Many people will go on a diet because they think they are fat – the question is, relative to what? The model on the cover of the fashion magazine? The tall, slender celebrities in their body-clinging Oscar night gowns? These media images of skinny, beautiful women often set unrealistic expectations of what our ideal weight should be. Not everyone can look like Julia Roberts or Kate Moss, and it isn’t because we can’t say no to French fries.
There are two major factors to consider when looking at weight. The first is body type and the second is body mass index (BMI).
- Body type is the physical characteristics and overall shape of your body. This is genetic, and no amount of diet and exercise can drastically change it, enhance it, perhaps, but not violate the laws of Mother Nature.
- Body mass index is the ratio of your weight and height, and calculates the total amount of body fat.
Weight and Body Type
There are three categories of body types: endomorphs (curvy), ectomorphs (slim), and mesomorphs (muscular). Most people are a combination of two or three, and the possible permutations have led to the Richman Classification Method which has 45 categories. But in general:
- Ectomorphs are naturally tall and slender, and actually have a hard time gaining weight. Since their body fat is usually low, their muscle and bone lines can sometimes be visible. Their delicate frame, narrow pelvis and hips, and willowy-thin limbs make them the darling of the modeling ramp and the envy of anyone who ever hears them say that they eat like a horse but still don’t gain a pound.
- Endomorphs usually have big bones, a round face, and a pear shape. Unfortunately, this body type has the capacity for high fat storage (Mother Nature isn’t always fair), so they tend to gain weight more easily. Most of the fat is concentrated in the middle to lower half of the body. Men endomorphs tend to collect fat around their waist, while female endomorphs will have problems with their buttocks and thighs. While endomorphs may have more problems controlling their weight (think Oprah Winfrey) the good news is that once you do, you have the body of a goddess. Soft curves, rounded shoulders, hourglass figure. Marilyn Monroe was an endomorph, and her voluptuous and sensual appeal sent the world swooning.
- Mesomorphs have broad shoulders, narrow waist, naturally large muscles and a really fast metabolism. They be stocky, but unlike endomorphs, the weight tends to be evenly distributed across the entire
Weight and Body Mass Index
Body Mass Index (BMI) helps you give a quick assessment of whether or not you are in a healthy weight range. You can calculate it by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. Compare this number against the following chart:
- Healthy weight: 19 to 24.9 BMI
- Overweight: 25 to 29.9 BMI
- Obese: 30.0 or higher BMI
- Seriously Obese: 40.0 or higher BMI
If you are overweight, you are at risk of cancer, heart disease and other health problems. Some studies show that the risk begins at a BMI of 21 or 22 and this does reflect the initial consideration of health organizations to set the ceiling for healthy weight at 20. However, when statistics showed that this would label the majority of the world population as overweight, researchers decided to adjust the BMI range to reflect the global average. So even if your BMI falls within the official category of healthy weight, you still need to be careful.
If you have a BMI of 30 or above, you are considered obese and should immediately start on a health and fitness program. Obesity has been strongly liked to cancer, heart disease, and a host of other health problems. In fact, some studies show that a BMI of 30 or higher increases your risk of death from any cause by 50% to 150%.
Limitations of the Body Mass Index
While BMI is a quick way of gauging whether or not your weight falls within a healthy range, the formula does have its limitations. It looks at total body mass, and doesn’t consider whether the pounds come from muscle or fat. Consider professional wrestlers, whose BMIs are off the charts, but are nevertheless some of the fittest athletes in the world.
Your BMI could also be healthy even if you are not. You could be leading a sedentary lifestyle, and have a lot of flab from lack of exercise. Or you could have such poor dietary habits, living entirely off cigarettes and potato chips, that you are at greater risk for cancer or heart disease than people with a higher BMI.