Defining a Healthy Body Weight and Composition

How do you know if your weight is appropriate for your height or if the number on the scale is jeopardizing your overall health? My son recently had a physical exam to be cleared for college athletics. When I looked at his vitals listed on his form, his body mass index (BMI) read 25.3, which is considered “overweight” based on his height and weight. This reading surprised me because he is far from overweight and, on the contrary, quite physically fit. BMI is an estimate of how much body fat a person has and it is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in pounds by his or her height in inches. The calculation is:  [weight (lb) / height (in) / height (in)] x 703. You can also use a BMI calculator. The BMI score means the following:


Underweight                           Below 18.5

Normal                                    18.5–24.9

Overweight                             25.0–29.9

Obesity                                   30.0 and Above

More than two-thirds of adults in the United States have a BMI higher than 25, but this statistic may be misleading because this calculation does not consider body composition. The limitations to this calculation method may include an overestimate of body fat in athletes and people who have a muscular build. On the contrary, it may underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle.

BMI combined with waist circumference is a better indicator of body fat on a person. According to the CDC, “measuring your waist circumference is another way to estimate your risk of developing weight-related health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. To measure yours, place a measuring tape right above your hip bones. Keep it snug but not too tight, and take the measurement right after you exhale. A circumference larger than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men indicates you’re at an unhealthy level.” Basically, your waist circumference should be less than half your height.

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania point out that “the body mass index (BMI), based on the weight and height, is not an accurate measure of body fat content and does not account for critical factors that contribute to health or mortality, such as fat distribution, proportion of muscle to fat, and the sex and racial differences in body composition.” For example, BMI does not take into consideration where the body holds fat. Visceral fat, which is body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity and surrounds several important internal organs, is more harmful than fat that sits under the skin.

Visceral fat is the fat that we cannot see, so it is not always easy to know whether a person has an excess of it. A surplus of visceral fat can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancer. Exercise, both cardiovascular and strength training, is a great way to reduce visceral fat. Aim for 30-60 minutes most days of the week, alternating between cardio and strength as well as the intensity of activity.

Having some body fat is healthy and normal. To improve your overall health and maintain a healthy weight, adopt a permanent lifestyle of wholesome eating and regular physical activity. Appreciate your body weight for its influence on health and not just physical appearance. The scale does not always reveal the complete picture of health. Focus on improving your whole self – social, emotional, intellectual, and professional – for balanced health.

Quote of the Week:
The best way to predict the future is to create it.  ~ Peter Drucker

Recipe of the Week: Grilled Swordfish

Swordfish is a perfect fish for the grill because of its firm, lean flesh. Pair with grilled veggies and salad for a complete meal.


1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 swordfish fillets

In a shallow dish whisk together lime juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Put the swordfish in the bowl to cover and let marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat a grill to high heat (450-500 degrees) and scrape the grill clean (if not already). Spray grill with non-stick cooking spray. Grill the fish for 5-7 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Actual grilling time will depend on the thickness of your fillet.

Published by

Leslie Ouellette

Listening and learning about nutrition, exercise, and health-related issues has been a life-long passion turned into action. I am most passionate about my family, friends, and good health. I am a business professional with over 30 years of expertise in marketing, market research, communications, writing, and editing. @balancedhealthblog

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