What do those Weight for Height Charts Mean?

We've all seen one of these at one point in our lives.

Maybe you've been to the doctors and been unlucky enough to be told that according to this chart you are overweight and need to lose a few Kilo's.

But What do these charts actually mean?

They mean absolutely nothing. These charts which are used by all healthcare professionals have no real context. They do not take into account bone structure, bone density, muscle mass, or body fat percentages. They are based on an unrealistic idea of what an ideal weight should be.

I know first hand how these charts can lead to problems. I remember my youngest getting her School medical when she was 6ish years old, and coming home with a letter telling me that her BMI was in the overweight range. To make matters worse they had also told my daughter she was overweight which led to her hiding food, dumping food and refusing to eat.

A much better measure of health is your body fat percentage. There are various methods for doing this from fancy scales which tell you you weight & the percentage of that which is fat, callipers- a measure which depends on how much you can pinch(keeping it simple) or you could go with the simple guesstimate dependant on you being totally honest with yourself and comparing to images like these

Your body fat percentage goal is personal, but a healthy goal is 20-25%. Lower goals are harder to maintain and are normally levels which athletes or body competition competitors aim for.

For example a woman 165cm tall weighs 165lbs and has a body fat percentage of 25%.

If she went to her healthcare professional, they would deem her overweight and advice her to lose at least 21lbs to get into the healthy range.

Her body fat percentage indicates that she has 41lbs of body fat, and losing 21lbs would require her to half her body fat. This would mean her body fat percentage is 12.5%, which as you can see from the chart above is extremely low and to be honest can be unhealthy If your eating in a calorie deficit. If you don't have a lot of body fat and you eat in a calorie deficit to maintain this low your body will start to break down muscle for energy which makes you weaker, decreases your metabolic rate. You can also have decreased brain function, feel cold constantly, have amenorrhea.

To reduce her body fat to 20% ,she would only need to lose 1/5th of her body fat which is 8lbs- I'm sure you'll agree that is a huge difference from losing 21lbs!!

Do you see how the weight for height can actually be so misguiding, and why the bigger picture needs to be looked at?

We really need to look at the full picture when considering weight and weight loss. Generic charts such as these are misleading.

When we think about losing weight, most of us pluck a goal figure out of thin air and have no real understanding of what this means. We may think that we need to lose 30lbs and start a calorific deficit regime. With this regime we rarely lose fat only, it is normally a combination of fat and muscle loss. Losing muscle mass lowers our metabolic rate which means we will gain weight quicker when we stop restricting our food intake.

To maintain muscle mass, and keep our metabolism elevated we need to combine resistance training with healthy portion controlled eating. Not only will this maintain our muscle mass, but the resistance training will also increase our metabolism meaning we burn more calories at rest.

Are you compromising your health by shooting for unrealistic goals? I know I was guilty of this for several years and did untold damage to my metabolism and health.

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