What is My Ideal Weight? How Much Should I Weigh?

"What is my ideal weight?" and “How much should I weigh?”

You all ask these questions often. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you want to build muscle or burn fat, the premise of the question is the same. On the surface, the question seems easy enough. Once you dig deeper, though, the answers aren’t so clear.

Read on...

In all honesty, o answer "what is my ideal weight?", I need to understand what you picture in your mind when you say "ideal." But, before we get into that, let’s start at the beginning.

You’ve likely seen the 100's of ideal weight calculators and charts out there to help you calculate your ideal weight. There is an ideal weight calculator right here on my site. But, If you don't grasp one very important concept, then the numbers it spits out will likely disappoint you.

Ideal Weight: A Brief History

Most ideal weight charts and calculators use what is called the Devine Formula. No, it’s not because it is somehow miraculous. Rather, it is named after it’s creator, Dr. B. J. Devine. Published in 1974, it is derived from something called Broca’s index, which was modified and distilled into a simple rule of thumb (actually called the “simple rule”):

"For women, allow 100 pounds for the first 5 feet and 5 pounds for each additional inch. For men, allow 110 pounds for the first 5 feet and 5 pounds for each additional inch." (Source)

From there, Dr. Devine reworked the “simple rule” by basically transforming pounds to kilograms to arrive at the following:

Ideal Weight Women (in kg) = 45.5 + (2.3 x number of inches over 5 feet)

Ideal Weight Men (in kg)   = 50.0 + (2.3 x number of inches over 5 feet)

To translate that result to pounds, simply multiply your answer by 2.2.


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Before you run off to use my ideal weight calculator, I want you to have a solid understanding of what these numbers are telling you. When you ask "What is my ideal weight?", they are giving you the ideal body weight of the AVERAGE person that "minimizes mortality."

What does that mean?

Well, simply put, it is the weight a doctor would recommend for the average person of your age, height, etc. that would cause you to live the longest. It doesn’t take into account muscle mass and overall health (of which weight is only one factor).

The fact of the matter is that all people of the same height, age and weight (ideal or otherwise) simply won’t have the same lean body mass.

In fact, it turns out that the formula that most online calculators built to answer "What is my ideal weight?" didn’t use any population data, but rather estimates from another doctor!

In fact, most experts would agree that the "Devine Formula" suggests body weights that are too low in women, especially if you are a short woman.  I would even go so far as to argue that they suggest weights that are two low for a large percentage of men as well.

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To understand this, you have to really start with another widely used measure that I really don’t like, the Body Mass Index, or BMI. 

Ideal Body Weight and BMI

The BMI for a woman who is 5 feet tall and weighs 100 pounds is 19.5 – at the very low end of the “normal” range.  For a man who is 5 feet tall and 110 pounds, the BMI jumps up to 21.5, still in the lower half of “normal”.

I am sure that you are asking “what’s wrong with normal?”

Well, nothing, per se.

But, as I have written elsewhere on this site, if you are truly following my advice and maintaining or building muscle as you burn fat, then the body mass index formula (and ideal body weight calculators) will mislead you into thinking you are over fat when this is not the case.

For example, let’s look at Lebron James. He lists at 6 feet, 8 inches tall, and 250 pounds.

His BMI is 27.5, which puts him solidly in the “overweight” category. Lebron James. Overweight. To get into the normal range, Mr. James would need to weight somewhere between 173 and 228 pounds. Better get that man on a diet!

What would be the answer if he asked "What is my ideal weight?"  According to the Devine formula, it’s 212 pounds.

“What Is My Ideal Weight?” ...The Way You Look

A lot of people are asking "What is my ideal weight?" or "How much should I weigh?" in order to determine a goal. And believe me when I say that I am all for goal setting.

With that said, I think you should ignore you total body weight, ideal or otherwise as your goal. I honestly believe that it's better to target body composition than some theoretical measure of ideal.

Clearly, there are some holes in the ideal weight calculations. This is especially true if you are building muscle and you are aiming for a low body fat percentage for that lean, sexy, athletic look that many men and women are looking.

Which leads me to ask you this question. When you close your eyes and picture the “ideal” body, what do you see?

For example, if you vision of "ideal" looks like Jay Cutler (the bodybuilder, not the quarterback), then the answer to “what is my ideal weight” would be different than a person who’s image of ideal is, say Lance Armstrong.

And women are no different. If ideal is Kim Kardashian, then the weight will be different from someone who’s ideal is someone like Paris Hilton.

[Note: I really never thought I would see the day where I used the names Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton on my site. Hell must be experiencing quite a cold front right now!]


Which brings us to something I have mentioned time and again on this site and others. The amount of lean body mass your body fat percentage are ultimately going to be the biggest factors in determining how you look.  That’s why I suggest using body fat percentage as your primary measure of success whenever possible.

Really, truly, at the end of the day, it is far more important to me (and you) that you work toward a healthy, active lifestyle rather than obsessing over a number on the bathroom scale.  While your weight has some use as a barometer, it shouldn’t be the only thing – or even the first thing – by which you judge your success.

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