7 Steps: Understand Your Ideal Body Weight

Defining Ideal Body Weight

Your ideal body weight is the weight, shape and size that is healthiest for you. We are all unique, so “one size definitely does not fill all”. This post poses questions to help you understand your ideal body weight.

Ideal body weight

1) Is your body weight in the healthy range for you?

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a guide to help you assess your ideal body weight. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared, for example an adult who is 1.7 metres tall weighing 80kg has a BMI of:

80/(1.7×1.7) = 27.7 kg/m2

Body Mass Index Ranges

ClassificationAdults
Underweight<18.5 kg/m2
Healthy18.5–24.9 kg/m2
Overweight25–29.9 kg/m2
Obesity30 kg/m2 and above

(World Health Organisation 2000)

Another way of checking your health is by taking your waist measure.

GenderHealthyIncreased health risk
Female<80 cm> 88 cm
Male< 94 cm> 102 cm

(World Health Organisation 2000)

Question — From these guidelines and your weight history (as an adult) — is it suggested that you maintain, increase or decrease your weight?

2) Will your current motivations for eating support your ideal body weight?

For example do you eat when you are physically hungry, or do you eat due to boredom and stress?

You might like to refer to earlier blog posts on keeping a food diary to explore why, what, how and when you eat:

3) Do you have any health conditions that may be influencing your ideal body weight?

A health check with your healthcare practitioner or doctor might assist in assessing your current health requirements, and any affects your medications might be having on your body weight.

4) Do you eat the recommended serves of whole foods each day?

As suggested above, keeping a food diary is a great way of reconnecting with what you eat. Eating a good balance of whole foods is crucial to achieving and maintaining your ideal body weight. You might like to refer to earlier blog posts for guidance on the latest recommendations:

5) Are you enjoying quality sleep?

Our body weight is affected by the length and quality of our sleep. During sleep our body produces hormones and other substances that help to regulate the many functions of our body and mind. When we don’t have enough sleep our body increases the release the stress hormone cortisol. This leads to more ghrelin being released — increases our appetite — and less leptin, making us feel less satisfied after eating. A lack of sleep, in the long term, interrupts our natural appetite feedback mechanism and makes it difficult to maintain an ideal body weight.

For optimal health it is recommended that adults have 7–9 hours of sleep per night. A number of health conditions are believed to be linked to chronic sleep deprivation and include:

  • Being overweight or obese, with less than 6 hours sleep per night.
  • Increased risk for cardiovascular disease, with less than 6 hours sleep per night.
  • Increased risk of having or developing type 2 diabetes, with less than five hours sleep per night.

Other side effects of a lack of sleep include decreased immune function, reduced cognitive performance — impaired decision making and response time and memory loss — and an increase in mood swings, depression and irritability.

If you are struggling to maintain a quality sleep routine, then I suggest discussing ways to improve your sleep with your healthcare practitioner.

6) Are you taking every opportunity to move in your day?

Our bodies are designed to move. We benefit from planned and incidental exercise. Being active is a major part of sustaining your ideal body weight.

Incidental ActivityPlanned ActivityMeditative Exercise
Walk, wheel or cycle instead of the car or public transport.   Take the stairs instead of the lift. Push the stroller or pram.     Rake the leaves in the garden.Team sports.                                 Golf — walk rather than take the buggy.                                     Running or hiking club.           Gym program.Tao Chi.                                               Qi gong.                                        Yoga.                                        Walking mindfully — concentrating only on the feel of your feet as they touch the ground.

The current Australian guidelines for physical activity recommend that we do a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week, such as walking, cycling, swimming or jogging. The good news is that all of the activity we do accumulates, so you could do 10 minutes 3 times per day. Our posture and muscle strength are also important — I suggest a personalised program designed by a qualified exercise practitioner.

7) Do your emotions affect the way you eat?

Keeping a food diary allows you to discover and explore your reasons for eating. We can develop habits without realising it. Take time to understand your reasons for eating. Your ideal body weight can only be realised once you tune into what your body needs. Healthy food nourishes our body and mind, but mindless eating does little to soothe and resolve our emotions. I recommend the activities outlined in the posts below:

Seek support from qualified health practitioners. Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) and Psychologists have expertise in this area.

Ideal Body Weight: Not Just About Food

Your ideal body weight is achieved and maintained through all of your lifestyle choices — food, sleep, exercise and your emotional fitness. Restricting your food intake will not work if you are having too little sleep, or your emotions are directing your food choices.

Take time to reflect on these questions and discuss your requirements with your healthcare practitioner. You are best placed to know what suits you, but it makes sense to have the support of people who are trained to assist you in achieving your ideal body weight and good health and wellbeing.

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