Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And different body weights look fabulous or horrendous on different people due to each person’s own body composition. That being said, how can we find our “ideal” body weight? Moreover, what do we do once we have obtained our ‘dream physique’? In this blog post, I’ll be giving you some advice on how you can find your ideal body weight, how to get there, and what to do once you’ve achieved it. A part of this will require you to do some math, so keep your calculators on deck.
Finding Our Ideal Body Weight
The Intuitive Approach
Finding one’s “ideal” body weight is rather problematic to begin with. In the most simplistic and most intuitive sense of this phrase, someone’s ideal body weight shouldn’t be measured by the scale, it should be measured by their happiness, joy, comfortability, and confidence. In essence, the ideal body weight should come from within. That is why I love the idea of holistic health, because numbers, while nice, cannot tell us everything. With this in mind, I want you to take some time and reflect on these questions:
- Are you happy when you look at yourself in the mirror?
- When you step on the scale, is it an acceptable number staring back at you?
- Do you have confidence to wear those “tight” pants or shirts, or do they make you look “fat?”
- Are you always hungry no matter how often you eat?
- Are you healthy enough where you can perform basic exercise, like climbing a flight of stairs or walking a mile or two (2300-5000 steps) wouldn’t really cause that much fatigue?
If you’re answering ‘yes’ to these questions, then perhaps you’ve already found your ideal body weight and should just do your best to maintain it. If you’re answering ‘no’ or just want a number to help you determine a finish-line to your diet, then perhaps you need to gain weight or lose weight accordingly and that is where this next advice can help.
The Scientific Approach
As a holistic health coach in training, I’ve been taught the Hamwi Equation. Developed by Dr. GJ Hamwi in 1964, this is used to find our ideal body weight. It goes something like this…
- Women: 100 pounds + 5 pounds for each inch above five feet and – 5 pounds for each inch below five feet.
- Men: 106 pounds + 6 pounds for each inch above five feet and – 6 pounds for each inch below five feet.
Let’s put this equation into action, using myself as an example. I am 185 centimeters, or 6 feet 1 inch. According to this equation, my ideal weight would be 106 + (6 x 13) = 184 pounds. This would be around 83.4 kg. The leanest that I have ever been 84.9 kg was when I was around 7-8% body fat. Reaching my ‘ideal’ weight would mean that I’ve hit 5% body fat, and to be honest, walking around with 5% body fat is not ideal for many people. That is why it is also important to note that being within 10% of this number is considered acceptable because of different body frames and body compositions. That being said, my ideal weight is really more like a range 184 – 202.4 (83.4 kg – 91.8 kg).
This range I would consider to be an ideal body weight for me, considering my most recent body transformation. I will show pictures below showing myself at around 96 kg (an unhealthy body weight), and then in ranges that are healthy.
As you can see, when I was 85 kg in December, my abs were very visible. I was shredded and walking around with 7% body fat. At 89 kg in the middle of September, they are quite visible as well, and what I would consider to be an easily maintainable physique at around 12% body fat. My abs first started getting noticeably visible when I hit that 15% mark, or what the Hamwi method range thought would be an ideal body weight for me. As we look to January’s picture, though, you’ll notice that I still had abs, they just weren’t as noticeable. Also, I just had quite a large stomach. It stretched out past my chest. While I wasn’t morbidly obese at this point, this was too fat to be considered ‘ideal.’
And while the December photo was great, and I had some amazing photoshoots with that physique in the gym, it is hard to maintain that level of leanness all year round, sleep quality suffers, and so an ‘ideal’ weight for myself is closer to that 10-12% range. This also happens to be the best range for growing muscle (10-15%) because your body has more fat reserves to work off of. That is why I am currently trying to gain a little more weight in order to keep a healthy weight for me. I want to gain more muscle, yet not necessarily more fat, although I know that it is a part of the process.
Whatever method you use to find your “ideal” body weight, the next few pieces of advice that I’m going to go through will help you in obtaining that goal whether that is to gain weight, lose weight, or just do an overall body recomposition (turn fat into muscle).
The Lazy Method
This is another method that some people use. It is much more simplistic. To calculate your lean body mass (that is the weight you would be at, assuming you had around 5% body fat), just simply take your height in centimeters and use that number in pounds. For me, this is spot on accurate. I am approximately 185 centimeters, so my ideal weight is 185 pounds. This echoes very closely the Hamwi method and can be an alternative, easy method to use. Again, this is what is considered ‘ideal’, not what is practical. I cannot stress this enough. While it may be awesome showing off 5% or single-digit body fat to friends and impressing people over on Instagram with it, it really isn’t ideal in the quality of life you live due to sleep deprivation and the constant mental struggle one has staying that lean.
