No matter their size, people are always concerned about their weight; and contrary to popular belief, these concerns are not limited to those who are overweight. Underweight people also struggle with their body mass.
On both sides of the spectrum, people can be made to feel self-conscious about their weight. This issue is not just limited to teenagers, it starts in childhood and continues all the way through adulthood.
It impacts one’s self-esteem, friendships, the way a person dresses and the way a
person treats others. Weight is a hefty issue.
As you grow older, have you noticed that most of the people you knew in your younger days have increased in size? Many believe that it is as a result of eating more, but it could be a range of other factors such as medication, hormonal changes, genetics, inactivity, failed relationships, grief and the list goes on. Very few people who were slim in their adolescence remain that way, unless they follow a strict diet and spend hours exercising to maintain their physique.
Thus, weight gain is a natural occurrence, but for some reason it is always talked about as though it is an abnormality. Body shaming causes people to experience a wide range of body image challenges and forces them to strive towards an ever elusive ‘perfect weight’. But what is the ideal weight for a person? Is it 130 pounds? Or maybe it’s 150 pounds.
The truth is, the ideal number does not exist on paper. Your ideal weight will depend on you. Two people can have the same weight, and while one may be considered obese, the other might be underweight. That’s because these determinations are made by a person’s body mass index, commonly called BMI.
This is a system used to calculate a person’s body fat based on their height and weight. For mathematics lovers, in pounds and inches the following calculation is used: [weight (lb) / height (in) / height (in)] x 703 If mathematics is not your strength, fear not, there are many online tools and apps which can be used to quickly calculate your BMI.
The results obtained from the BMI calculations are classified in four categories: Less than 18.5 = Underweight 18.5–24.9 = Normal weight 25–29.9 = Overweight 30 and above = Obese
Let’s take a close look at how variations in a person’s height affect their BMI results. Imagine three different people, Leslie, Jamie and Avery, each weigh 135 lbs but their heights differ. Each person will have a different BMI.
If Leslie is 5 feet 6 inches tall at 135 pounds, the BMI score will be 21.8 which is well within the normal weight range.
In contrast, if Jamie also weighs 135 pounds but is 6 feet 3 inches tall, the BMI will be much lower. According to the calculations, Jamie’s BMI will be 16.9 which is classified as underweight.
On the other end of the spectrum, if Avery is shorter than the other two persons at just 4 feet 10 inches, but also weighs 135 lbs, the BMI will be 28.2. This is categorised as overweight.
So, take a moment to calculate your own body mass index. Using your own weight and height where do you fall on the spectrum? If you fall within the normal weight range, kudos to you. Be sure to exercise and eat a balanced diet to maintain within this category and reduce the likelihood of contracting a non-communicable disease (NCD).
If your BMI shows that you are underweight, most people will be quick to recommend that you consume excessive amounts of flour, sweets and fried foods. Do not under any circumstances follow this advice. You will gain the weight as suggested, but you will be increasing your percentage of body fat. This type of unhealthy eating will put you on the fast track for diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and other NCDs.
Experts recommend that you use exercise to increase your weight by gaining muscle mass. So instead of building up fat in your body by poor eating habits, you should use resistance training to build muscles. This, of course, must be accompanied by appropriate eating habits. A calorie surplus diet is recommended which simply means that you should eat more calories than your body will use for energy.
For the overweight and obese, you should seek to decrease your weight. Carrying excess weight can impede the functions of certain organs and the risk of developing diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and hypertension increases exponentially. This will require a change in eating habits and one’s exercise routine.
Based on your current weight and the corresponding BMI, choose a target BMI score within your normal range. Then, use your calculator to determine your target weight and work towards achieving and maintaining it.
Remember, everyone’s body type and body shape is different. So, don’t fear the numbers on the scale, instead learn how to use what these numbers mean to keep yourself in good health.