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What Does HWP Mean?

author image Kathleen Northridge
Kathleen Northridge has been a professional, freelance, S.P.J.A award-winning writer since 1985. She has written for organizations as diverse as the American Cancer Society and Sign Business Magazine. She also has a background in research and education. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.
What Does HWP Mean?
Doctor examining a patient in office. Photo Credit XiXinXing/iStock/Getty Images

HWP stands for height weight proportional. It is something of a '90s acronym, often used in personal ads to indicate the person is not overweight. It likely is used in place of actual height and weight figures both to save space and to preserve privacy but also because merely noting height and weight does not always convey whether a person is in good shape.

Weight is Not the Whole Story

A man who is 5 feet, 9 inches tall sounds heavy at 175 lbs., but it wouldn’t be at all uncommon for someone very fit who does bodybuilding. Muscle weighs more than fat given the same volume--a liter of muscle weighs about 1.06 kg, and that same volume of fat weighs only 0.9 kg. So that 175 lbs. could be a belly of blubber or biceps of steel.

Heavy Bones

Women sometimes have tried to explain their weight by saying they have “heavy bones.” There is an extremely rare medical condition called osteopetrosis, in which the bones appear dense on an X-ray and break easily. Older women can lose some weight because of osteoporsis, in which there are tiny holes in the bones that make them lighter and more brittle. Bones that support strong muscles do increase in density; however, the chances of bone density being the defining factor in weight is not high.

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Proportions Matter

Taking into account height, weight and muscle, there is still another factor: shape. Bone density does matter a bit, but more important is how the bones are shaped. Frame type is important in judging whether a person is fit. Foot size does not vary exactly with height, nor does the diameter of the hips, chest or shoulders. A man with broad shoulders on a short frame will weigh more than a man with slight shoulders of the same height even if they are at the same level of fitness. Some women who try to diet down to a size 6 will never make it because they have a bone structure that’s size 10 without an ounce of flesh on them.

Judging Proper Weight

Hydrostatic weighing places a person in a tank of water to see how much water they displace. It was once considered the gold standard for determining body composition.

Weight sometimes is measured by a caliper wrapped around skin gathered at specific locations on the body. The skin-fold test can be quite accurate if done by a professional.

Body mass index (BMI) simply compares weight and height but does allow for different frame types. This is the quickest and most readily available method. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has determined that a BMI above 25 means that weight loss should be considered.

Overweight in a Thin World

According to the ACSM, more than 50 percent of people in the United States were overweight and 22 percent were obese in 2001. This carries dire medical implications. Being overweight is not uncommon, but it is a health issue. However, in terms of aesthetics, different cultures believe different ratios of fat to muscle are attractive, so the "HWP" label might be one for interpretation.

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