The average American man weighs 189.9 pounds and is 5 feet, 9.2 inches tall. The average American woman weighs 162.9 pounds and is 5 feet, 5.3 inches tall. Are these healthy weights? One way to tell is to calculate body mass index (BMI), a reliable indicator of body fatness based on height and weight for most people. Unfortunately, many Americans have BMIs that fall within the overweight category, with average BMIs of 27.9 for men and 28.1 for women.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important because people who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for developing serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, metabolic syndrome, certain cancers, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, fatty liver disease and pregnancy complications. Being at a healthy weight can help you feel good about yourself and give you more energy so you can have a better quality of life.
So how can men and women reach a BMI that is within the “normal” or “healthy weight range”? The first step is to calculate your BMI. This can be done by dividing your weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703. A BMI of less than 18.5 is in the underweight range; 18.5 to 24.9 is normal; 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight; and 30.0 or higher is obese.
Another way to assess weight is through waist measurement. Excess fat in the abdominal area can increase health risks even more than fat located elsewhere on the body. In general, a waist circumference of greater than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women is considered an indicator for increased risk of obesity-related diseases.
Getting to a healthy weight requires a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. This may include long-term changes in diet and exercise habits in order to achieve a safe and effective weight loss of about one-half to two pounds per week. To lose weight, and keep it off, develop an eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk. Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. Select foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars. Eat enough to satisfy you without going over your daily calorie needs. Before beginning any weight-loss program, you should check with your doctor.
Try to get in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most or all days of the week. If you have not been active, start slowly to reach your exercise goal. Choose activities that you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, biking or dancing. You can build physical activity into your day by parking farther from a store’s entrance or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Regardless of your final weight loss goal, dropping just five to 10 percent of your total body weight can produce health benefits such as improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars. For more information about getting to a healthy weight, talk with your doctor or call 1-800-984-3434 for a free referral to a physician near you.