How much weight should I lose?
January 19, 2009 4:17 AM   Subscribe

How do I figure out my ideal body weight?

I'm 5'7, 185 lbs and losing weight (started at 200lbs), but I can't figure out how much I need to lose.

I've been reading about the Metlife charts, and apparently they give distorted weights for anyone over 5'5. The BMI seems to be the only other indicator of ideal weight that I can find, but it doesn't take frame size into consideration.

I'm big boned, so I don't think the BMI is completely fair to me. I know a lot of overweight people say this, but honestly, when I was around 145 lbs, people were always remarking on how bony I was.

Also, I work out every day, so can I add or pound or two for muscle?

I've been measuring my waist, too (35 inches), but I really think a weight goal would help.
posted by giggleknickers to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think you need to be a lot less analytical. No chart or scale in the world will give the perfect body weight for you.

As for a goal, try setting yourself short-term goals, not just one big one. Maybe do it 10lb at a time. At the end of each loss, assess how happy you are with your body shape, and (to lessen the effect of any distortions you might be imposing) ask a good friend for an honest second opinion.

It's much more important that you're happy when you look at yourself in a mirror (or run up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath) than it is to be at point (x,y) on a chart. The chart is just an indicator of where you sit against some hypotherical 'average' person.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:48 AM on January 19, 2009

See if there are any gyms around who can do body composition measurements for you. Working on getting your body fat percentage down and muscle percentage up is a healthier numerical goal than weight alone. If you fixate on a scale number and lose muscle mass, you'll be a lot worse off metabolically than if you never bothered.

Do you do strength training as well as cardio? The more muscle you have the better! It might be wise to take a day off, too: overtraining can really screw you up by spiking your cortisol and kicking off a cascade of hormonal imbalances. Losing weight is very taxing on your system anyway...don't forget your multivitamin/multimineral and do what you can to get your protein content up. I don't eat red meat at all, but manage quite well on whey powder, (Muscle Milk FTW!) soy, eggs, peanuts, and tuna.

Good luck and congrats--hope this helps!
posted by aquafortis at 4:58 AM on January 19, 2009

Based on BMI you need to get down to 159lbs to be in the normal range, unless you are Asian, in which case you should probably aim for 150lbs. The WHO now suggest that 23 is the upper cut-off for normal BMI in Asians.
posted by roofus at 5:08 AM on January 19, 2009

Thanks for the responses!

I really want to have a weight goal for psychological reasons. I just need to feel like I'm progressing towards something.

I do strength training as well as cardio, and solve the problem of overtraining by working out a different muscle group each day.

I do take very good care of my health. The only unhealthy habit I've had is the very low calorie diets I used to go on which caused me to go up to this weight, but I will NEVER do that again.
posted by giggleknickers at 5:23 AM on January 19, 2009

Just say 155 and when you get there, re-evaluate based on body composition (fat %, muscle %, etc).
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:50 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm almost your height (5'6'') and started out your weight. Recently I've been losing it. I weight lift a lot, I'm big-framed, and I'm aiming for 155. When I get there, I'm going to re-evaluate.

Another way to aim is waist size. Is there a particular clothing size you were happy wearing? Look up the approximate dimensions of that size and aim for that number of inches around your waist.

(Also, the problem with body fat measurements is that unless you are going for something high-tech like a DEXA scan, BodPod, hydrostatic, etc the measurements are terribly inaccurate. Like, off by many, many percentage points inaccurate. Calipers and bioimpedence--the kind where you stand on a scale and it measures the percentage--are not going to give you any kind of precision.)
posted by schroedinger at 5:59 AM on January 19, 2009

"Even if you were big-boned, it wouldn't mean much on the scale. Experts say frame size -- whether you're big-boned or were born uber-petite -- doesn't make much of a difference when it comes to weight. Usually, it only affects the number on the scale by 10 or so pounds."
posted by iviken at 6:43 AM on January 19, 2009

If anyone is interested, you can get DEXA scans, air displacement plethysmography pod tests, and even full-body MRI scans at Columbia University's Metabolic Medical Center, either as a paid research subject or for a fee.

I did everything but the hydrostatic water tank test (which they also have) as a healthy control, and it was very cool and informative. I'm not sure if they're recruiting now, but new studies always come along.

Columbia Metabolic Medical Center

Here's a link to check for research study openings:

clinical research studies at Columbia and New York Presbyterian
posted by aquafortis at 7:15 AM on January 19, 2009

I'm not some big BMI fan or anything, but I'm not sure there's any reason for you to object to using it based on frame size. You said you're bony at 145, but according the BMI 145 is healthy (so when you look skinny, the BMI says you are skinny). Unless you mean you look emaciated at 145 I would just use BMI.

