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WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL WEIGHT?

Updated on April 26, 2009

DID YOU KNOW?

Researchers note that "healthy" and "thin" are not the same things: Your ideal weight may not match unrealistic standards. To accept your healthy self, experts suggest that you speak of your body in a positive way, enjoy compliments, become physically active to boost your energy and self-esteem, and seek support from your loved ones.

Weight control may seem a personal matter to you, but it's also a major public health issue. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal-part of what's known as Healthy People 2010--of increasing the prevalence of healthy weight and thereby reducing the rates of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes by the year 2010. But what is a healthy weight for you? Partly, it's something you feel: Your clothes fit nicely, you're full of energy, and you have a sense of physical and emotional well-being. You'll feel those things if you're physically active and follow some basic priciples of a balanced, moderate diet.

EAT HEALTHY FOOD

HOW FOODS WEIGH IN

The Healthy People 2010 goals can largely be met if we follow the U.S. governement's guidelines for a healthy diet. These call for at least 6 servings a day of low-fat breads, cereals, rice, and pasta (preferably whole-grain varieties). Such foods are good sources of fiber, complex carbohydrates, and nutrients such as iron and folic acid. The next staple should be fruits and vegetables, which are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The federal governement recommends eating at least 5 combined servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  You should also have at least 2 servings of low-fat diary, which provides protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Good choices include skim milk, part-skim mozzarella, and nonfat yogurt. Add more protein and nutrients like iron with 2 to 3 servings of lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, or nuts.

FINDING YOUR IDEAL WEIGHT

A healthy weight for someone else might not be good for you. One way to get an idea of where you should weigh in is to determine your body mass index, or BMI, a measurement that takes into account both height and weight. The BMI is not a perfect measure, however; it doesn't indicate how much weight is fat and where the fat is located--it will give you a good idea of whether you should lose or gain weight. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered ideal. Anything below 18.5 us underweight and anything greater than 25 is overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher is classified as obese. Some exceptions to these rules include muscular athletes, who may be overweight according to the chart but who are not fat (muscle weighs more than fat); pregnant women, for whom increased weight is normal and desirable; and men and women over age 65, because values are based on data collected from younger adults (people lose height with age). To calculate your BMI, locate your height, in inches, in the left column and follow across to your weight (rounded up). Your BMI is listed at the top of the chart.

Body mass index (BMI) is a way of finding a healthy weight. The higher you BMI, the greater your risk for obesity and health problems.

What BMI Means:

BMI below 18.5: Underweight

BMI 25 to 29.9: Overweight

BMI 18.5 to 24.9: Healthy weight

BMI 30 and over: Obese

Using the BMI Chart

To figure your BMI, find your height and weight (or the numbers closest to them) on the chart below. Follow each column of numbers to where your height and weight meet on the chart. That is your BMI.

BODY MASS INDEX (BMI)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 Sometimes the challenge with weight isn't to control what you eat, but how much, especially in restuarants. Start the meal with a garden salad, but don't worry about its size: Vegetables can fill you up but are low in fat and calories, as long as you choose low-fat dressings. Keep chicken, meat, or fish portions to the size of your palm or a deck of cards. 

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