A healthy weight is more than a size

Society puts too much pressure on being a certain weight or wearing a size 0.  Numbers on a scale or a clothing tag aren't necessarily good indicators of what your healthy weight should be.

When striving for a healthy weight, it's important to factor in age, muscle, fat, waist size, width of hips, bone density, height, shape, gender and activity levels. For example, a pear-shaped body is healthier than an apple-shaped body.

You might know your body mass index, or BMI. This is the ratio of your weight to your height. However, because the BMI doesn't factor in where the body fat is distributed, it can be inaccurate. Even if a BMI falls in a "healthy" range, you could still be at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease if you have a lot of belly fat (shaped like an apple vs. a pear). Fat around the midsection is more dangerous than other fat on the body.

BMI is also not an accurate measure of fat vs. lean muscle. If you took a muscular athlete and compared him with a man of the same size with body fat equal in weight to the fit man's muscle, their BMI would look very similar.

I like to use skinfold measurements and the waist-to-hip ratio.

Skinfold measurements determine body-fat percentage. The measurement should be done by a trained professional with experience using skin-fold calipers.  It takes training and practice with calipers, plus knowledge of anatomy to get accurate results.

The waist-to-hip ratio measures the difference between your waist circumference and hip circumference. The ratio determines if most of your fat is stored on your waist or on your hips and buttocks.

To calculate, divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference.  According to the World Health Organization, a healthy ratio for women is 0.85 or less and for men it is 0.9 or less.  A ratio of 1.0 or greater in both men and women increases the risk for heart disease and other health conditions.

Skinfold and waist-to-hip calculations are two good methods that help determine your healthy weight and risk for health problems.

Amy Tourge is the supervisor of the Wellness Center, which offers fitness equipment, group classes and one-on-one training, at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck. For more, call 845-871-4300 (TTY 1-800-421-1220) or visit www.healthquest.org/wellnesscenter