There’s a lot of talk these days about not just finding a healthy weight, but finding your “happy weight.” If you’ve spent most of your life falling at various places along the weight spectrum, this concept might seem a bit too abstract to be helpful.
Is it possible to define, though? Maybe. What we do know about “happy weight,” says Christopher Ochner, PhD, obesity and nutrition expert at The Mount Sinai Hospital, is that it falls somewhere in the middle and generally supports optimum health. “Ideal weight is not too thin, and not obese. A lot of life, weight included, is about finding a happy medium,” he tells Yahoo Health. “Moderation is the elusive unicorn we know we should chase, but we have varying degrees of success.”
Since a complex mix of metabolism, genetics, physical activity level, diet, stature, sex, age, and bone density play into the number you see on the scale, no two people are going to have the exact same weight goals and weight maintenance plan, Ochner says. “It’s hugely complex,” he tells Yahoo Health. “What works for me may not work for you. There really is no cookie-cutter weight for every height.”
However, in honor of National Healthy Weight Week, we tried to nail down a few principles for reaching that elusive healthy, “happy weight.” Here’s what to do:
Ochner says that although BMI has become controversial as the best measure of health, as it does not take into account things like body fat ratio or fat distribution, it’s still the best place to start. “I still like BMI, as it’s a cheap, easy surrogate marker to in-office tests,” says Ochner. “Many say waist circumference is a better indicator of overall health, since abdominal obesity is more associated with health risks. While this is true, it’s hard to get accurate increases and decreases on waist circumference, it’s harder to track, and fails to gauge body composition.”
Since you can easily keep tabs on your BMI using height and weight with an online calculator, you should know where you fall — and aim for the “normal” range. “We know that having a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, you’ll see drastic improvements on biomarkers,” says Ochner. “Objectively, I call a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 ‘lean.’ Most people are healthy in the ‘lean’ category.”
But should everyone’s BMI be in the exact same range? You may have heard about recent studies that showed that being “overweight,” with a BMI between 25 and 30, may still have long-term protective benefits similar to those enjoyed by “lean” men and women. Ochner says, however, this research comes with caveats.
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