Your first step to find out if you are at a healthy weight is to find out what your BMI, or body mass index, is and what your waist size is. For most people, these are good clues to whether they are at a healthy weight.
What's your BMI?
A healthy weight is one that is right for your body type and height and is based on your body mass index (BMI) and the size of your waist (waist circumference). If you are age 20 or older, use the Interactive Tool: Is Your BMI Increasing Your Health Risks? to check your BMI when you know your height in feet, weight in pounds, and waist circumference.
- If your BMI is less than 18.5, you are in the underweight category. Talk to your doctor to find out if your weight is a symptom of a medical problem. A registered dietitian can help you learn about healthy eating.
- If your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, you are in the recommended weight range for your height. But your health may still be at risk if you are not getting regular physical activity and practicing healthy eating.
- If your BMI is 25 to 29.9, you are in the overweight category. This may or may not be unhealthy, depending on some other things, like your waist size and other health problems you may have.
- If your BMI is 30 or higher, you're in the obese category. You may need to lose weight and change your eating and activity habits to get healthy and stay healthy. See the topic Obesity.
If you are Asian, your recommended weight range may be lower. Talk to your doctor.
It's important to remember that your BMI is only one measure of your health. A person who is not at a "normal" weight according to BMI charts may be healthy if he or she has healthy eating habits and exercises regularly. People who are thin but don't exercise or eat nutritious foods aren't necessarily healthy just because they are thin.
What's your waist size?
After you know your BMI, it's time to look at your waist size.
Measuring your waist can help you find out how much fat you have stored around your belly. People who are "apple-shaped" and store fat around their belly are more likely to develop weight-related diseases than people who are "pear-shaped" and store most of their fat around their hips. Diseases that are related to weight include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Measure your waist size with a tape measure. The tape should fit snugly but not press into your skin.
For most people, the goal for a healthy waist is:1
- Less than 40 in. (102 cm) for men.
- Less than 35 in. (88 cm) for women.
If you are Asian, the goal for a healthy waist is:
- Less than 36 in. (91 cm) for men.
- Less than 32 in. (81 cm) for women.
|If you are ...||Then ...|
In the underweight range on the BMI chart:
See your doctor to find out if you have a medical problem that is causing your low weight.
Within the recommended BMI range and your waist size is within the recommendations:
Your weight is not a problem for your health.
At or above the recommended BMI range and your waist size is higher than recommended:
See your doctor to find out if you have health problems that might be related to your weight.
You may need to change your eating habits and get more active.
In the overweight category on the BMI chart but your waist size is within the recommendations:
Your weight may be right for you. But you need to see your doctor to find out if you have health problems that might be related to your weight.
In the obese category on the BMI chart, no matter what your waist measurement is:
You may need to lose weight to be healthier, as well as change your eating and activity habits.
Your doctor may want to take another measurement, called a waist-to-hip ratio. This measurement is a comparison of your waist size to your hip size. A higher waist-to-hip ratio means that you are more "apple-shaped" than "pear-shaped" and therefore at a higher risk for weight-related disease.
Body fat testing is sometimes used to help find out if a person has a healthy percentage of body fat.
Do you have other health problems?
If you are in the overweight or obese category and your waist size is too high, it's important to talk to your doctor about weight-related health problems you may have, including:
- High cholesterol.
- Heart disease.
- High blood pressure.
- Sleep apnea.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Metabolic syndrome.
- Some forms of cancer, such as colon, breast, and prostate cancers.
If you have two or more of these health problems, your doctor may advise you to make some lifestyle changes and/or lose weight. He or she may also refer you to a dietitian, an expert in healthy eating.
Are you unhappy with your weight?
If you're at a healthy weight but are still unhappy with your weight, you're not alone. Lots of people are.
It can be hard to be satisfied with how you look when TV and magazines show unrealistic images of what it means to be thin. Here are some things to think about:
- There is no "ideal" body shape or body size. We let society tell us what "ideal" means. But the way a skinny model looks in a magazine or TV ad is not normal or "ideal."
- Do you feel good and have plenty of energy? Can you do the activities you want to do? That's what healthy living is all about, no matter what your weight is.
- Trying to lose weight when you don't have to can actually be bad for you. Most people who diet end up gaining back the pounds they lost—and more.