How much of a loser should I be?
December 13, 2005 7:55 PM   Subscribe

How much should I weigh?

Over the past many months, I've been losing weight thanks to an increase in physical activity and better eating habits (and a little help from Weight Watchers). I've lost about 55 pounds now, and am getting close to what I think I should be at.

I'd like to know what is a healthy weight for myself, though, to give myself a concrete goal to shoot for. Weight Watchers offers a chart which I don't think is accurate for me. It says someone of my height should weigh a maximum of 169 pounds. I have much wider shoulders than most people I see (and did when I was healthy and active previously), as well as fairly muscular legs due to the nature of the exercise I have partaken in most of my life. The group leader agreed that based on the way I look now, at 200 lbs, 169 is probably too low.

Is there anyway I can get a more personalized goal? I am planning on visiting a doctor but am worried about bothering one (I don't have a regular physician at the moment where I live) over something like "How much more weight do I need to lose?" My current plan is to go see a doctor at the health clinic at the university I attend and see if he or she can recommend anything, but if there is a way I can get a number without wasting the doctor's time, which could presumably be spent on people with more important issues, I'd like that.
posted by synecdoche to Health & Fitness (19 answers total)
Maybe you should set your target in terms of body fat percentage or some metric other than just plain weight? I don't have any helpful numbers to add to that.
posted by aubilenon at 8:10 PM on December 13, 2005

Here's what the government thinks. I'm 6-2 and lost from 236 down to 168 this year. 6-2 at 168 gives a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 21.6, which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of the Normal Weight range. (Since then, I've gained back to about 180, but I'm still ahead for the year and still in the Normal range. I plan to get back to my diet on Jan 1.)
posted by Doohickie at 8:15 PM on December 13, 2005

Body fat % is the way to do it. Most health clubs offer some way to check. Also, its a matter of personal preference. When you're happy with how you look/feel, you're good. At some point, there's a barrier to 'normal' weight loss, and I've found about 5 lbs above that is what I normally rest at (which is fine by me). You'll know when you hit that, I think. I wouldn't try going past that unless you have a specific reason to.
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:16 PM on December 13, 2005

Response by poster: The BMI gives the same results as the WW chart-- I suspect that is what their chart is based on. That said, I think the BMI standard is problematic as it doesn't take into account frame size or muscle mass at all.

I'd like to shoot for a body fat percentage, but I'd have to get that measured accurately, too, and then I am back where I started. Plus, one of the faults of the Weight Watchers system is they do go by weight, so that's the number I need to take to them to set the goal.

(See, part of the reason I need the concrete number is if I reach that goal, I can become a "Lifetime" member and then I don't have to pay.)
posted by synecdoche at 8:20 PM on December 13, 2005

I'm in the body fat crowd - I think that BMI is based on scrawny nerds (strange, though - do a survey of movie protagonists from the 50's through to the 70's and they're FAR LESS musclebound than current protagonists) rather than the conglomerated average of the American population.

(Does anyone know if BMI is cross-ethnicity or if it's mostly American-based?)

I really wish that there is a better measure of healthy weight, but the current mainstream (BMI) measurements are flawed and do not take into account non-averaged body types.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:44 PM on December 13, 2005

Get your body fat checked. Decide where you want your body fat percentage to be then figure out what your weight will be at that point. That is how I have come up with my own target weight of 140 (27 pounds away.)

I can tell you that at my present weight I take up a lot less room than I did when I weighed less but had less muscle (and more fatty tissue.)
posted by konolia at 8:47 PM on December 13, 2005

Response by poster: Does anyone know of an easy way to get my body fat checked? I did some searching and found this calculator which I combined with the exrx target weight calculator, but I am not sure how accurate they are.

I don't have any calipers or anything and as far as I know there is no nearby facility for the water dunking method.
posted by synecdoche at 9:42 PM on December 13, 2005


You can get cheap'n'cheerful plastic calipers (Accumeasure is the brand, I think) that are close enough for average joe purposes.

I'm around 13% BF as measured by various means (calipers and impedance), and a six pack is in sight, yet at 78kg and 1.74m I'm allegedly overweight according to BMI or height and weight charts. I don't care.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:46 PM on December 13, 2005

You don't need to worry about bothering a doctor. Tell him you've been losing weight because you were fairly overweight, and ask what he thinks a good goal would be for you.

