Finding your ideal body weight doesn't have to be a guessing game. If you know your weight, you can use one of a number of ways to figure it out. Each method is a little different and can vary based on frame size, so it may be helpful to try out several methods. You only need a scale, a measuring tape and some easy calculations to get you on the road to discovering if your weight is appropriate for your height.
Body Mass Index
By far, the most popular method of assessing your weight for height is the body mass index scale, or BMI. BMI is essentially a tool that health professionals use to estimate your chronic disease risk. A BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight; 18.5-24.9 is normal; above 25 is overweight; and over 30 is considered obese. The equation for adults is your weight in pounds divided by your height in inches squared and then multiplied by 703:
BMI = weight / (height x height) x 703.
BMI is only one way to know if your weight is normal for your height. It's often used to assess chronic disease risk, but because it doesn't distinguish between fat and lean mass, its relevance is controversial, according to a 2006 article in Archives of Disease in Childhood. This means that if you have a very muscular build or a larger frame, your BMI may be falsely high. Conversely, a petite, older woman who's sedentary may have a normal BMI, yet have excess body fat and less muscle mass.
Ideal Body Weight for Height
If you'd like an actual estimate of what your weight should be for your height, then using an ideal body weight calculation is probably your best bet. You can figure it using a simple equation, then adjusting for your body frame size.
If you're a woman, begin with 100 pounds and add 5 pounds for every inch of height above 5 feet. For men, start with 106 pounds and then add 6 pounds for every inch of height above 5 feet.
The normal weight range for each equation is plus or minus 10 percent of your IBW. The ideal weight for people with smaller frames is toward the lower end of the range, and those with larger body frames at the higher end. To estimate your frame size, wrap your thumb and middle finger around your wrist. If they meet, you have a medium frame. If the fingers overlap, you have a small frame, and if they don't touch, you have a large frame.
So, if you're a 5-foot, 6-inch woman, your IBW calculation looks like this: IBW = 100 + (5 x 6) = 130 pounds. Your IBW range is 117 to 143 pounds.
Or, if you're a 5-foot,11-inch man: IBW = 106 + (6 x 11) = 172 pounds. Your IBW range is 155 to 189 pounds.
While a measure of waist circumference isn't based on height, it's a great tool to let you know if your weight is in the normal, healthy range. It's simple to measure, and you can use it in conjunction with BMI or IBW. It's especially important to measure your waist circumference if you have a normal or overweight BMI, because having a larger waist indicates excess abdominal fat, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Having more visceral fat -- fat deep in your belly surrounding your organs -- can put you at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
For women, you want a waist circumference of less than 35 inches, and less than 40 inches for men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can measure your waist circumference in four easy steps. First, stand up and wrap a measuring tape around your waist. The tape should rest just above your hipbones, remain parallel to the floor, and not droop on any side. Ensure the tape is snug, but not pulled tight against the skin. Inhale a breath, and on the exhale, take the measurement in inches.
A Normal Weight as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle
You experience endless benefits when you lead a healthy lifestyle. Being at a healthy weight can boost confidence, self-esteem and give you more energy throughout the day. Eating a healthy diet that consists of whole fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and dairy helps keep your body energized and provides all of the nutrients you need to help keep you at a healthy weight. Don't forget about the importance of exercise and physical activity. Exercise not only keeps your body strong, but it also lifts your mood and helps you work toward and maintain a healthy weight.
- Archives of Disease in Childhood: Measuring Body Composition
- Nutrition 411: Ideal Body Weight (IBW) and Adjustments for Adults
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: The Practical Guide Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Assessing Your Weight
- Food and Health With Timi Gustafson, R.D.: What Is Your Frame Size?