How Much Should I Weigh?

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
July 12, 2022
How Much Should I Weigh?

Do you feel may like you’re on a lifelong journey to lose 20 elusive pounds? Or maybe you’re a hard gainer – always trying to put on 10 pounds. Either way, managing your weight can be very frustrating, especially if you’re living a healthy lifestyle.

Why is it so hard? Logically, weight management should be simple -- determine the number of calories you need to maintain a specific weight and consume just those calories. But that’s not how it works. 

“Weight management is very complex,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Age, genetics, hormones, health history, physical activity level, diet and medications all play a role.” 

Many of us place a lot of value on weighing a specific amount. But should you? Should hitting a specific weight range in pounds really be your goal? Probably not.

Weight is merely a number on a scale and really doesn’t provide an accurate picture of your body size or shape. If you’re still hung up on pounds, refer to the Body Mass Index (more commonly known as BMI). It’s a quick and dirty method of finding a healthy weight range based on height and weight. But BMI is also just an overview. If you’re muscular, you may have a BMI that is considered unhealthy. You can also be skinny fat – your body weight shows that you’re in a healthy BMI range, but you’re not that healthy.

Instead, focus on body composition — the percentage of fat, bone, water and muscle your body — a measurement that is part of the MDVIP Wellness Program. 

The higher the percentage of muscle, the better. Muscle is more compact and takes up less space, which is why you look smaller when you have more muscle. 
Muscle make-up is important, but so is your fat percentage. Your goal is to have a healthy percentage of body fat. You don’t want too little fat; you need some body fat to help regulate body temperature, protect vital organs, absorb shock, keep the reproductive system properly functioning (particularly in females) and maintain healthy hair, nails and skin. And of course, too much fat can raise your risk for heart disease and diabetes. 

Your MDVIP-affiliated physician should test your body composition during your annual wellness program appointments using a body composition scale. If you don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor, there are other ways to get your body composition measured:

Skinfold caliper test: measures skin folds in three, four or seven specific sites on males and females to estimate body fat percentage. 

  • PRO:    It’s a relatively easy and inexpensive test to perform.
  • CON:    It only measures subcutaneous fat and of all the body fat tests, it’s the least accurate.

Bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA): uses electrodes to send impulses throughout the body. The quicker the impulses return, the lower the body fat percentage.

  • PRO:    It’s safe for most people; exceptions include pregnant women and people with a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator. It’s also noninvasive and quick.
  • CON:    The portable bathroom scale and/or hand-held variations provide an estimate of body composition. The most accurate method of BIA involves placing electrodes on specific sites to measure fat, which is more involved than the scale and handheld devices. BIA is fairly expensive to conduct.

DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry): sends out low-energy X-ray beam that’s absorbed by different body parts. Absorption rate measurements indicate bone density, lean body mass and fat mass.

  • PRO:    It’s accurate, performed by a healthcare professional in a healthcare setting.
  • CON:    The test requires a doctor’s orders, so it’s not convenient. 

3D body scanner: scans your entire body to capture 3D images from a 360-degree view, providing measurements and metrics on body fat percentage and lean muscle mass. Professional and at-home grades of body scanners are available. Home options may rely on you taking circumference measurements, scanning your body with a device and entering the data into an online app.

  • PRO:    It’s accurate, convenient and can show progress before a scale can.
  • CON:    It can be costly. And if you have the test performed in a facility, the generated report usually requires training to decipher it.

Air-displacement plethysmography (BodPod): creates small volume changes in a confined and controlled space and then measures air displacement pressure responses to gauge fat mass and fat free mass. 

  • PRO:    It requires you to sit in a BOD Pod, which might be a problem if you struggle with claustrophobia.
  • CON:    It’s not readily available. Only a small number of medical and health facilities offer it.

Hydrostatic (or underwater) weighing: compares normal bodyweight to underwater body weight and provides an accurate body composition reading. This method is usually used by athletes.

  • PRO:    It’s an extremely accurate test with a margin of error that spans between one and three percent.
  • CON:    It’s not readily available. Some universities have the equipment, but use is limited to research. You might be able to find a fitness company that can accommodate you.

To understand your screening results, refer to the American College of Sports Medicine’s chart below.