Losing too much weight can be problematic, and being at a good weight for you is very important to your health. Any doctor worth his degree knows this much. That's why you're at the doctor's office, to ensure and maintain your health. You aren't wasting the doctor's time over a legitimate concern.
posted by Saydur at 9:49 PM on December 13, 2005

BMI is garbage, talk with a doctor, a physical therapist and someone that is doing exercise similar to yours. But mostly find your comfort zone. It all depends on what you value (muscle, skinny, aesthetically pleasing, healthy, triathlete, etc.) and what your goal is (and that can change). Congratulations on everything so far!
posted by jmgorman at 9:51 PM on December 13, 2005

The BMI wallchart must be taken with a grain of salt. It doesn't factor in things like lean muscle mass. It's merely a rule of thumb that the figure shown is the average healthy weight of a person of that height.

You have to keep in mind that the BMI index shows that Brad Pitt, at 6' tall and 203lbs is overweight, as is George Clooney (5'11", 211lbs, & a BMI of 29). At his fittest, Arnold Schwarzenegger clocked in with a BMI of 33, enough to make him 'Obese'.

I know you didn't sign up for the entire lecture series, so I'll just tell you what I've learned. Three years ago, I clocked in at 360lbs on a 6'2 frame. With diet and exercise, I got down close to the range I'd need to be in to have a 'proper' BMI, around 185. The thing was, I wasn't as comfortable with myself at 185 as I had been at 200. In fact, My face looked positively gaunt.

So, don't worry about the chart. If you feel better than you ever have in your whole life at 190-200, then stay there. If you feel you need to be closer to 170, then by all means keep up the great work.

Either way you go, you should be very proud of yourself for making yourself healthier!
posted by aristan at 10:35 PM on December 13, 2005

Get one of these* as a quick way to keep tabs on your BF%. Make sure you're comparing your measurements at the same time of day with the same level of hydration though. It is easier than doing the caliper test [since it is essentially standing on a scale barefoot] and probably a little more accurate.

* I don't have this exact model, but a discontinued model from Tanita.
posted by birdherder at 11:06 PM on December 13, 2005

If you don't have a regular doctor, I'm guessing that it's been a while since you've had a physical. It's probably about time. During the physical, be sure to ask what your ideal body weight is.
posted by faceonmars at 11:49 PM on December 13, 2005

You're the right weight when you look good and feel good- percentages, indexes, etc are meaningless. You'll know you're the right weight when you feel good, healthy, and don't have more than touch of flab.

Specific measurements can even be detrimental: among guys, one of the less talked about body image disorders is guys who are convinced they are too fat or not muscular enough, and can do damage striving to hit some utterly meaningless point on a scale/caliper/etc.

Oh- aristan said it well already. So, uh... seconding him.
posted by hincandenza at 1:48 AM on December 14, 2005

As a good rule of thumb: for optimal health and longevity, a man should not have more than one-half inch of skin that he can pinch near his umbilicus (belly button) and a woman should not have more than one inch. (From Eat to Live).
posted by davar at 2:09 AM on December 14, 2005

You should use Body Fat % and muscle performance. Can you do 10 pull ups? Can you run a mile in less than 7.5 minutes? Can you bench press and squat your body weight?

If these are all things you can do, then set new performance goals for yourself. 5%-15% Body Fat is a good range.
posted by ewkpates at 5:04 AM on December 14, 2005

I say talk to a good doctor. It's shouldn't be a problem because (1) obesity is a health issue and addressing obesity makes a patient less likely to have other problems later on and (2) it's an easy and probably a rewarding consultation for the doctor (imagine - talking with a patient that wants to be proactive about their health!)

When Mrs. Plinth saw her doctor last time, she prescribed her "Supersize Me". My doctor and I discussed dietary changes for me.
posted by plinth at 5:40 AM on December 14, 2005

Bother the doctor, it's his or her job. Also, consider seeing a nutritionist while you're at the student health center, most have them free of charge and they're very helpful.
posted by echo0720 at 7:31 AM on December 14, 2005

p.s. congratulations on the weight loss :)
posted by echo0720 at 7:31 AM on December 14, 2005

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