What’s Your Ideal Body Weight?

June 20, 2012

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ideal body weight

If you are basing your ideal body weight on a height-weight chart, chances are the number you are shooting for is not your actual ideal body weight at all!

Ideal body weight charts, developed in the late 1950s by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, are now considered outdated for a number of reasons.

First, your height-to-weight alone only tells part of the story. Bodybuilders, for example typically weigh more than these charts say they should, despite the fact that they are clearly not overweight.

Likewise, a person can also fall within the ideal weight range but actually be unfit and unhealthy, with too much body fat and not enough lean muscle.

And for one in three people, their problem isn’t so much a weight problem as it is a fat problem they just simply have too much stored body fat.

A much better way to determine if you are overweight, or not, is to determine your body composition, or fat to muscle ratio, which is something we measure during the initial assessment of the Center for Medical Weight Loss (CMWL) program.

One reason most people focus on weight instead of body composition is that it is difficult to determine this number without help.

For example, home scales that give a body fat readout are only semi-accurate. In contrast, the equipment we use in the CMWL clinics is the same high-tech and extremely accurate body composition analysis equipment used for professional athletes. With this equipment we can even tell exactly where fat loss is occurring in your body over time.

While the ideal body fat percentage can vary from person to person, in general men should aim for a body fat percentage of around 24 percent while women should aim for about 33 percent. Very athletic or naturally lean people may have lower body fat percentages.

Focusing on your body fat percentage rather than a number on the scale also helps ensure that the weight you are losing is coming from fat loss, rather than muscle loss. Many diet plans trigger a primitive survival mechanism called the starvation response, which makes losing fat and keeping it off harder with every weight loss cycle.

Losing excess body fat instead of losing muscle requires a multi-faceted approach that includes following a low calorie, high nutrition diet, getting adequate lean protein, exercise, and behavioral counseling to help break old unhealthy habits and to build new healthy ones.

In short forget the number on the scale or those old height-weight charts and focus on body composition. Doing so will help you break free from the yo-yo diet cycle once and for all.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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