Setting Your Goal

There's several steps in determining a healthy and realistic weight goal. This discussion explains a method that a dieter can use and calculates a goal weight based on information you provide and choices that you make. Before settling on a goal, it is important that you understand the best way to set a weight-loss goal.
Understanding different measures of healthy weight

There are three ways of determining your healthy weight. Unfortunately, the most useful methods have been pushed aside for a government-sponsored measure with limited value.

Most common today but least useful is the BMI or body mass index. Although the BMI makes it easy for government statisticians to categorize people in large groups, it can be very misleading for individual guidance. The BMI is nothing more than a formula comparing weight versus height. It does not take into account a dieters age, physical condition, sex, ethnicity, or build. It can be very misleading, as overweight people with a slight build, particularly of Asian ancestry, may show up as " normal" when they are significantly overweight. Athletic people who are not fat may be labeled overweight. If a person who is extremely overweight attempts to lose weight, BMI does not take into account their muscle and bone structure needed to carry their extra weight. Instead, BMI give them a goal that is so low it could be deadly. In the United States, because of bureaucratic and insurance directives, most physicians have been encouraged to use this limited guide. Although it may be nice to know your BMI, it is wise that you look at other measures.

Next, there are the actuarial or life insurance tables. For over a century and a half, life insurance companies around the world looked closely at the risk of people dying early. They developed tables to show that actual risk was based upon not only on height and weight, but only in context of sex, age, and physique. This highly useful information was based on the experience of these insurance companies following people for many years. More recently, when the government began to consider weight more closely, they chose not to use these complicated but accurate tables. Instead, health authorities prefer use the BMI because it was easier for them to calculate. If they had kept that to themselves it would have been fine, but the BMI has now been pushed into physicians' offices, often resulting in individual patients being given impossible goals by their physician.

Finally, there is the use of body fat measurement. It is possible to estimate the percentage of your weight that comes from body fat. Remember that body fat is not your enemy, it serves multiple purposes, cushioning and filling out structural space as well as storing long-term energy. You do not want to eliminate all of your body fat. Instead, you want it to be the right proportion in relation to your body. Although it is more time-consuming to measure your body fat, some physicians offices as well as many athletic trainers may be able to help you with this. Using body fat measurement to calculate a goal based on years sex, age and physical condition is the method that is recommended here. Follow the steps outlined, then use simple calculator at the end of this web page to do the math for you.

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How to measure your weight and body fat
Your weight will vary during the day so I recommend that you use a starting weight that you take in the privacy of your home without clothes and first in the morning. Avoid using an old spring-scale that makes it difficult to get a good reading. Electronic home scales have become affordable and are reasonably precise and accurate.

Estimating your percentage body that is more complex, but it may be done at home or with the help of the professional. The simplest at-home methods use either a newer electronic scale that estimates body fat or a simple plastic caliper to measure the thickness of a pinch of your skin. In either case, follow the instructions that came with the product. You only have to do this once, so if you can use a friend's scale or caliper, that will be sufficient. These methods are not totally accurate but remember, this is only an estimate.

If you are having a professional help you, there are different methods. The professional may also use an electronic scale, but it may be the type that combines footpads and hand grips. This is more accurate because it gets a better estimate of the fat in your upper body. If your waist is larger than your hips, a great deal of your fat is being stored internally in a manner that puts you at high-risk for developing diabetes, so measuring upper-body fat is important.

If the professional is using a caliper, they may take as many as six or seven readings at different points on your body. If they take that many points, they will usually use a computer to calculate your percentage body fat. However, it is important to note that if you are extremely obese, the formula in common use may greatly underestimate your fat. Two other methods are also used. Various forms of x-ray scanning can provide body fat information, the most accurate of these techniques is called DEXA. However, these are expensive, generally not covered by health insurance and expose you to radiation. Another method involves submerging you in a tank of water and comparing the differences in your weight in the tank and out of the tank. When this is done correctly, is highly accurate. However, it is often done by a people who do not know how to factor in differences caused by your lung capacity, and this error produces highly erroneous results.

This is a complicated issue, but simplify it by doing the best to can, finding the simplest and least expensive technique that produces a usable estimate.

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Consider your weight history

Take some time to record your lifetime weight history. As a young adult, what did you weigh when you left high school? Were you overweight then or did it happen much later in life? Was it associated with the birth of your children? Was it associated with the changing your activity level? Was it associated with a period of depression? Was it associated with taking a particular medication? How many years have you been overweight? Do you have a weight that you dream about reaching? Answering these questions may be important in helping you determine a realistic goal.

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Select a percentage of body fat that is appropriate for you

What is the perfect percentage of body fat? Experts have different ideas, so your personal history will play a large part in deciding what is right for you. Young adult men would be considered healthiest at between 11% and 17% body fat. Any lower percentage would be associated only with extreme athletes. Young adult women without children could go up to 22%. After having children, some would allow as much as 32%, although I believe this may be allowing too much leeway. Why these differences in men and women? Women's bodies change, beginning at puberty, to accommodate the roles of childbearing and nursing. As people approach middle-aged and in their senior years, many experts tolerate gradual increases to as much as 25% for men and 35% for women.

If you have been extremely heavy your entire life, it may be that the higher end of these ranges is appropriate for you. However, if you feel you are in relatively good condition, the high teens for men and the low twenties for women may be reasonable goals for many adults.

Look at your personal weight history that you just reviewed. When you get to the next step, see how the calculated goal resembles the percentage of body fat you are considering. Do not be afraid to try several different numbers.

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Using this simple calculator to determine your weight goal

Start by clicking the box showing whether you are using pounds or kilograms. Next, press the button below marked Begin. You should see an entry box appear. Type in the number it asks for and hit OK or Enter. It will ask for your current weight, then come back and ask for your current percentage of body fat and finally asked for your desired percentage of body fat. When you have answered these three questions, it will produce calculated results telling you what your body weight will be and how much you have to lose. This is calculated for ideal conditions, when your lean body mass remains exactly the same. You may wish to check results using with differing percentages of body fat targets, to see how this compares to what you think you should weigh.

Computer browser security setting vary. If you do not see an entry box when you press the Begin button, your browser may have JavaScript disabled. JavaScript is used for calculations, so follow your computer's directions to allow JavaScript for this application. Also, be sure to enter your numbers correctly or you may see erroneous messages or values.

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This site is intended to provide information about the New Hippocratic Diet ®
This website is not intended to offer individual medical advice.
If you require such individual advice or care, consult your personal physician.

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