Why Do You Want to Lose Weight?
It may sound obvious, but why do you want to lose weight?
Being over weight can lead to subtle discrimination from others, even when it’s not intentional. Regrettably human nature being what it is, tends to look down or judge people with a larger body type. And from personal experience, I know a look or a curious glance can affect your self esteem after a while if you let it. Of course this shouldn’t be your main motivation to lose weight -you should do it for yourself.
But whatever the reason, if you’re not happy with your body shape, this can certainly be a big motivator to want to lose those extra pounds.
So what’s your “ideal” weight? – Is there such a thing?
Sometimes simply looking lean and fit can indicate a healthy weight range.
Otherwise, medical research can give us some guidelines…
Personally, I say let’s combine the two!
Taking Your Correct Measurements
So the first step in calculating your ideal weight is to check what your measurements are at the moment.
You will need to measure:
- Current weight
- Waist measurement
- Hip measurement
You may then use these to see how you compare with the recommended healthy data ranges.
How to Measure Your Weight
The best way to measure your weight is every day, first thing in the morning.
And keeping a notebook of your progress each day is essential.
This helps you to keep track of the natural fluctuations (up and down) of your body weight each day, and helps you to stay fully focused and accountable.
I like to use a good digital set of scales as I believe they’re a little more accurate.
However make sure you visit the bathroom first as without being too graphic, this could throw you off by at least 600 g (1.3 lbs)!
Next, weigh yourself without clothes.
If you’re using modern digital scales, try to centre your weight on each foot, and keep as still as possible. When you’ve done this correctly, you may notice a slight pause as the scales fine-tune your reading to the correct number.
How to Measure Your Height
A dressmaker’s tape measure is only around 1.5 m (60 inches) which may not be long enough for a-lot of people.
So you may need a “work-mans” style tape measure. You’ll also need a pencil.
It’s best to measure yourself without socks or shoes, standing on a hard surface:
- Stand up straight with your back against a wall.
- With your head looking at the horizon, find the highest point on top of your head.
- Keep the pencil horizontal, and trace a small line back with your pencil on the wall.
- Measure from the floor to your line on the wall.
- Record your results.
How to Measure Your Waist
You’ll need a dress-maker’s tape measure:
Stand with your “hands on your hips” pose.
Move your hands up to find the bottom of your ribs at each side of your body.
Then slide them down to find the top of your hip bone (also called the iliac crest).
The waist line (for the sake of these measurements) is the exact middle between these two points.
See diagram of happy skeleton below:
Once you’ve found your waist, lift up any clothing and wrap the tape measure directly around your waist. It may help to use a full size mirror to ensure the tape is level all the way around.
When it’s level, the front of the tape will probably rest about a finger’s width or two above the belly button.
The best type of tape measure to use is a self-tensioning one, which automatically applies the correct pressure, giving you the most accurate reading.
However if you’re using a dress-makers tape measure (pictured earlier), this is fine, although be sure not to pull it too tight. It should rest lightly on the skin.
- Stand up straight, breath out, and let your tummy fully relax outwards (don’t hold it in).
- Now take your measurement and write it down.
How to Measure Your Hips
The hips are measured by wrapping the tape measure horizontally around the widest part of the buttocks, then around to the front of the pelvis.
The front of the tape measure will then probably then rest near the top of the pubic bone (depending on where the widest part of the hips are).
It’s best to take the hip measurement wearing underwear only, to get the most accurate reading.
Make a note of the reading.
Healthy Weight Calculations
We all want to look like we’re in great shape, and I know from personal experience, when we are, we naturally feel much more confident, energetic and happier in own own skin.
However by checking the health aspect too, this can give us an extra motivational boost to get into shape.
Right, so now that we have our measurements recorded, let’s have a look at the calculators!
This equation gives a very basic estimation of your ideal weight based on height and sex.
This calculator doesn’t take account of muscular build or body frame size.
The result given is right in the middle of a healthy range, which may extend approx 5 to 10 Kg either side of the number itself.
