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What's the Ideal BMI for Women?

Feb 27, 2013
BMI, or Body Mass Index, is the most common measure of body fatness for men and women. It's a simple calculation based on height and weight:

weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

Recently, health professionals have been placing less emphasis on BMI because it doesn't take into account that weight is comprised of both fat and muscle. Someone who is very fit, but weighs more due to a lot of muscle mass, could be labeled as overweight on the BMI chart when in reality they are perfectly healthy. It's also important to remember that body fat isn't the only indicator of a healthy weight. Waist circumference and other risk factors such as high blood pressure should be considered when assessing one's risk of obesity-related diseases. However, because of its strong correlation to measures of body fat and its ease of use, BMI remains the most common measure for determining healthy weights.

The Center for Disease Control has created a chart categorizing BMIs as underweight, healthy weight, over weight, or obese.

BMI

WEIGHT STATUS

Below 18.5

Underweight

18.5 - 24.9

Normal

25.0 - 29.9

Overweight

30.0 and Above

Obese


This chart can be used to see if, based on your own height and weight, you are considered to have a healthy amount of body fat. It's understood that having a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy.

Sounds pretty simple, but when you start to involve a woman's desire to be thin, the media's influence on body image, and the prevalence of eating disorders in this country, things start to get tricky.

It seems logical that if 18.5 is the minimum BMI that is considered healthy, all women would strive to be the lowest weight that places them at that BMI. For someone like me, who is 5'7", that would mean I could get down to a weight as low as 118 pounds and still be considered perfectly healthy.

The problem is that just because the BMI chart says that 118 pounds would be a healthy weight for me doesn't mean it is the healthiest weight for me. A number doesn't paint the whole picture of our health, and many women's bodies wouldn't function properly at a BMI of 18.5. In the same vain, some people with a BMI lower than 18.5 are perfectly healthy.

To be healthy, a woman should be having normal menstrual cycles, have a normal pulse and blood pressure, and be free from a number of other medical issues. This state of well-being occurs at different weights for different women, and our unique bodies cannot always be constrained to a chart.

To determine an ideal BMI, women must set aside their desire to be thin and instead focus on their health. The best weight for you may not be as thin as you'd prefer. Instead, it will likely be one that falls into the "healthy" range on the BMI chart, is relatively easy to maintain, and allows your body to function properly. If you aren't sure that you fit those qualifications, the best bet is to see your doctor.

Clare Brady is a Healthy Living Blogger currently living in Dallas, Texas but originally from St. Louis, Missouri. On her blog, Fitting It All In, Clare shares her experiences with living a healthy lifestyle while balancing a busy schedule. Currently she is working full-time as advertising account executive, seeing clients as a Certified Holistic Health Coach, exercising often, cooking as much as possible, and making sure to spend time with friends. You can find Clare on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.



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