Height-weight charts are not the place to discover your ideal body weight. Those are generalized tables that do not take into consideration your unique cell make-up and body structure. They will not give you what you are looking for.
The reason is a bit complex, but if you follow along here, I’ll explain it in simple terms that’ll make sense. Knowing this information will allow you to better assess your unique weight set point that likely isn’t found on a height-weight chart.
Here goes. Follow for a minute.
In general, muscle tissue and body fat combined make up over one-half of a person’s body weight. The other half comes from skin, bones, blood, and your organs. Men typically have a higher ratio of muscle to fat than do women.
The variation in body fat and muscle tissue is determined by the number of cells each person has. Each person has a unique genetic formation of muscle and fat cells, determined in large part by their genes.
First, Muscle Cells
The number of muscle cells is determined before our birth, and for the most part beyond our control. What does change and is partly within our control is the size of those cells. From childhood to adult, those cells grow naturally. Thereafter, the size of the cells is affected mostly by use. Lazy us, and our muscles shrink. Body building, and they grow. Basic activity, and they remain, basically, the same size.
Second, Fat Cells
They are a bit more complicated, dependent upon the interplay between lifestyle and genetics. At birth, each of us is given a set number of fat cells, ranging from 5 to 10 billion. These grow as a baby plumps up in its first year. The fat cells by then have become the size of an adult’s fat cells.
The important change as a person grows to adult size is the increase in the number of fat cells. By the time a boy or girl reaches the age of twenty, the number of fat cells can range from around 20 billion in a lean person to 100 billion in a fat person. The reason for the wide variation is not entirely understood but is related closely to one’s genetic makeup, which is unalterable.
Okay. Back to the point about various “ideal” weights and finding yours. The number of your fat cells is partly due to your genetic programming, thus your “normal” or “ideal” set point for your weight could be inherently heavier than another’s.
Are we prisoners to our genes? By no means, but listen to this. The number of fat cells produced in our formative pre-teen and teen years can be influenced by exercise and nutrition. For example, a Harvard study correlates TV watching with obesity.
One Thing We Do Know About Fat Cells
The final fact about fat cells and ideal weight: Once we have them, we keep them. The number of fat cells can always continue to go up but never down. Why is still not completely understood. Both genetics and lifestyle play a significant part.
Genetically, you will be coded with a certain number of fat cells about which nothing can be altered. They create for you a natural set point. Such a set point doesn’t change with age, so you are not programmed to get heavier with age. This is where lifestyle is significant. Our abundant American lifestyle encourages weakness in self-control and extravagance in eating.
Given that we can grow more fat cells but not get rid of them, the only way to lose fat is by reducing the amount of fat in our cells. This is affected by two obvious things: ONE, what we eat – not how much, necessarily – and TWO, how we exercise – not all movement is equal.
That’s why programs tout actual “fat-burning foods” and specific exercises to lose belly fat. These are important to learn and include in your life.
Another Complexity to Fat Cells
The makeup of your fat cells and your personal weight “set” point is that they can fluctuate by engaging in a healthier way of life. You can improve your comfortable weight. Anyone who feels overly heavy could follow the recommendation to be active and eat less fat to find yourself reaching a healthier weight.
The catch remains. The number of fat cells won’t diminish, and the size of the fat cell can only get so low and that’s it. While some people may have lower set points for the amount of fat in each cell, for each of us there is some limit, which no amount of lifestyle improvements is going to be able to change.
Thus, setting weight loss goals based upon an arbitrary, predetermined weight range found on a height-weight chart may be too general to be applied to your unique situation.