How to Set Appropriate Weight-Loss Goals

By Meri Reffetto

Setting desired weight-loss goals is easy, but the goals people come up with often aren’t appropriate for their age or build. Reaching an unrealistic goal weight requires much more exercise and a far lower calorie level than is healthy. To maintain such an impractical goal weight after you hit it, you need to keep up this rigorous pace.

The result of setting unrealistic weight-loss goals is that you fall into a cycle of gaining and losing weight because the amount of work necessary to maintain a really low weight isn’t realistic for the long haul.

Here’s a quick calculation for determining your ideal body-weight range:

For women:

100 pounds for the first 5 feet plus 5 pounds for each inch over 5 feet plus or minus 10 percent

Example: a female who’s 5 feet 4 inches tall

100 + 20 = 120 +/– 10% = 108–132 pounds

For men:

106 pounds for the first 5 feet plus 6 pounds for each inch over 5 feet plus or minus 10 percent

Example: a male who’s 5 feet 10 inches tall

106 + 60 = 166 +/– 10% = 149–183 pounds

Just because you have an ideal body-weight range doesn’t mean you should aim for the lowest weight possible, which is what a lot of people try to do. Instead of striving to hit the smallest number on the scale, aim for a healthy weight range.

Consider the size of your body frame to determine what weight you should shoot for within your ideal range. If, for example, you’re a 5-foot-4-inch female with a large frame, you shouldn’t aim for a goal weight of 108 pounds. That’s far too low of a weight for you. Instead, you want to aim for the top of your range, which is 132 pounds.

You may know immediately whether you have a big frame or a small frame, but if not, you can approximate the size of your body frame by taking a tape measure, measuring your wrist’s circumference, and then figuring out where your measurement fits in the following tables.

Guessing Body Frame Size for Women
Height Wrist Circumference Body Frame Size
Height under 5’2″ Less than 5.5″ Small
5.5″–5.75″ Medium
Greater than 5.75″ Large
Height 5’2″–5’5″ Less than 6″ Small
6″–6.25″ Medium
Greater than 6.25″ Large
Height over 5’5″ Less than 6.25″ Small
6.25″–6.5″ Medium
Greater than 6.5″ Large
Guessing Body Frame Size for Men
Height Wrist Circumference Body Frame Size
Height over 5’5″ 5.5″–6.5″ Small
6.5″–7.5″ Medium
Greater than 7.5″ Large

If you’re in your 50s or 60s, you may want to give yourself a weight cushion. Reach for a weight that’s within your range, but don’t try to hit the lowest number. Getting there can be difficult due to a decreased metabolism and (for many folks) a lower level of exercise intensity. Focus on pursuing health and wellness, not one particular number on the scale.

The number on the scale isn’t the whole picture. Hitting a specific number isn’t as important as making sure other health indicators such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar are in normal range and steering clear of chronic inflammation. How you feel about yourself is equally important. Being happy and healthy counts for a whole lot more than achieving any so-called perfect weight you may have in mind.