American College of Sports Medicine Body Fat Percentages for Men and Women








Fitness Category







Very lean

4.2 - 6.4

7.3 - 10.3

9.5 - 13.0

11.1 - 14.9

12.0 - 16.1

13.6 - 15.5


7.9 - 10.5

12.5 - 14.9

15.0 - 17.5

17.0 - 19.4

18.1 - 20.2

17.5 - 20.2



11.5 - 14.8

15.9 - 18.4

18.5 - 20.8

20.2 - 22.3

21.0 - 23.0

21.1 - 22.0



15.8 - 18.6

19.2 - 21.6

21.4 - 23.5

23.0 - 24.9

23.6 -25.6

  23.6 - 25.2


19.8 - 23.3

22.4 - 25.1

24.2 - 26.6

25.6 - 28.1

27.0 - 28.8

   25.7 -  28.0

Very poor

25.1 - 33.7

26.4 - 34.4

27.7 -35.2

29.2 - 36.4

29.8 - 37.2

  29.3 -  37.3









Fitness Category





60 - 69

   70 - 79

Very lean

11.4 - 14.1

11.0 - 13.8

11.7 - 15.2

13.8 - 17.7

13.8 - 17.7

  13.7 - 16.4


15.2 - 16.1

15.5 - 16.5

16.8 - 18.2

20.1 - 22.0

20.1 - 22.0

18.8 - 21.2


16.6 - 20.0

16.8 - 20.0

19.5 - 23.6

22.3 - 26.6

23.2 - 27.5

 21.2 - 26.3


20.7 – 23.5

22.0 – 24.8

24.6 - 27.4

27.4 – 30.0

28.3 - 30.8

27.1 - 30.0


24.4 – 28.6

25.8 – 29.6

28.1 - 31.9

30.7 – 33.8

31.5 – 34.4

30.9 - 33.6

Very poor

30.9 - 38.4

31.4 - 39.0

33.4 - 39.0

34.9 - 39.8

35.4 - 40.3

  35.0 - 40.0
Source: ACSM's Health-Related Physical Fitness Assessment Manual, 2nd Ed. 2013 Pg. 80, Table 4.4 and 4.5

“Once you have the result from your screening you can work with your doctor to set up goals to either maintain, lower or raise your body fat.” says Kaminetsky. Like weight and BMI, you can’t take body composition screening as gospel, as it doesn’t tell the whole story. 

Body Fat Colors and Storage

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Not all body fat is the same. The color of your fat and where it’s stored on your body make a difference. But information isn’t included in a body composition screening. Here are some additional considerations to discuss with your primary care doctor:

Fat Colors

  • White - helps your body store calories. White fat usually settles around the hips, thighs, buttocks and breasts of women before menopause and redistributes to the abdomen after menopause. For men, white fat generally accumulates in the abdomen.
  • Yellow – is white fat cells that have been colored yellow by undigested yellow carotene that drifted over and settled into white fat cells. 
  • Brown - functions as heat-burning engine that helps your body burn calories. Most of it is in the in front and back of the neck and upper back.
  • Beige (or Brite) – is brown fat mixed with white fat cells. 

Fat Storage 

  • Visceral fat - is a hidden fat that surrounds organs. But it doesn’t protect them. Instead, experts believe visceral fat makes proteins that inflame tissue, organs and blood vessels, raising your risk for various chronic conditions.
  • Subcutaneous fat - is fat that’s just under the skin and tends to jiggle or hang off the body. Generally, it’s less harmful than visceral fat, but having a substantial amount is often indicative of having large amounts of visceral fat. 
  • Essential fat – is unseen fat needed by your body for normal functioning. It’s found in bone marrow, organs and the central nervous system. 

Body Shape

Of course, your age, gender and genetics influence where the fat settles on your body and the body shape it creates. Here’s a description of five common body shapes.

  • Apple – occurs when shoulders are wider than hips, torso is larger than bottom half and hips/legs are slim. This body shape is considered a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Pear – occurs when shoulders are narrower than hips, bottom half (particularly the hips) carries more 
  • weight than torso. This body shape isn’t considered a chronic disease risk factor.   
  • Ruler – occurs when shoulders and hips are about the same size and there’s no defined waist. This body shape isn’t considered a risk factor for chronic disease.
  • Hourglass – occurs when shoulders and hips are about the same size and there is a defined waist. This body shape isn’t considered a risk for chronic disease.
  • Inverted triangle – occurs when shoulders are wider than waist and hips and there’s little to no defined waist.

So back to the original question – how much should you weigh? Your actual “weight” doesn’t matter — it’s really all about your body composition. And if you have an MDVIP-affiliated physician, you don’t have to figure out your body composition on your own. A body composition screening is part of the MDVIP Wellness Program.

“If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s extremely important to work with your primary care physician. They can guide you in making changes in your diet and exercise,” says Kaminetsky. “There’s no way to control where you lose weight, the color of your fat or where it’s stored; however, losing weight -- if you need to lose -- can help your overall body composition.” 

Looking for a primary care physician? Physicians in MDVIP-affiliated practices can customize a wellness plan for you that includes weight loss. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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