is important to also measure your abdominal circumference, to make sure you are in the healthy range. According to multiple studies, you are getting in dangerous territory if your Waist to Height Ratio exceeds 0.5. In other words your waist size (in inches) should be half your height in inches or less.
Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR)
As discussed above, this measure focuses on waist measure and hip measure and has shown to be a better predictor of health risks than BMI or WHtR.
For your waist, measure the smallest circumference above your belly button. For your hip, measure the widest circumference around your buttocks . Divide your waist size by your hip size (Waist / Hip).
- Women: If you have a ratio of 0.85 or higher, you have an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
- Men: If you have a ratio of 0.90 or higher, you have an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
- Example: If you are a woman and your waist circumference is 35 inches and your hip circumference is 40 inches, you have a waist-to-hip ratio (35 / 40) of 0.875 which is too high.
Body Fat Percentage
As discussed above, this measure focuses on the total fat in pounds divided by your total weight in pounds.
This measure is particularly useful for athletes with high muscle mass.
While the calculation of body fat percentage is easy in theory, it is not that easy to measure in reality. There are a number of ways to accurately measure body fat percentage but most of them require specialists and special equipment.
The most popular and easiest way to measure body fat is to purchase a body fat scale. A body fat scale measures, in addition to your weight, your body fat percentage. A very small and harmless electrical current passes through your whole body from one foot to the other on the scale. The current travels slower through fat and quicker through muscle, and based on an analysis of the current travel time, the body fat scale gives you your body fat percentage reading.
Keep in mind that body fat scales only give you estimates and not precise readings. Factors such as wet feet, body temperature and the amount of water you just drank can all influence the result.
In order to get the best results, you must be consistent as to when you weigh yourself. The recommend time to weigh yourself is in the morning after your wake up, before you drink anything. That way, your body fat scale can provide a good estimate of your body fat percentage and an excellent indicator of your progress.
For example, if you do a lot of muscle exercises, you might see your body weight stay stable, but your body fat percentage drop. That is a good thing. You’ve replaced body fat with muscle. Good for you! A body fat percentage scale can show you that progress.
A good body fat scale, with good reviews, can be purchased for about $50 at online stores like Amazon.
What Does My Body Fat Percentage Mean?
According to WebMD, the American Council on Exercise has provided the following as ranges for body-fat percentage:
|Obese||32% plus||26% plus|
Summary – So, how much should I weigh?
If you are not a muscular athlete or body builder, BMI, while not perfect as explained above, is a very good tool for figuring out how much you should weigh.
In addition, you should also measure your Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR) and your Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR) periodically to determine if you are at risk of developing health issues like cancer, diabetes or heart problems in the future. Just remember to use the adjusted BMI ranges (10% up or down) if you have a large or small body frame.
If you are a muscular athlete or body builder, BMI will not work for you. It will show you as overweight, when you are really fit. The best solution for you is to check your body fat percentage, and also measure your Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR) and your Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR).
As explained above, there is no tool out there that can tell you exactly (in pounds and ounces) how much you should weigh. However, the tools explained above can tell you if your weight is in the normal range, and if you have an increased risk of developing health issues like cancer, heart problems or diabetes. If you are not an above average muscular person, if you have a good BMI score, a good WHtR score and a good WHR score, you are most likely in really good shape from a body weight perspective.
How the “Ideal” Figure Changed Over the Last 500 Years
Just for fun, it’s interesting to see how the “ideal” figure for women changed over time.
As we grow up in a certain time and place we tend to accept whatever we see around us as normal, and may even make the assumption that things have always been that way. But that is not true. Take a look at how much the “ideal” or “desirable” figure changed just in the last 500 years.
This is how the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens depicted the ideal female body around 1600. Looking voluptuous was a sign of good health and wealth. Obese by today’s standards, but seen as the perfect body back then.
The full figured body is still seen as the ideal female body, as depicted by the famous painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Looking voluptuous was still considered a sign of good health and wealth. Also looking pale meant that you did not have be outside in the sun, which at the time was a sign of wealth.
The 1920s brought a big change. Out was the typical female figure, in was a more boyish figure (no chest, no waist) and shorter hair. Some women would even bind their chests with strips of cloth to achieve a more boyish look.
Starting in the 1940s and certainly in the 1950s, the fully figured woman was back to being the ideal figure. Marilyn Monroe (shown left) was the sex symbol of the 1950s. By today’s Hollywood standards she may be seen as a little chubby.
In the 1960s the ideal female body meant to be thin again, very thin. Twiggy (Lesley Lawson) became the sex symbol in the 1960s, barley skin and bones.
In the 1980s & 1990s…
Starting in the 1980s women started working out and exercising, keeping their bodies fit and toned, and curves started to be back in fashion.
The 1990s was the age of Madonna, Cindy Crawford and Pamela Anderson continuing the trend of skinny yet fully figured and toned women.
It has become slightly complicated. Thin is still in, but curvier women are making their way back into the scene.
On the left is Christina Hendricks from the TV Show “Mad Men.”