What Is Weight? Defining The Undefinable

Weight loss 25

The terms ideal body weight, overweight, obese and BMI are tossed around blithely in many conversations concerning body weight. Yet do you know what these terms mean or at least refer to? Before you actually consider addressing weight issues, you need to make sure you understand clearly what certain terms mean.

Defining Weight Terms

Every group, association, disease and political, social, medical and historical issue has its own language. This is true of weight of the subject of weight. Essentially, you need to look at three basic terms: normal weight, overweight and obese.

  • Normal weight – this is the ideal weight determined by medical professionals as to what a typical healthy person of your age, gender and height should weigh
  • Overweight – this is a basic deviation from normal weight.  It means you are carrying excess body weight as measured in some manner like BMI (body mass index) where 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight
  • Obese – This is a clinical term referring to someone whose BMI is greater than 30 with morbidly obese meaning a BMI greater than 40.1

Tied closely to these terms are certain psychological issues that deeply affect how we look at our bodies. Among the most commonly discussed concerns, particularly for women, are those of self-esteem, self image and happiness. All these play a role in determining whether an individual will lose weight.

  • Self Esteem – how an individual feels about themselves
  • Self Image – how the individual perceives themselves physically

Both factors are influenced by the exterior as well as interior environments. Succinctly put: When women discuss how much they weigh or want to weigh, they are focusing on so much more than the actual number of pounds and ounces the scales say they weigh.


A calorie is defined as a unit of food energy. Calories are the amount of energy contained in a particular food. All forms of nutrients within the food possess a certain amount of calories. These are processed by the body. Some are converted into energy while others become fat. Some food is secreted as waste products. This all takes place within the digestive system.

Calories and Weight

When counting calories, you need to consider the role your metabolism will play in using the calories you consume. Different individuals have different rates of metabolism – the quantity of energy your body burns off to keep itself maintained. Some bodies process food and nutrients quickly and efficiently. Others do not. Some people are able to burn off and utilize whatever food they devour; others find the food deposited in undesirable places around the body. Males have a faster metabolic rate than women. Men and women who have more muscles than fat also burn off the calories more quickly.

The rate of your metabolism is also dependent upon a factor beyond your control – your age. As you grow older, your metabolism slows down. It does not utilize the amount of food and nutrients as efficiently and effectively. Some people, as a result, see an increase in their weight while others may lose weight due to poor nutrient processing.

Measuring Weight

There are several ways to look at weight and weight gain. Assessing how much you weigh and how much you need to lose are all based on a system of measurements. You may use a scale for the very basic measurement of pounds your body is carrying. Yet, if you want to determine whether your body does need to trim down, you need to combine this base measurement with another – your height. The result will be the BMI.

  • BMI – The BMI is a measure of calculating the ideal weight of any individual. The basis for this figure is two things: weight and height.
  • Waist size – This measure of weight involves measuring your waist size. The ideal for women is a maximum waist size of 31.5 inches.2 If, however, you find your waist is larger than 32” too much fat may be centered at your waist. These numbers vary a bit depending on the source of information but almost all government sources agree that a woman’s waist size greater than 35 inches or a man’s waist size of 40 increases the risk of developing weight related diseases.
  • Skin fold thickness  – Using a specific skin fold caliper, this measures 7 different places around your body to see where the fat is located
  • Bioelectrical impedance – Using an electronic device, you can learn what exactly your body consists of in terms of body cell mass and fat mass.

The result of these measurements will provide you with a basic guide to your weight range. They will help you determine whether the fat deposits on your body are deposited where they can do the greatest harm. They will also determine what a normal weight is for your body type and structure. Ideal weights differ according to gender and even body shape.3

Keeping it Healthy

What you need to keep in mind is there is a range you will fall within when it comes to any weight measurement. This will differ according to certain factors. These include:

  • Age – Body weight increases with age as the metabolism may slow down
  • Gender – the average male ideal has less body fat than the female counterpart. Moreover, the metabolic rate is higher because of the higher ratio of muscle to fat.
  • Body shape – There are two basic shapes – a pear shape is one where the majority of fat is below the waistline around the hips and thighs while an apple shape indicates fat deposits mainly around the waistline.

The BMI guides indicate the normal range to lie somewhere between 18.5 and 24.9. If you are below this figure you are considered underweight; if you are in the range above, you are overweight. The figures alter according to age but gender and race seem to be not as specific.


Weight is a complex social, emotional, physical and psychological state of being. It is not simply a matter of how much your scales say you weigh in pounds and ounces. For women, in particular, weight has cultural aspects in that how society perceives the entire issue of what comprises a normal weight can influence how women especially view their bodies. While a BMI may indicate the individual falls well within the guidelines, a poor self-image can lead you to believe that you are overweight.


1 Marcovitch, H. (2006). Black’s Medical Dictionary 41st edition. Lanham Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

2 Beck, Leslie (2010). The Complete Nutrition Guide For Women. Toronto: Penguin Books.

3 American Heart Association (2011). No-Fad Diet 2nd Edition. New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers.



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