In a recent New Yorker cartoon, a man says to his buddies as he chows down on a steak, “I want a woman whos not afraid to have a few extra poundsbut doesnt.”
Classic. Men can pack on pounds and still be considered sexy, but a woman has to be the perfect weight and act like she doesnt care. But hold on, just what is that healthy weight? We can help you sort it all out. Our mini-quiz and calculators will help you find the weight thats best for you.
Follow the steps below to determine a healthy goal weight for your body and lifestyleand then check out the rest of our Feel Great Weight diet and exercise plan for ways to make that number a reality.
1. Whats your BMI? How tall you are, obviously, has a lot to do with whether your weight is healthyand thats always frustrating for the vertically challenged. At, say, 150 pounds, your weights just right if youre 5 feet 8 inches tall, on the high side of normal if youre 5 feet 6 inches, considered overweight if youre 5 feet 4 inches, and near obese at 5 feet. To figure out if your weight is healthy for your height, calculate your body mass index (BMI). BMI isnt a perfect measure (see question 2 below), but its a great place to start your calculations.
Calculate your BMI
Healthy-weight bonus: The higher your BMI, the higher your risk for diabetes. But lose just 7 percent of your body weight (thats about 10 pounds for a 140-pound woman), and you can cut your risk by 60 percent.
2. Whats your build? Line up 10 women who are all 5 feet 4 inches tall or who each weigh 150 pounds, and youll quickly see why height or weight aloneor even BMIdoesnt always reflect whats healthy. The differences in muscle strength, body shape, and frame size can be astounding.
If youre muscular, your BMI can easily fall into the so-called overweight range because muscle weighs more than fat, says Steven Blair, professor of exercise at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. “By BMI classifications, most football players are obese, Arnold Schwarzenegger is obese, and Serena Williams is overweight. See other surprising celebrity BMIs. The categories of normal, overweight, and obese are useful for research but not always when it comes to the public.”
Consider your frame size, too. Insurance companies typically divide their weight charts into small-, medium-, and large-frame categories. At 5 feet 4 inches, wearing 1-inch heels, and fully clothed, whats classified as a healthy weight can range from around 115 to 150 pounds, depending upon your frame. Based on your build, you and your doctor can decide if a too-high BMI is OK for your frame or musculature or if its a sign that you need to burn some fatpronto.
Frame-size calculator: The distance between the two little bones on either side of your elbow is used to determine frame size. Hold up your arm at a 90-degree angle with your palm facing your face. Put the pointer finger of your other hand on the bone on one side and your thumb on the other. Then measure the distance between them. Frame sizes are for a women in the 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-7 range.
Distance between elbow bones:
2 2/8 inches and belowSmall frame
2 3/8 inches to 2 5/8 inchesMedium frame
2 6/8 inches and aboveLarge frame