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Healthy Weight Center

Target Weight for African-Americans

03/11/2009

Question:

My husband and I have recently begun the lifestyle changes required to lose and maintain a healthy weight. We have done a lot of research about what weight should be our target weight, not for appearance`s sake, but for the health of our bodies. We have heard quite a bit about the BMI, but have recently come accross some information that suggests that the BMI does not adequately account for the differences in body composition associated with racial groups besides Caucasians, nor does it account for lean muscle mass. I am a 5`4" Black female who currently weighs 161 lbs and my husband is a 6`0" Black male who currently weighs 290 lbs. While I know it may seem like an excuse of some kind, I really do have a larger frame. When I weighed 125 lbs, my ring size for my ring finger was and still is 8.25. I don`t want to be skinny and neither does my husband. His recommended weight according to the BMI calculator was in the 175 lb. range, a weight that he is absolutely not comfortable with, and mine was in the 135 lb. range. While I wouldn`t mind being 135 lbs, I have been before and really enjoyed the way that I looked then, it was extremely difficult for me to stay at that weight. I was the living example of someone who could look at a candy bar and gain weight. That leads me to think that maybe my body was not where it would naturally like to be. Again, I`m not trying to make up excuses for either of us. We want to be trim and fit, just not rail thin. If you could please help with this issue, we would be very appreciative.

Answer:

First, you do not have to be "rail thin" to be fit. Society's idea of "thin" may not be realistic for everyone. You are correct in that BMI does not take into account muscle mass, so an athlete with a large muscle mass will appear to be overweight according to BMI standard because it is calculated using weight and height only. See the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information on BMI www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. To be healthy and prevent the risk of chronic disease, you should focus on eating healthfully and being more physically active rather than focusing on a number on the scale. To eat healthier, I would suggest watching your caloric intake, eating more fruits and vegetables, and consuming less fat. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of some type of physical activity many or most days of the week. Healthy eating and exercise can contribute to what your healthy weight is.

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Response by:

Jaime  Ackerman Foster, MPH, RD, LD Jaime Ackerman Foster, MPH, RD, LD
Formerly,
Extension Nutrition Associate
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University