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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Why don't studies of what people "should" weigh take body type and muscle mass into account?

I was with a group of women who attended your wellness seminar during our lunch hour recently. During the drive back to our work site, one question was focal: Why do all the studies about what people "should" weigh never take body type and muscle mass into account?

At one point, you flashed a general guideline that stated something along the lines of; a 5-foot woman should weigh 105lbs; then add 5-lbs for each inch. I'm 5'6" and the possibility of Christ coming out of heaven and asking my hand in marriage seems more likely than achieving 135lbs! I run 3 hours a week (15 miles) and do Pilates 2 hours a week (I weigh 160) and I have for YEARS! I just can't believe that I don't have enough muscle mass to count for something. Your input would be welcome and your advice heeded: I'm already very health conscious.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Woman using a resistance band to exercise

This is a fantastic question and I really appreciate you writing in.

It's a challenge to pack a lot of information into an hour lunch time lecture and have folks understand fully what should really take about 3 hours to talk about. That said, the formulas I gave you are meant as a guide and during the discussion I mentioned two other important measures. We talked about how they are at least as important as your ideal body weight (and maybe more so). One is Body Mass Index (BMI) and the other Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR). Both of these are equally important and help folks to do exactly what you are discussing - put your height and weight information in context.

For instance, your BMI is 25.9. While this is technically in the overweight category, I also discussed that being overweight (BMI between 25 and 30) doesn't necessarily put you at higher risk for illness or a shortened life. Those who are overweight and also have issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and a family history can improve their risk by losing weight to a normal BMI. Likewise, WHR is a key measurement for folks.

Such measurements have to be taken in the context of one's personal health history. So if you are a little over that BMI of 25, but you have low risk factors and not much in the way of health issues, that may be OK for you.

This is one reason that I say over and over in lectures that eating healthy is not just about weight loss. I am very concerned that people focus on losing pounds any way they can, when sometimes eating healthier is more important for them. This is the challenge of getting the right information out and it's impossible to do in an hour. I think of it as a jumping off place and we have a set of essays on the Dr. Gourmet website that can help coach you in more detail - maybe more detail than you want. This section can help you put a little bit of information to work to uncover a whole lot more info that fits you: The Dr. Gourmet Diet Plan Coaching Essays: Eating Well and Eating Healthy

Thanks again for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet