Choosing Your Ideal Size

The Professional Choice—BMI

Health and medical professionals use the body mass index (BMI) to determine whether you are overweight or obese. The formula figures both weight and height together but doesn't take into account body fat percentage or muscle mass. You need to know your weight in pounds to use the BMI chart linked here.

If your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, you are in the healthy BMI range. If it is equal to or over 25, you are considered overweight. If it is equal to or greater than 30, you are considered obese. (If it's below 18.5, you're too skinny and need to get some meat on those bones of yours!)

If a person has lots of muscle, he or she can be well into the 25-30 BMI range and not look overweight or be at risk for health issues related to being overweight. This is because the BMI doesn't take into account that muscle weighs more than fat.

Nutritionists often modify the BMI measurements to take into account different categories of weight and size. The numbers for men are slightly higher than for women.

Women Are:
UnderweightIf BMI is less than 19.1
Ideal weight19.1 to 25.8
Marginally overweight25.9 to 27.3
Overweight27.4 to 32.2
Obese32.3 to 44.8
Extremely obesegreater than 44.8
Men Are:
UnderweightIf BMI is less than 20.7
Ideal weight20.7 to 26.4
Marginally overweight26.5 to 27.8
Overweight27.9 to 31.1
Obese31.2 to 45.4
Extremely obesegreater than 45.4

Another measurement that professionals use is the waist/hip ratio. Measure your waist at its smallest place and your hips at their widest. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. If the number is nearly 1.0 or greater, you are at greater risk for some health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancer. For a healthy weight, a woman's ratio should be less than 0.80; a man's should be less than 0.95.

Your Attainable Goal

Yes, you can determine your target ideal size in many ways. We generally recommend that your primary goal should be based on a measurable size, such as jean size, dress size, or belt size. These are measures of how you actually look—to yourself and to others.

Although we are not fond of the bathroom scale, you can consider a weight-based measure if you're so inclined. But if those daily weight fluctuations (and you will have them) cause you to suffer emotional fluctuations, too, just stay off the scale and use the fit of your clothes as your guide.

Getting your body fat percentage into a healthy range is an admirable goal, too, but you might find only limited benefit from highly precise measurements. Body fat percentage is certainly not something you should measure with great frequency. With a regular routine of moderate strength exercises, you will know your body fat percentage is decreasing. You can see—and feel—the new muscle. That's a lot more fun.

With all that said, we strongly encourage you to create your ideal size goal or goals. They are not just destinations on a journey; they are your guideposts along the way. Think of them as friends, not as enemies. Embrace them with optimism and determination. Simply assume that you will reach your goals.

Here is a place to write down your goals. We recommend that you include your desired jean size and body fat percentage as two of your weight-loss measurements.

My Weight Loss Goals:

My desired jean size __________

My desired body fat percentage __________

My desired dress or belt size __________

My desired BMI __________

My desired weight __________

My preferred weight-loss goal is __________ using the ____________________ method


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Healthy Weight Loss © 2005 by Lucy Beale and Sandy G. Couvillon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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