Wowzers. There sure are a lot of different ways to calculate what your “ideal” weight should be. Using the magic of (pseudo-)science, I believe I’ve divined my number. How have I arrived at so auspicious a figure? I will gladly tell you this thing.
The Battle of the Bulges
First, I looked at height to weight charts for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. I figured that they must have a lot of data to work off of. And, they have an interest in keeping people healthy. You’d think their statistics should probably be pretty accurate. Of course, this data pertains to men who train a lot and need are prepared to jump out of airplanes or skin crocodiles at a moment’s notice. So me – with my waggle wand, eating cereal in my underpants; I’m not exactly part of that sample group.
Moving right along, we find that life insurance companies also have a lot of data on weight and how it correlates to mortality. Unlike the army, the life insurance companies don’t really have a huge interest in keeping their wards healthy. But they do have a very strong interest in predicting exactly when you’re going to die. Morbid! This suggests that their data would be pretty strong. I have read that the insurance sample is based largely on white guys of average height, and therefore may not be accurate for everyone. As it turns out, I’m an average white guy. So it’ll be okay for me. Score (another) one for homogeneity.
Who Cries for BMI?
Next I turned to BMI. Poor BMI. Everyone seems to have a bone to pick with it. It tries to be a one-size-fits-all index. But because of this, there are a lot of exceptions. BMI just wants to be loved. Is that so hard to understand? Somehow I found shelter in my heart for this much maligned index, and together we discovered a decent weight range. The criticisms of BMI have to do with the fact that it will return inaccurate results for body builders, children, and may not work well for some ethnicities. It doesn’t take into account the balance of unhealthy fat to healthy muscle, age, or even gender. But as a general guideline for an average white guy, it seems like another good data point.
Calculators, Formulators, and Prognosticators
The next step was to just ask the internet for an easy answer. There are a lot of “ideal weight calculators” out there. Many of them use tables from the data above to generate an ideal weight based on height, age, gender, and frame size. Others use formulas developed by doctors over the years. And then there are some that are just black boxes with no indication of their formula. For all I know they could have been plucking numbers from a bingo tumbler. Regardless of their methods, most of the calculators fell in the same general range, so I guess they must follow some sensible set of guidelines.
Arriving at THE NUMBER
Once I had the data set above, I did a small amount of sifting. For the data that was based on body frame size, I adjusted it so that the recommendations would fall somewhere between small and medium. It turns out my wrists are really skinny, but my elbows are kind of medium. Since those are the two places where you are supposed to check for frame size, I figured I’d split the difference. Next, for each weight that was given as a range I took the average. Then I took all the “ideal weight” results, averaged those out, and did the same with ranges. I averaged those two numbers together, and viola! 149.58.
Okay, so it’s not rocket science. In fact, I’m sure that just averaging everything into a grey mush without any sort of weighting isn’t a very statistically sound way to arrive at a goal weight. But I figured that at the very least an average would knock off the highs and lows and give me something reasonable if not – as many of the calculators claim – ideal.
So I won’t be calling this my Ideal Weight. This is my “Reasonable Target Weight“. Not super sexy, I know, but then neither is a really long post about data gathering and Excel. Oh… crap.
If you’re trying to lose weight, have lost weight, or you’re a creepy voyeur who likes to watch people lose weight tell me this – how did you set your goal weight?
P.S. You can (Download the spreadsheet) with most of the information I gathered if you want.