The dreaded body mass index (BMI) explanation at the doctor's office... as if you weren't already worrying whether you're in the right weight range. You try to include tons of fruits and vegetables in your diet, and try to exercise at least five times per week. But with your lovely hourglass shape, you hold your weight in your hips and thighs.
>> Read more: What Your Body Shape Can Tell You About Losing Weight
The BMI has long been used to calculate weight loss (or weight gain) needs. It uses a person's height and weight to create a composite number, and that number falls on the scale somewhere been 18 and 30, usually. Many doctors view the BMI as an inefficient way of measuring body fat because the equation does not differentiate between the weight of fat, muscle and bone.
However, the BMI is still used as the standard obesity measurement around the world. For an adult over 20 years of age, a healthy woman would have her BMI fall between 18.5 and 25 on the scale. But if you're more athletic or do lots of weight training, the BMI may not give you an accurate depiction of your healthy weight. You probably have more weight in muscle than in fat, which isn't a bad thing. However the BMI is still useful, especially if you exercise an average amount – you're no Olympic swimmer – and maintain a healthy diet.
Another measurement that can be used to decode the "ideal body weight" is your waist-to-height ratio. This ratio uses the same two factors, weight and height, but is much easier to interpret and put into practice. A study done in 2012 found that the waist-to-height ratio was better than the BMI at determining mortality rates. With the waist-to-height ratio, researchers were able to determine how many less years of life people with higher ratios (meaning more obese) would have.
As a result, Margaret Ashwell, leading researcher, suggests that a person "keep your waist circumference to less than half your height."
So if you're a woman standing at 5 foot 6 inches (66 inches), try and keep your waist circumference to 33 inches or less.
That is an equation pretty simple to work out. The waist-to-height ratio also takes into account that visceral fat (the fat around your midsection) is more harmful to the heart than fat around your hips and butt. The ratio won't say if your weight is ideal, but it will give you a more accurate depiction of your body's health. From there, you can make changes to your diet or exercise to bring you where you need to be.
Your "target weight" depends on so many different things: gender, frame size, percentage of body fat, height, etc. The best way to know if you're in the best weight range is have a talk with your doctor. You can calculate your BMI on the Internet and get your waist-to-height ratio at home; besides that, you know your body best, and your doctor can help interpret all those numbers in relation to you.