The medical community uses the terms "desirable weight" and "ideal weight" interchangeably and assesses both via weight-for-height tables such as the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's weight-for-height table and the body mass index table, according to the textbook "Essentials for Health and Wellness." Metropolitan's table lists the ideal weight ranges for 5-foot-6-inch women according to their body frame, while the BMI table reports that 5-foot-6-inch women have the same ideal weight regardless of body frame.
The ideal weight for a 5-foot-6-inch woman is 115 to 154 lbs., according to the BMI table. The figures are based on having a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. You calculate your BMI by multiplying your weight in pounds by 703 and dividing the total by your height in inches squared. The Vermont Department of Health recommends that women that have an overweight BMI — a BMI between 25 and 29.9 — lose weight if they have an additional risk factor, including smoking, high blood pressure, a bad cholesterol level of at least 160 mg/dL or a good cholesterol level lower than 50 mg/dL.
The BMI is an imperfect measurement of ideal weight because age, gender and muscle aren't considered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, Metropolitan's height-for-weight table reports that men's ideal weight is about 20 to 25 lbs. more than women's ideal weight at most heights. This is partly because women have more body fat and less muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat.
Your height and weight on Metropolitan's height-for-weight table factors in shoes with 1-inch heels and 3 lbs. of clothes. The table doesn't specify how to deduce your body frame, but the University of Maryland Medical Center and several other medical groups use wrist size as the criteria. A 5-foot-6-inch woman has a large frame if her wrists are more than 6 1/2 inches in circumference. The ideal weight of a large-framed, 5-foot-6-inch woman is 140 to 159 lbs., according to Metropolitan's height-for-weight table.
A 5-foot-6-inch woman has a medium frame if the circumference of her wrists are 6 1/4 to 6 1/2 inches. The ideal weight of a medium-framed, 5-foot-6-inch woman is 130 to 144 lbs., according to the height-for-weight table. Being measured at 1 inch shorter or taller than 5 feet 6 inches won't change a woman's ideal weight much. A medium-framed, 5-foot-5-inch woman's ideal weight is 127 to 141 lbs., while a medium-framed, 5-foot-7-inch woman's ideal weight is 133 to 147 lbs.
A 5-foot-6-inch woman has a small frame if the circumference of her wrists are less than 6 1/4 inches. The ideal weight of a small-framed, 5-foot-6-inch woman is 120 to 133 lbs., according to the height-for-weight table. In comparison, a small-framed, 5-foot-6-inch man has an ideal weight of 136 to 142 lbs., although the BMI table reports that the same man and woman have the same ideal weight.