The ideal weight range for women varies depending on who you ask and which chart you consult. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, being an ideal weight does not mean having an ideal body. The medical profession and insurance industry use this term to refer to how much you should weigh based on your height. The height-weight tables developed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company have been around since 1943 when being underweight was more of a health concern than being overweight.
History of Height-Weight Tables
With revisions done in 1983 and more recently in 1999, the MET Life height-weight tables were originally developed as a tool to standardize the identification of those persons having the lowest mortality rates. Over the years, the tables that started out as recommended guidelines for the average woman evolved into the ideal standard and a means by which physicians and insurance companies could monitor patients and encourage them to conform to an ideal, and presumably, healthy weight.
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Ideal Weight per MET Life
According to the MET Life tables, desirable weights are listed for women ages 25-59, wearing a 1" heel and 3 pounds of clothing. A 5' 3" woman (5' 2" without shoes) should weigh 111-124 lbs. if she has a small frame; 121-135 lbs. with a medium frame; and 131-147 lbs. with a large frame.
A 5' 6" woman (5' 5" without shoes) with a small frame should weigh 120-133 lbs.; a woman with a medium frame should weigh 130-144 lbs.; and a woman with a large frame should weigh 140-159 lbs.
For a woman 5' 9" (5' 8" without shoes) tall with a small frame, the ideal weight is 129-142 lbs.; for a woman with a medium frame the ideal weight is 139-153 lbs.; and for a woman with a large frame the ideal weight is 149-170 lbs.
If you'e trying to get into the FBI, the organization considers ideal weight to be slightly less than MET Life. For a female who is 5' 2" without shoes, the organization requires you to weigh between 102-144 lbs. A 5' 5" women needs to weigh between 111-156 lbs. and if you are a 5' 8" woman, you need to weigh between 122-169 lbs to be eligible to apply to the FBI.
Limitations of Height-Weight Tables
These charts may be applicable and meaningful to you if you are not too young, not too old, not too tall and not too short. The MET life charts don't apply to you if you're younger than 25 or older than 59. According to Steven B. Halls, M.D., the table results are poor for very short or very tall women, stating that "... the Met Life tables suggest impossibly low weights" for very tall women.
Traditional height and weight tables are being replaced by body mass index (BMI). As the current national standard of healthy weight, the BMI can be viewed as an instrument of control like the height and weight tables, classifying individuals in relation to an ideal.