It’s hard to know what a healthy weight is. For years, glossy magazines put unrealistic ideals of women’s bodies on a pedestal. Lots of tut-tutting (by us included) has seen the tide turn towards real bodies for the win!
But as general practitioner and TV personality Dr Penny Adams explains, going too far in the opposite direction can be just as detrimental to our health. So, it’s time for a reality check. If we’re going to become healthier as a nation, we need to recalibrate our collective weigh-dar and update our inner iOS. It’s time to press the reset button on our perception of what a healthy ‘normal’ weight really is.
We need to unpack the baggage associated with the o-word. (And no, we’re not talking about Oreos.) And to see weight – and all its associated calculations and terminology – as what it really is: a measurement. Not a judgement. Not a label. And not a defining characteristic. Dr Penny encourages us to ask without judgement… are you a healthy normal?
A healthy weight in Australia…
Would it surprise you to know that in Australia, at least two-thirds of adult men are medically overweight or obese and half of adult women? Conversely, according to the same study, just 1.6% of the adult population are considered underweight. As a result, we have become so used to looking at each other being overweight that when we see someone in the normal weight range, we tend to think they look “skinny”.
Our perception of what looks like a healthy weight has gradually changed over the last few decades as our average weight increases. Being overweight or obese can cause diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, sleep apnoea and fertility problems. Virtually no physical system is unaffected not to mention the impact on mental health and self-esteem. It’s estimated that for the first time in history, children born today will have a lower life expectancy than their parents – or at least have poorer health – and the culprit is obesity.
Despite the massive health impact of being overweight or obese, it’s become almost politically incorrect to bring up the “O” words. But it’s definitely NOT medically incorrect. In fact there has been a call out to GP’s to weigh all their patients regularly because weight is such an important health issue.
Why weigh? Because you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
How to find your ideal weight
You can check two simple weight parameters yourself – Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist Circumference (WC).
BMI is your weight in kilos divided by your height in metres squared.
Normal BMI is 20-25 (a little higher if you are very muscly), 25-30 is medically overweight and 30+ is medically obese.
WC is your waist circumference measured at the umbilicus. >94cm in men and >80cm in women (regardless of your height or build) is an indicator of internal fat build-up which can damage your organs.
When I do life insurance medicals, I’m always asked to measure BMI and WC. That’s because insurance companies know that these two measurements are important predictors of how long you are going to live. And they adjust their premiums accordingly!
Weight gain can also be so insidious. One kg per year doesn’t sound like much of a weight gain. However if you were 55kg at age 25, you’ll be 80kg by the time you are 50. On a more positive note we also know that losing just 5% of your total body weight can lead to a significant improvement in your health.
To discover your healthy normal, try a quick DIY check. Focus on your energy levels, mood, whether you have a nutritious balanced diet and the quality of your sleep. These indicators, combined with measures like BMI and Waist Circumference will give you the best measure of what your healthy normal is.
Do you honestly think about what your healthy normal is? Do you do anything about it? Let us know in the comments below.