Once upon a time, all you needed to know to determine if you were at an ideal weight was your Body Mass Index (BMI). But that was before medical science evolved – now we know there are many different factors to consider, including your gender, height, waist size and lifestyle, to figure out how healthy you really are.
Follow this simple three-step guide to determine, in three different ways, if your weight generally falls within healthy standards.
To start with, weigh yourself right now (yes, get off that couch!) and keep your weight (in pounds) and your height (in inches) handy.
Step One: Let’s Begin With BMI
The BMI is an estimated calculation of your fat content based on your weight in relation to your height. While it’s not very accurate, it does get the “answers” right for most people and tend to give similar results to other expensive and tedious body fat measuring tests.1
Calculating your BMI is fairly easy. When calculating BMI using inches and pounds, you’ll divide your weight (in pounds) with the square of your height (in inches) and multiply this number by 703.
BMI = Weight (pounds) ÷ Height2 (inches) x 703
According to the number you get, you are:
- Obese with a BMI of over 30
- Overweight, if your BMI is between 25 and 30
- Normal, if your BMI is between 18.5 and 25
- Underweight, if your BMI is under 18.5
The problem with BMI is that it doesn’t take into account the various kinds of fat in the body, the ratio of fat to muscle or the even visceral fat (the type of belly fat that’s considered unhealthy).2 This means a person who doesn’t exercise whose weight consists of more fat might show to be “healthier” on the BMI index than, say, a fit athlete whose body weight is mostly muscle but weighs more.
The BMI also doesn’t count in bone density, so a person with light, frail bones will prove to be “healthier” once again. So the BMI is more of a ballpark figure than anything else, and experts say that BMI underestimates the amount of body fat in overweight/obese people and overestimates it in lean or muscular people.
Step Two: Let’s Try WHR
The WHR stands for Waist to Hip Ratio. The simple way to do this is to measure your waist at its smallest circumference (above your belly button) and divide that by the circumference of your hips, measured at their widest part.
WHR = size of waist ÷ size of hips
What does this number mean?
When it comes to women, the ideal WHR is lower than 0.8. If it’s between 0.8 and 0.89, it means there’s a moderate risk of heart problems, and number higher than 0.9 indicates a high risk of heart problems.
For men, the ideal WHR is lower than 0.9. Between 0.9 and 0.99 means there’s a moderate risk of heart problems and anything higher than 1 means there’s a high risk of heart problems.
Studies have proven that the WHR is a much better indicator of obesity and related diseases than BMI.3 However, the WHR does not measure the body’s total fat percentage or the muscle to fat ratio.
Step 3: Waist-To-Height Ratio
In a 2012 study, Dr. Margaret Ashwell, the science director of the British Nutrition Foundation, produced research on body weight that generated yet another theory—that a waist-to-height ratio is a good tool for predicting the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other lifestyle-related diseases. It’s also a better calculation than BMI.4
The theory or calculation is pretty simple: To avoid lifestyle and obesity-related medical conditions:
Your waist circumference (inches) should be less than half your height (inches).
For example, if you are 5 feet 5 inches tall (65 inches total), your waist should be 32 inches or less.1
Ultimately, there is no perfect number when it comes to healthy weight or measurements. Not only do we move around at different intensities and durations each day, but our metabolisms, body physiology and chemistry work in their own ways. Someone who weighs more than you can be healthier, while someone who weighs little can be unhealthy.
Use these three calculations to gain a fair estimate of where you stand, then explore eating healthier and exercising more depending on your results. At the end of the day, you know best!