What Should You Weight

  • Dana Visnitchi MSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Nuria Tolosana Bachelor of Applied Science - BASc, Biomedical Sciences, General Edinburgh Napier University

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Have you ever looked at the number on the scale and wondered if that was your “ideal” weight? Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your well-being, otherwise,  this can be a risk factor for several diseases and health issues.  

There is no exact formula to determine your healthy body weight. You can have good health in different shapes and sizes, and your most suitable weight range is influenced by bone and muscle mass, health, and lifestyle. 

This article aims to highlight that overall health is not measured by body weight alone and to provide information on maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.  

What is your ideal body weight?

Your weight will fluctuate throughout your lifetime, and that is normal. Each person has a different shape, size, metabolism and life circumstances, so their “ideal” body weight will vary. A healthy weight for you is one that allows you to function properly, without causing any health issues. 

Factors influencing your weight

If you are unsure of what your weight should be, you should consult a medical expert like a registered dietitian. These experts will establish a weight range personalised to your needs, after assessing the following factors:

Remember that you should establish realistic weight goals for your body type. You might weigh the same as another person, but due to genetic, muscle, bone and height differences among others, you may not look the same. Rather than comparing yourself to others, try to accept your strengths and focus on achieving the weight that makes you feel the best. 

What is body mass index (BMI)?

Body mass index (BMI) is the most commonly used tool to assess how much body fat you should have depending on your height. Whilst plenty of online calculators give you this information, you could obtain your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters.6 The number obtained will fall into one of these categories:

  • Underweight: below 18.5
  • Healthy/Normal weight: between 18.5 and 24.9
  • Overweight: between 25 and 29.9
  • Obese: between 30 and 39.9
  • Severely obese: over 40

However, this method has several limitations6 including:

  • It does not take into consideration bone or muscle mass. Thus it cannot distinguish between lean and fat mass, so miscategorization could happen.7 
  • It does not account for your diet, physical activity, if you are taking medications or if you have any comorbidities.
  • It does not identify how fat is distributed across your body, which could be a metabolic health risk.
  • BMI could not be equally valid across different genders, age groups and ethnicities.
  • Whilst sometimes 18.5 or under is considered underweight, other times this category could be 19 or under. Consequently, this can lead to miscategorization.

Please remember that BMI is just a number, and does not determine your health.

Health risks associated with being underweight

Being underweight is a sign of health problems, especially if you suddenly start losing weight quickly.8 This could indicate potential anorexia nervosa, cancer, or malnutrition. If you are experiencing this, you should seek medical help. 

These are some health complications or increased risks you might experience as a consequence of being underweight:

Health risks associated with being overweight and obese

Being overweight and suffering from obesity can impact your health poorly,10 increasing the risk of developing the following comorbidities:

Strategies for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight

Achieving your optimal weight is a lengthy process. Achieving a healthy weight is important for overall well-being as well as for a better quality of life. Below are some tips which could help you, however, this is just informative, so if you are struggling with your weight, you should consult a specialist.  

  • Try to have a balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated sugars and fats. This does not mean you cannot occasionally consume sweet foods and snacks.
  • If you are trying to gain weight, you should focus on a nutritious diet rich in healthy fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and high in calories. On the contrary, if you want to lose weight, you need a low-calorie diet -that still meets your energy requirements-, low in carbohydrates and rich in fibre. Make sure the diet is suitable for you.
  • Try to add or remove calories from your meals progressively. This may make it easier to adapt to your new dietary pattern.
  • Exercise regularly, as it’s good for your health and energy. Find something that works for you and meets your needs. For instance, yoga could help you build muscle and increase your appetite, whilst aerobic exercises can help you lose weight. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults should do between 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity, 75-150 minutes of intense physical activity, or a combination of both, throughout the week.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking. Drinking alcohol can contribute to weight gain, whereas smoking could impact your food intake (less food while you’re smoking and more food when you’re trying to quit)1
  • Avoid any diets or supplements seen on social media, and are not recommended by a medical professional, as they could be a hazard to your health.
  • Seek medical help if you need it, and look up support groups that might help you during your journey.
  • Have realistic weight goals, and remember that each person is different. 

Summary

Your optimal weight should be the one that allows you to be healthy and function properly. Each person is different, so your healthy weight range will depend on several factors, including age, diet, physical activity,  genetics, sleep, medications and health issues. Being underweight could be an indication of an underlying comorbidity. Moreover, both being underweight and overweight or obese are associated with higher risks of several issues like malnutrition, cardiovascular problems, chronic conditions, and overall poor physical and mental well-being. If you are struggling to achieve your ideal weight you should consult a medical professional. Nonetheless, a balanced diet combined with regular exercise, both suitable to your needs, could help you improve your weight.

References

  1. Management I of M (US) S on MW. Factors that influence body weight. In: Weight Management: State of the Science and Opportunities for Military Programs [Internet]. National Academies Press (US); 2004 [cited 2024 Feb 26]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK221834/
  2. Tirthani E, Said MS, Rehman A. Genetics and obesity. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 [cited 2024 Feb 26]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK573068/
  3. Chen, Chen, et al. «Weight Change across Adulthood in Relation to All Cause and Cause Specific Mortality: Prospective Cohort Study». BMJ, octubre de 2019, p. l5584. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l5584.
  4. Booth, Frank W., et al. «Lack of Exercise Is a Major Cause of Chronic Diseases». Comprehensive Physiology, editado por Y. S. Prakash, 1.a ed., Wiley, 2012, pp. 1143-211. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1002/cphy.c110025.
  5. Hanson P, Weickert MO, Barber TM. Obesity: novel and unusual predisposing factors. Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab [Internet]. 2020 May 19 [cited 2024 Feb 26];11:2042018820922018. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7238298/
  6. Khanna, Deepesh, et al. «Body Mass Index (BMI): A Screening Tool Analysis». Cureus, febrero de 2022. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.22119.
  7. Buss J. Limitations of body mass index to assess body fat. Workplace Health Saf [Internet]. 2014 Jun [cited 2024 Feb 26];62(6):264–264. Available from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/216507991406200608
  8. Cuntz, Ulrich, et al. «Health Risk and Underweight». Nutrients, vol. 15, n.o 14, julio de 2023, p. 3262. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15143262.
  9. Golubnitschaja O, Liskova A, Koklesova L, Samec M, Biringer K, Büsselberg D, et al. Caution, “normal” BMI: health risks associated with potentially masked individual underweight—EPMA Position Paper 2021. EPMA Journal [Internet]. 2021 Sep 1 [cited 2024 Feb 26];12(3):243–64. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13167-021-00251-4
  10. Stewart, A. L., y R. H. Brook. «Effects of Being Overweight.» American Journal of Public Health, vol. 73, n.o 2, febrero de 1983, pp. 171-78. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.73.2.171.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Dana Visnitchi

MSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

I’m an early career with a degree in Neuroscience with Psychology, who is passionate about mental health, and aims to promote it to a large audience without a scientific background. I’m also interested in skincare and cardiovascular health, and always keen to expand my knowledge. I have previous experience in literature search, creating content for different audiences, and making contributions to a published research paper about Gender Dysphoria. I’m currently focused on exploring medical communications to have a significant impact on the healthcare community.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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