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What Is A Healthy Weight?

Setting your mood for the day by the number you see when you step on the scales is no way to live your life, but there is undoubtedly a happy medium between obsessing over every last gram and ignoring your weight entirely.

The reason the latter is an especially bad idea is that the UK has an obesity problem, with 62% of adults classed as overweight or obese based on their BMI, and rising rates of childhood obesity as well. There isn’t any real sign of those numbers coming down either, despite the health risks associated with being overweight, which include an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

To avoid those increased risks you don’t have to hit an exact weight or BMI score – you just have to fall in the healthy range, which is encouragingly broad as you’ll see below. When you are checking your weight, BMI or body fat percentage it’s also worth remembering that these things do fluctuate, so it’s best to focus on your long-term trends rather than despairing or celebrating after a single measurement.

Below you’ll find three different ways to judge whether you are a healthy weight. If you are, then excellent, but if you aren’t don’t start panicking. We have lots of ways to help you shift a few kilos in a healthy and enjoyable (yes, really) way, starting with these 26 expert weight-loss tips.

What Is A Healthy Weight?

There are three main ways to determine whether or not you are a healthy weight, but none of them are perfect. That said, if you have a decent handle on all three, you’ll be able to make a sensible call.

1. BMI

Body mass index (BMI) has long been established as the go-to option for public health bodies. BMI provides a simple score based on your height, weight, age and gender, which then classifies you in one of five brackets – underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese or very obese.

There are some problems with using BMI as the only indicator of whether you are a healthy weight, but it is undoubtedly a useful measurement, so is a good starting point when looking to see if your own weight is in the healthy range. Head to the Healthy Weight Calculator on the NHS website and put in your details to get your own BMI score.

A BMI of anywhere between 18.5 and 25 is considered in the healthy range. Below 18.5 is underweight, 25 to 30 is overweight, 30 to 40 is obese and above 40 is very or morbidly obese.

The main issue with BMI is that it doesn’t consider what the weight is made up of – i.e. fat or muscle – so you can be classed as overweight when actually you’re a muscle-bound Adonis. If that is the case, however, you’ll probably be able to hazard a guess at whether you’re in decent shape regardless of what your BMI says.

2. Body fat percentage

To counter this issue with BMI you can also measure your body fat percentage, which will make it clear if the weight you’re carrying is due to bulging biceps or a beer belly. Body fat percentage can be measured with callipers or smart scales at home or, for a far more precise (and expensive) measurement, you can get a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) measurement.

If using smart scales in particular, be aware that the measurements can vary wildly over the course of even just a few minutes, so it’s best to always use these scales at a specific time of day to identify trends in your body fat over time rather than worrying over a one-off figure.

What’s considered a healthy body fat percentage varies by age and gender, and you’ll often also find different brackets for what’s considered normal in different places. The NHS doesn’t have guidelines for body fat percentage, partly because it is difficult for people to accurately measure themselves, especially when compared to BMI.

The below table comes from the American Council on Exercise. It doesn’t take into account age (if you are older it’s normal to have a higher body fat percentage), but can be used as a general guide to see what is classed as a healthy body fat percentage.

Men Women
Essential 2-5% 10-13%
Very lean 6-13% 14-20%
Lean 14-17% 21-25%
Normal 18-22% 26-31%
Overweight 23-29% 32-39%
Obese 30% or more 40% or more

3. Waist-to-height ratio

There is another easy way to measure whether you are a healthy weight that will also give a good indication of whether you are carrying too much fat. This is your waist-to-height ratio (WHtR). If this is over 0.5 you are at an increased risk of health problems.

To measure your WHtR grab a piece of string and use it to measure your height. Then fold the string in half and wrap it around your waist halfway between your hip bone and your lowest rib (don’t breathe in). If the halved string isn’t long enough to go around your waist, your ratio is over 0.5 and needs some attention.

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