“The fact is that the tables of ‘ideal’ or ‘desirable’ weight are arm-chair concoctions…,” said Professor Emeritus Ancel Keys back in 1980. Not much has changed since then, except new light has been shed on our understanding about a person’s set weight.
A set weight suits one person perfectly and not another. A set weight is one where you can be considered healthy, yet it does not necessarily appear on any height-weight charts.
In view of how height-weight charts were created, they make no sense.
They were initially created by actuary firms and used by life insurance companies to determine the relationship of weight upon a person’s likelihood of living long.
What is the harm, though, in the height-weight charts, since do serve as a much-needed reminder to many of us that we are eating too much of the wrong foods and exercising too little?
Well, height-weight charts unjustly penalize and cause unnecessary anguish in men and women who have natural body weights outside the recommended range. This causes people to engage in unhealthy dieting, seeking to attain and maintain a weight that doesn’t fit them, one that is not on the chart.
Furthermore, reliance on the charts may cause folks who are within the guidelines to continue to engage in unhealthy behaviors, feeling a false security.
None of this is to suggest that there is no such thing as an ideal weight.
For each person there is such a weight, it just may not be found on the charts. So, how will you know if you’re there? The absolutely honest answer to this question is that you may never know for certain.
You can rely upon your own sense of how much effort you are extending to control your weight. You are probably at your ideal weight when you are not trying to do anything to control your weight, but are eating a relatively low-fat, fiber-rich diet abundant in fruits, vegetable, and whole grains, and being physically active.
Trying to say anything beyond that about an ideal weight is impossible, because the ideal for each person is unique to him or her, thanks to the genetic makeup of each person’s body. One critical aspect of that uniqueness is their set point, that body weight that each person tends to maintain over long periods of time, regardless of whether that weight is a good or bad weight.
Though a “set” point is not fully understood, we do know that it exists and operates with precision. Some mechanism within each of us functions to keep our weight fairly constant over time.
This is the crux of the problem with height-weight charts.
Their guidelines do not consider the individual variations in a person’s set point. They can put an “overweight” label on you who happens to be at a healthy size, or they can give you a false sense of security to those who have a different make up of fat cells in their body.
Perhaps the height-weight charts do not measure anything meaningful. The height-weight charts are not a reliable indicator of your personal story of the fat stored in your body’s cells.
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