Ideal Waist Measurements
One of my favourite ways to measure my own waist, is to simply sit in my car and look down. If it looks like there’s a small cushion lurking under my shirt, I know I need to lose weight!
On to more scientific means, waist measurement can give us a very quick and easy guide to warn us about potential health risks such as heart disease or diabetes.
It’s the fat between the organs that can cause the most health issues here.
Here are the ranges:
Very Low Risk: <27.5 inches (70 cm)
Low Risk: 27.5-35 inches (70-89 cm)
High Risk: 35.5-43 inches (90-109 cm)
Very High Risk: >43.5 inches (110 cm +)
Very Low Risk: <31.5 inches (80 cm)
Low Risk: 31.5-39 inches (80-99 cm)
High Risk: 39.5-47 inches (100-120 cm)
Very High Risk: >47 inches (120 cm +)
Source: Bray GA (2004) Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
As you can see, the ideal low-risk range for women is under 35 inches (89 cm) and for men under 39 inches (99 cm).
This is a good general indicator, however bear in mind waist measurement doesn’t take into account the height of the person.
Body Mass Index measures a person’s weight, in relation to their height.
It’s only suitable as a rough guide, and may give inaccurate readings for very muscular people such as body builders, or pregnant ladies for example. Also certain ethnic groups who have a slimmer build on average such as the Chinese, may not get accurate results from standard BMI calculations.
- A BMI between 20 to 25 is considered to be the ideal healthy range for adults (18-65 years old).
- Readings over 25 are in the overweight range and may suggest increased health-risk for heart disease and diabetes.
- A BMI over 30 is classified as medically obese. Significant health risk for heart disease and diabetes.
For Chinese and similar Asian ethnic groups, as a rough guide, the following BMI has been suggested (3):
- BMI under 23 is healthy range
- BMI over 23 is overweight
- BMI over 25 is medically obese
The healthy ranges for waist to hip ratio are below:
Waist to Hip Ratio Values:
At Risk: >0.95
At Risk: >0.86
Source: Bray GA and Gray DS (1988) Obesity Part 1 : Pathogenesis. Western Journal of Medicine
The waist to hip ratio compares the size of your waist to the size of your hip measurement.
It’s well known that a relatively large waist size (aka visceral belly fat) is linked to higher risk for cardio vascular disease.
So to stay healthy, as well as looking and feeling great, we need to check that our waist is within the recommended range.
The only downside I can see for this formula, is that it may not work for all body types. For example if you have a protruding tummy and you also have large hips, the formula might not indicate a potential health problem as the hip measurement is skewing the results.
Ideally a Healthy Waist Height ratio is generally considered to be anything under 0.5.
The waist to height ratio determines how big your waist is, compared with your height. So a 40 inch waist on a 5 ft person is more unhealthy (and will look bigger), than a 40 inch waist on a 6 ft person
I personally think this is one of the best guidelines for good health, as well as helping us to feel happy in our own skin.
Research by Ashwell(1) also indicates that Waist to Height Ratio gave better risk assessment than simply waist circumference when screening for diabetes and heart disease for men and women. It was also found to be much more accurate than the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculation when taking into account the different body shapes and frame size of various ethnic groups.
The Take Home: Reaching your Ideal Healthy Weight
Now that we’ve had a look at our measurements and some of the healthy ratios, we should now have a better idea of our ideal weight.
Feel free to experiment by changing some of the values in the tables, and you can use this to see how a smaller waist measurement or lighter weight, can help you to fall into a healthier category.
We can then use this information to set progressive weight loss targets of a few Pounds or Kilograms until we reach our desired weight.
(1) Waist-to-height ratio is a better screening tool than waist circumference and BMI for adult cardiometabolic risk factors: systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews Mar 2012
(2) Diabetes Canada website www.diabetes.ca
(3) Obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes — a worldwide epidemic. British Journal of Nutrition. Jacob Seidell 2007.