Despite what you see in Hollywood, healthy women jiggle. More and more though, we see images of stick-thin, anorexic-looking, young females adorning the covers of many popular beauty magazines, advertisements, and other forms of mass media. Sadly, portraying these women as the epitome of health, fitness, and beauty has caused many young women to adopt distorted views regarding ideal weight and how they should look.
What Is the Ideal Weight for Females?
Your ideal weight depends on numerous factors—the largest determining factor being your body composition. Body composition is the amount of lean mass you have in relation to fat mass. Lean mass is made up of muscle, bone, organs, skin, water, and connective tissues. Fat mass consists of both essential and non-essential fat. Essential fat is necessary for life; non-essential fat is what we store as surplus.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a healthy body fat percentage for females ranges between 12-22%. This means that when healthy women move, “things” on their bodies should move as well! When body fat levels begin to dip below 12%, women become significantly more at risk for experiencing reductions in performance and developing osteoporosis and amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual periods). When body fat levels rise to around 30-32%, the risk of serious diseases and conditions associated with illness and death are increased.
How Do I Determine My Ideal Weight?
Scales, height-weight charts, and BMI charts do not take lean-to-fat ratio into consideration, so these methods may determine that you are “overweight” although you may not necessarily have too much fat. Therefore, such charts are poor indicators of overall health and well-being.
The gold standard for determining body composition is hydrostatic weighing, but such a measurement is typically done only in a laboratory. Most health clubs use skin fold calipers as a measure of overall body fat. When performed by a skilled technician, the measurements are up to 98% accurate. Bio electrical impedance is another method of determining body composition, although at this time its level of accuracy is questionable.
Where Can My Body Composition Accessed?
Many health clubs/fitness facilities offer body composition analysis for free or at a nominal fee. However, it is important to select an individual with proper training to perform these analyses as taking an accurate skin fold measurement is a skill, and receiving an accurate measurement depends upon the technician’s level of expertise and experience. Visit nsca-lift.org or acsm.org to find a qualified fitness professional in your area.
We are all individuals, and we all come in different shapes and sizes. So, instead of comparing yourself to that underwear model, focus on attaining body fat levels in the range listed above to maintenance health and wellness. This will assist you in finding the ideal weight for you.
Jay Dawes is Director of the 180 Center for Health and Performance in Edmond and a PhD candidate at Oklahoma State University in the Department of Health and Human Performance. Contact him at 608-HLTH.