I think your BMI weight is supposed to include the weight of your muscle, so no. If you prefer try tracking your body-fat and have a body-fat goal instead.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:15 AM on January 19, 2009

I agree that if you just want to have something to go for as a goal, aim for 10- to 15-pound increments. It's kind of dorky, but I measure my weight loss goals in terms of the UFC's weight classes. (Never mind that I'm female and my "welterweight" does not actually put me in the same class as Georges St-Pierre.)

Another way to think about your ideal weight is in terms of the weight that you can comfortably stay at and be able to, say, run a 5k or deadlift your weight or insert-fitness-accomplishment-here, but also be able to eat a Big Mac every now and then without worrying. It might be possible for you to get down to, say, 120, but it might involve eating nothing but soup and being miserable; on the other hand, if you can get to 160 and maintain it easily, and feel good about yourself and what your body can do, then that's a much better weight for you.

Sometimes when people say "ideal weight" they mean "the weight where my thighs won't touch and I can shop at Forever 21," so make sure you're not falling into that line of thinking - it sounds like you aren't.

Good luck and keep on keepin' on!
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:16 AM on January 19, 2009

Whoops, my link to the Columbia Metabolic Lab is wrong (though the program in South Carolina sounds good too)! The Columbia University program is the Medical Weight Control Center.
posted by aquafortis at 7:22 AM on January 19, 2009

Though the BMI chart doesn't explicitly lay out different target values for people with different frames, it accounts for the petite vs. big-boned folks by giving you a range of healthy weights for your height. If you honestly think you are big-boned, then shoot for the high end of the healthy BMI range for your height. If you were built more like a bird, I'd say shoot for the low end of the healthy BMI range.
posted by vytae at 7:48 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Congratulations on losing weight. I hope my comments here might be helpful. My approach doesn't really follow any guidelines I'm aware of.

A couple of years ago I looked at some charts, asked around, etc. but found what was most important was just consistency with exercise and developing a better diet. I was already well into a year of nearly daily exercise and not entirely aware of the weight I was losing. I liked the idea of becoming "lighter" since many of my activities and exercise requires lifting, shifting my own body weight.

I began noting the next 5 pound marker below where I was weighing in. So I weighed 183, I'd go for 180... right now I'm 168(ish) and I'm going for 165. The goals are more incremental this way, more attainable. If I go above, beyond that 5 pound marker I realize the past few days I've had too much Ben and Jerry's Karamel Sutra (omg) and try to cut that out. If I'm feeling really aggressive about going below that 5pound mark, or if I'm just a pound or two away... I can just eat bananas and carrots for a day.

I've never articulated what I've been doing so I hope that's sort of clear. You can MeFi mail me and I'll clarify or explain more.
posted by uhom at 8:03 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I actually hadn't noticed that the "healthy weight range" on the BMI chart was so wide. I guess that upper end of it was meant for people like me.

That article about how much extra weight a large frame adds on was very informative! Though, I'm surprised it said that a large frame adds "only" ten extra pounds. Ten extra pounds is a lot! Anyway it's really nice to know how that adjusts the scale.

I think I'll be going for 155 lbs, and then maybe I'll re-evaluate and/or ease up a bit to slow down the weight loss.

Thank you, everyone!
posted by giggleknickers at 8:27 AM on January 19, 2009

The article about the ten extra pounds was also from the freaking Tyra Banks show. I'm not sure I'd base major health decisions on that source.

From an even less reliable source (a stranger on the Internet), but since you asked: if you need a goal to progress toward, why not set performance goals rather than weight goals? As you get more and more fit, measured by what you can do, your weight will take care of itself.

I think it's reasonable to say that if you can (pick one: run a 10k, bike 30 miles, swim a mile) that you're in damn fine shape and your body size is just what it ought to be. If you still feel like you need to be challenged, challenge yourself to do them faster, or become a triathlete and do 'em all in one day. Then if someone gives you flack about your weight or your dress size you'll be fit enough to kick their ass but good. ;)

Weight statistics describe populations, which apply to most but not all individuals. Lots of people generate so much anxiety about the number on the scale, which is probably the least important measure of health and fitness (though the easiest to measure).
posted by Sublimity at 4:07 PM on January 19, 2009

Just promoting what 0xFCAF said. You want a number to shoot for, a goal. So pick one, get there.

At that point, I think you'll be able to decide if you need to drop pounds or inches, or just work to stay where you are.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:16 PM on January 19, 2009

I don't look bad, and I'm a woman who is 5'5" and 180 lbs. Then again, I'm also muscular. Look at your waist-hip ratio; it's a better indicator of health than weight. Also, calculate your body fat percentage.
posted by kldickson at 7:18 AM on February 5, 2009

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