What is a healthy body weight?

A healthy body weight varies from person to person. It does not mean thinness. It is one that is appropriate for your age, gender, your genetics and one that you can maintain without constantly dieting. It is one that ensures that you have normal blood pressure, blood sugar levels and blood fat levels. Being underweight can be just as unhealthy as being overweight.

BMI (Body Mass Index) is usually used to give an indication as to where on the scale of healthy to unhealthy weight you might be. While BMI does not work for those who have a very high proportion of muscle and does not measure belly fat, it is a good indicator of health for the majority of us. A BMI above 30 indicates a greater risk for type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure & other diseases. A BMI below 18.5 typically also shows an increased risk for health problems.

Fat distribution is another way of evaluating your health. Those of us with an apple shaped fat pattering (fat around your middle) unfortunately indicates a higher risk of for many chronic diseases. For those of us with a pear shaped fat distribution pattern (fat around your bottom & thighs) indicates a lower risk for chronic disease. A useful measure is waist circumference, which gives us a better indication of belly fat. For women, a waist circumference of more than 89 cm (35 inches) and 102 cm (40 inches) for men, increases the risk for health problems. So, being a healthy weight is far more important than just for appearance, it can impact the quality of your life.

Weight loss is not as simple as calories in equals calories out. The type of foods that you choose to eat, the quantity of food you eat, how much you move during the day, the amount of sleep that you get and your stress levels, all have an effect on your body weight. The quality of the calories we consume really matters. Food impacts the way our bodies function on a biochemical level.

A significant factor affecting adult weight is the lifestyle habits we establish as children, which is why I am so passionate about creating healthy habits in childhood. As parents, we have a huge responsibility in this area, making sure our children have nutritious food options available to them, that they don’t spend too much time in front of a screen and that they have a good amount of exercise every day.

Willpower is a finite resource and unreliable as a tool to help us stay on track with our health goals. Some really effective strategies are:

· Stock only nutritious foods in your fridge and pantry, make it difficult to eat nutrient poor foods.

· As much as possible, eat only when you are hungry (not starving, as this will often lead to overeating)

· Meal planning is hugely effective in helping us to stay on track. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

· Cooking your own food

· Plan for some form of movement every day (aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity, like walking briskly, each week)

· Get sufficient sleep each night.

· Track what you eat

· Find your ‘why’ – just being thinner is not usually enough of a motivating factor. Is there another reason you want to lose weight? i.e. reducing blood pressure, playing with your children or grandchildren etc

Maintaining a healthy weight throughout our lifetime has many benefits and is worth investing time and effort into.

Nutritionist and Health Coach
Member of the Nutrition Society of New Zealand

References 1. Healthy Weight https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/healthy-weight.html

2. What Is a Healthy Weight? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/healthy-weight-basics/healthy-weight.htm

3. Why Is a Healthy Weight Important? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/

4. A healthy weight is important for your health and wellbeing. https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/food-activity-and-sleep/healthy-weight

5. Being a healthy weight. https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/food-activity-and-sleep/healthy-weight/being-healthy-weigh