14 December 10 Setting a Healthy Target Weight

How do you determine a healthy weight goal? Some people rely on their memory of how they felt at a specific weight, whereas others simply want to fit into a particular size of clothing or belt. In addition to knowing what weight you feel best at, there are tools to help you set weight goals that are correlated with improved health.

Body mass index or BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters (kg/m2). For example, a person 5'4" tall and weighs 140 lbs has a BMI of 24.0 kg/m2. Is that okay? For the general population, a BMI of 18.5 - 24.9 is correlated with lowest health risk. Overweight is defined as 25.0 - 29.9, obese is ? 30.0, and underweight is < 18.5. A BMI outside the lowest risk range typically means higher health risk. For an online reverse BMI calculator, check out Southern Illinois University's School of Medicine's website. You can enter your height and desired BMI to get a target weight.

BMI & White Adults
On December 2, 2010, the New England Journal of Medicine published an important study on all-cause death and BMI. The authors reviewed data from 19 studies and found that in a population of just fewer than 1.5 million white adults, including smokers, the lowest-risk BMI range is 22.5 - 24.9. However, for adults who do NOT smoke, the healthiest BMI range expanded to 20.0 - 24.9. (So smokers take note - being super skinny puts you at higher risk.)

BMI & Other Groups
There is discussion that BMI risk categories need to be adjusted for specific populations. In the future, look for more information on BMI norms for African Americans (healthy BMI range might be shifted higher) and Asian Americans and older adults (healthy range might be shifted lower). Also keep in mind that athletes with low body fat but high muscle mass will often fall above the healthy BMI range despite not being at higher risk.

Lose 10% of Your Body Weight
If you are overweight and find that reaching a BMI of 24.9 seems too daunting a goal, consider a stepwise approach to losing weight. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a realistic, achievable, and sustainable weight loss of 10% within six months, with an average weight loss of 1-2 lbs/week. This recommendation is part of the Evidence Analysis Library on Adult Weight Loss. Losing 10% of your initial body weight is enough to help you improve your risk for chronic disease, as well as manage existing chronic disease (e.g. high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes). To calculate your target weight, multiply your current weight by 0.90. Example: 210 lb initial body weight x 0.90 = 189 lb target weight. To lose an average of 1 lb (0.45 kg)/week, one would have to eat less than their total energy expenditure by about 500 calories per day. One pound of body weight is about 3500 calories. Could you do the math if you wanted to lose 0.75 lbs/week or 1.25 lbs/week?

You can use an online tracker such as MyNetDiary to discover what your personalized caloric deficit needs to be to meet your target weight by your target date. A calories deficit can be achieved by eating fewer calories, burning more calories from exercise, or a combination of both. MyNetDiary will also auto adjust your caloric goals based upon your current body weight, target weight, target date, food intake, and calories burned. So, put your calculator down and just remember to log daily.
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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