Society seems to have clear definitions about what the ideal woman and man look like, and those definitions translate into a body weight that supports that ideal. The fact, however, is that the ideal weight according to society’s definition of what is attractive is not necessarily healthy for most people. And surprisingly, the gap between attractive and healthy is often reversed for men and women. Today’s women often feel that they need to be extraordinarily thin. The icons of beauty that they are exposed to daily, such as top fashion models and Hollywood celebrities, tend to be underweight by medical standards. Conversely, men are likely to see their ideal body as big and broad, like that of a linebacker.The reality is that the body weights that support both the male and the female points of view are not particularly healthy.
And that is unfortunate because weight is inextricably linked to health. For health’s sake, it’s important that both women and men understand that the weight at which health is optimized has little to do with these extreme ideals. BMI (body mass index) is the globally accepted standard used to classify weight status. Generally, people fall into one of four categories based on their BMI: underweight, which is associated with some health risks; healthy, the range at which health risks are minimized; overweight, which corresponds to an increased risk of several diseases; and obese, the point at which health risks sharply rise as weight increases. You can calculate BMI by plugging your body weight and height into a BMI formula or by looking them up on a chart.
Scientists also use BMI to study the effects of weight and health. When researchers report their findings, they will generally state whether the weight and health connection was found at the overweight or obese level. For most studies, the risk of a negative health consequence increases as the individuals in the study go from being overweight to being obese. For most people, the BMI is a good indicator of the amount of body fat we have, and when it comes to weight and health, excess body fat is the crux of the problem.
One interesting fact is that the same BMI categories apply to both adult men and adult women. Why? Medical experts around the world have spent years evaluating the connection between weight and health. What they have learned is that as BMI increases above 25, so do health risks for certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. And the BMIs at which those illnesses show up are about the same in men and women. In other words, despite the fact that men are biologically programmed to have less body fat than women, research has found that the major weightrelated diseases that affect both men and women occur at about the same BMI men get those diseases with a lower body fat content than women.