How Much Should I Weigh?

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian
May 2, 2018
How Much Should i Weigh?

Do you feel may like you’re on a lifelong journey to lose that elusive 20 pounds? Or you maybe you’re be a hardgainer – 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 said number of calories. But of course, 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.

Instead, focus on body composition — the percentage of fat, bone, water and muscle your body. 

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.  

The other measurement you’ll need to pay attention to is fat. 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, being too 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. If you don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor, you can get your body composition taken by:

Skinfold caliper test: measures skin folds in three, four or seven sites to estimate body fat percentage.
  
Bioelectric impedance: uses electrodes to send impulses throughout the body. The quicker the impulses return, the lower the body fat percentage.

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.

3D body scan: is an at-home option that relies on you taking circumference measurements, scanning your body with a device and entering the data into an online app.

Air-displacement plethysmography: requires you to sit in BOD Pod and by measuring air displacement is able to accurately determine body composition. 

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

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

MEN

AGE

 

 

 

 

Fitness Category

20-29

30-39

40-49

50-59

60+

Essential Fat

2 - 5

2 - 5

2 - 5

2 - 5

2 - 5

Excellent

7.1 – 9.3

11.3 – 13.8

13.6 – 16.2

15.3 – 17.8

15.3 – 18.3

Good

9.4 – 14

13.9 – 17.4

16.3 – 19.5

17.9 – 21.2

18.4 - 21.9

Average

14.1 – 17.4

17.5 – 20.4

19.6 – 22.4

21.3 – 24

22 – 25

Below Average

17.5 – 22.5

20.5 -24.1

22.5 – 26

24.1 – 27.4

25 – 28.4

Poor

>22.6

>24.2

>26.1

>27.5

>28.5

 

WOMEN

AGE

 

 

 

 

Fitness Category

20-29

30-39

40-49

50-59

60+

Essential Fat

10 - 13

10 - 13

10 -13

10 -13

10 -13

Excellent

14.5 - 17

15.5 – 17.9

18.5 – 21.2

21.6 – 24.9

21.1 – 25

Good

17.1 – 20.5

18 – 21.5

21.3 – 24.8

25 – 28.4

25.1 – 29.2

Average

20.6 – 23.6

21.6 – 24.8

24.9 - 28

28.5 – 31.5

29.3 -32.4

Below Average

23.7 – 27.6

24.9 – 29.2

28.1 - 32

31.6 – 25.5

32.5 – 26.5

Poor

>27.7

>29.3

>32.1

>35.6

>36.6

Source: ACSM's Health-Related Physical Fitness Assessment Manual, 2nd Ed. 2008 Pg. 59.

“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 Shape and Types of Body Fat

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

  • Visceral fat: can’t be seen. It’s the fat that surrounds organs and can cause health issues.
  • Subcutaneous fat: can be seen; it’s fat that’s just under the skin. It tends to be a less harmful type of body fat, but having a substantial amount is often indicative of having large amounts of visceral fat. 
  • Brown fat: 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.
  • White fat: 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.
  • Apple shape body: is described as having a larger waist and carrying more weight in the abdomen. This body shape is considered a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Pear shape body: is described as having a narrower waist and carry more weight around the hips. This body shape isn’t considered a chronic disease risk factor.   

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 you don’t have to figure out your body composition on your own. Talk to your primary care doctor; they can help you.

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

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
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