The Last Resort
You can also calculate your “ideal body weight” using the body mass index, but I really think this is the worst method you can use. Why? Firstly, it is literally just weight divided by height squared, so it doesn’t take into account sex, bone structure, fat distribution, muscle mass, all things that are relatively important when determining a ‘healthy’ body weight. According to the BMI, I am obese, yet I have a six-pack. How does that work? It doesn’t. That is why I would trust the BMI calculator as much as I would trust my cats to guard my apartment. If you want access to this online calculator, you can access it here.
Tips to Reach Your Ideal Weight
#1 Weigh Yourself Daily
I cannot say this enough to my clients and friends who want to do something about their physique. To see results, you have to be tracking what you do. Without doing so, it’s like trying to drive to a destination without having a map or GPS on hand. It’s nearly impossible.
I mentioned above how you should really worry about numbers, but that is only once you’ve found your ideal body weight or achieved your goal. You should be considered about numbers throughout the process, as they’ll serve as a good indicator of whether or not you’re making progress. I didn’t see the success in my own weight loss / weight gain journey until monitoring myself daily.
Many individuals only weigh themselves sporadically. Some as often as once a week and some as infrequent as a random Tuesday, Friday, or every other month. This method can be demotivating for some people who eat clean all week only to see the weight go up on the scale. They then ask themselves, what is the point of this and give up. It isn’t you, though. It isn’t you, though, it is the fact that our weight constantly fluctuates. To show this, take a look at the picture below. Look at how much my weight fluctuated from 8/16-8/20. The range was 193 pounds to 200 pounds. That is crazy. The week after was more consistent but there was still an outlier of 198.8 pounds, compared to the other range around 194. When taking weight daily, be on the lookout for these outliers and remove them from your data to get the best results.
Why such weight fluctuations?
Sodium. Glucose. And just the volume of food in my stomach, too. Within three days, my body had pissed out all the sodium and my weight was relatively normal.
I put this example in here to relate with individuals who may have noticed something similar. It is nothing to be alarmed about when the weight goes up, and it’s nothing to be proud of when the weight goes down. Often after a night of drinking, our weight goes down on the scales and that is because our bodies are so dehydrated. This isn’t healthy.
To truly have accurate and consistent data, we should be checking our weight daily. For the most accurate results, it should be first thing in the morning, after you go to the bathroom. What you will want to do is write that number down and do that for the whole week, or for at least five days. Then you will take the average of that number and that is your weight. Do the same thing the next week, weighing yourself in the morning, after the bathroom, at the same time and then averaging the weight.
What did you notice? Did the weight go up or down? If it went down, fantastic, you are getting leaner! If it went up, oops, you ate a little too much this week, try to eat less this week. Or, if your goal is to gain weight, like mine, then that’s fantastic. Weighing yourself consistently in this manner will give you a very good indication of if you are eating too little or too much to achieve your “ideal” weight.
Remember, though, that weight is just a number. A good number to aim for is to lose no more than 1% of your body weight each week. For a two-hundred-pound individual, that means if they lost two pounds in a week, that would be enough. More than enough to be honest. Imagine losing two pounds a week for two months, that is sixteen pounds. Most likely, that is going to be more than sufficient for most people to fall into their ideal weight category. Patience and consistency are the key. After all, you will want to keep your ideal body for the rest of your life, so make sure you adopt habits and lifestyle changes that you can keep for the rest of your life, too, so that you don’t gain the weight back.
#2 Take Progress Pictures
This leads me to tip number 2. Take progress pictures. Like the first way I told you to measure your ‘ideal’ weight, this is more intuitive, but it is still beneficial, nonetheless. Taking pictures of yourself on a weekly or monthly basis will give you a timestamp to measure your progress. As I said before, just because the scale goes up, doesn’t mean you are necessarily getting fatter. People whose goal is body recomposition will be adding muscle while losing fat, and so while the number on the scale might go up, their actual body size may decrease because muscle is denser than fat, meaning it takes up less space on the body.
Unlike weighing yourself daily, progress pictures don’t have to be so frequent. I would recommend maximum being once a week after you calculate your weekly average, and a minimum of once per month. In taking pictures, make sure that you take them the same way every time. I would recommend not flexing for some of them and just being relaxed and then others flexing to show muscles in the arms and back and legs or wherever you are trying to train and get better development in.
This will also increase your satisfaction at the end of your weight loss / weight gain journey as you look back on how far you’ve progressed. (It will also make for a great Instagram post once you hit your ideal weight. 😉 )
#3 Calculate Body Composition
Knowing your body composition is a little different from just weighing yourself. To do this, you will need to buy a scale that can track things like muscle mass, fat, water, heart rate, etc. Or you can also go to a gym that may have a more accurate one. Emphasis there on “more accurate.”
