What's a healthy weight?

At which point weight should be considered healthy or hazardous is a point of discussion among scientists. According to experts, a personal "feel-good weight" plays a crucial role. The World Health Organization (WHO) uses body mass index (BMI) as the best-known benchmark for assessing healthy weight and places the ideal weight range between a BMI value of 18.5 and 25.

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For a person who is 1.7 meters (5'6"), this means a weight range between 53 kg (117 pounds) and 73 kg (161 pounds). For a young girl, for example, 53 kg (117 pounds) is completely normal. As a girl gets older, however, this weight can change and will perhaps level off at 65 kg (143 pounds), which is still within the ideal weight range. A muscular young man, on the other hand, can weigh 76 kg (167 pounds) at a height of 1.70 m (5'6"), which corresponds to a BMI of 26 without being overweight, because muscles simply weigh more than fat. Maybe this same man will still weigh 76 kg (167 pounds) when he's elderly. Instead of his muscular body, however, he may now also push a belly in front of him. His muscles have turned into fat. And so he is now considered to be overweight with his 76 kg (167 pounds). These examples show that such standards are only partially appropriate to apply to an actual healthy weight.

What is a weight "set point"?

A "set point" or "neutral weight" is the steady weight into which an individual settles again and again in a certain phase of life, in either direction. Our young girl, for example, can maintain her 53 kg (117 pounds) without any problems, even if she eats beyond satiety. By the age of 50, however, her weight will have stabilized at a different, steady level. Our body defends this weight with all the means at its disposal, even if the weight is too high, much to the chagrin of all overweight people. This makes it so difficult to lose weight sustainably. Only through a permanent change in diet and regular exercise can the set point be revised downwards.

The personal assessment of your own weight

The personal assessment of your own weight varies. Where one person feels too fat with a BMI of 20, another can feel absolutely normal and comfortable even with a BMI of 29 or 30. You can determine whether your current weight represents a health risk yourself using various tests. In addition to the BMI, which is calculated from body weight divided by body height squared, the Waist to Height Ratio  -- that is, the ratio of abdominal girth to body height -- is used more and more frequently.

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