I get my body composition done every month to see progress in terms of fat loss and muscle gain. While this isn’t necessary because I take progress pictures and I record my sets and reps in the gym, I do it because it’s become a habit of mine. As I mentioned before, I don’t really care about the number on the scale. What I care about is the body fat percentage and muscle mass. Are either of these numbers going up or down in the way I want? If yes, awesome. If not, why not? What did I do differently?
This method is on par with BMI and probably one of the worst ways you could track progress, as scales are known to be very inaccurate. Just as the smart watch on your wrist probably doesn’t do an accurate job of tracking calories burned (some watches can be as inaccurate as 90%). But if you take this measurement at the same gym, using the same machine, at around the same time of day every month (at the beginning or end, while not on period for women), you are going to get more consistently inaccurate results. The same goes for the smart watch.
At the end of the day, do not drive yourself crazy over those numbers. As I’ve already discussed, holistic health is more than just numbers or food on the plate. It’s how we feel, so make sure you are tracking your progress, which leads me to my next tip.
#4 Track Gym Progress
While the scale may be going up, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I could be gaining muscle. To accurately assess if I’m gaining muscle, I’ve done a few things with my training protocol. First, I don’t switch up exercises for “variation.” This, at the end of the day, doesn’t really matter. I have five different workouts that provide me plenty of variation and I perform them on the same days every week (well, I try to, anyway). My current split looks like this: Pull / Legs / Push / Rest Day / Pull / Push / Rest Day. I do the three on, one off, two on, one off method in order to give my body proper time to recover and I space my push and push workouts far enough apart in order to give my body time to recover.
To track my progress with each of these routines, I use the app “Strong,” which is probably the best fitness tracking app that I have. I then try every week to do more than I did last week, even if that is just one more rep. And if I even hit one more total rep than last week, I know I got stronger. This is the truest method for me to gauge my results in the gym and whether I am making strides towards achieving my ideal body weight.
#5 Make Healthier Choices
Whether your goal is weight loss or weight gain, it really just does come down to the calories you consume. And while you may not want to track your calories, that is perfectly acceptable if you are following the aforementioned methods above. And if you don’t want to track calories or weigh out food because that will drive you crazy and you don’t want to feel like an accountant, then simply just make choices based upon your goals. For a list of ways you can do this, make sure you read one of my earlier articles this month about diet resolutions. Doing those four things will help you lose weight.
What Happens After?
If you’ve hit your fitness goal, take a picture. Look at yourself in the mirror. Assess. Are you truly happy with this physique, or do you want to take it further? Do you want to gain more muscle? Do you want to lose even more fat? Whatever that answer is, then take steps to achieve it within reason. There is a reason why bodybuilding is one of the deadliest sports out there and that is because many people develop eating disorders when they try to diet. Bodybuilders get down to 5% body fat and then gain it all back on the off-season because it isn’t an ideal bodyweight to keep.
Just because you got the body you achieved doesn’t mean it’s time to binge everything back. While you should certainly celebrate reaching your ideal bodyweight, you should have reached it at a slow enough pace where your diet and lifestyle really weren’t affected at all. People who go on crash diets and try to lose weight in the quickest amount of time are those individuals who rebound and gain their weight back. This is because most people think it is a marathon to lose weight and when we lose weight at such an extreme rate so fast, we are not only losing fat, but losing muscle as well. If we did two workouts a day and ate in a caloric-restricted window to achieve our ideal physique, what happens when we don’t do that anymore? We gain weight, of course. That is why 95% of diets fail!
This is a staggering statistic, and it is one of the reasons why I always preach in Life’s Kitchen, don’t live a diet, live a lifestyle. Yes, Keto will get you results, but can you maintain ketosis in the long run? Do you like intermittent fasting? If the answer is yes, great, do it to it, but the best diet is the most sustainable diet for you, and the one that feels least restrictive. By making this a part of your lifestyle, you will have a greater chance of success in hitting your goals and keeping the weight off once you complete your diet phase.
So, whatever you did to achieve your desired physique, continue to do that. The activity level that you had, keep it up. The diet that you had been doing, continue it. Your workout regime, keep it the same. And, most of all, continue tracking your progress. If you are finding that you are gaining weight or continuing to lose weight to an unhealthy extent, then take corrective action. By making things become part of your lifestyle, you will find success even after the dieting is done.
At the end of the day, there are many ways to find your ideal bodyweight. Whether it is the Hamwi method or the more intuitive method of measuring your joy, happiness, and satisfaction with your overall body, you can achieve your ideal body weight, but never let your fitness journey become dangerous or ruin your sleep. Practice patience in weight loss and weight gain and simply make the small changes that will compound to the results that you desire.