Using Your Body Mass Index (BMI) as a Motivation Tool for Weight Loss

By James M. Rippe

You know that you are carrying more pounds that you ought to. You’re ready to start a weight loss plan. But how overweight are you? How much weight overall should you lose? How can you set interim weight loss goals that will help you see progress quickly and stay motivated? You can use your Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement and a BMI chart (or the BMI calculator link) to help you answer all these questions.

Body Mass Index is a scientifically validated measurement of adult body fat based on calculations using height and weight. BMI is stated as a single number that shows you where you are on a scale ranging from underweight to obese. Here is the general breakdown:

Weight Category BMI Value
Underweight Less than 18.5
Normal 18.5 to 24.9
Overweight 25 to 29.0
Obese 30 and over
Extreme obesity 40 and over

Knowing your BMI can help you assess how much weight you need to lose. Remember losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can make a big difference in lowering your risk factors for heart disease and other chronic diseases. If you are 5’2″ and weigh 180 pounds, 5 percent of your weight is just 9 pounds. Losing 9 pounds could lower your BMI almost 2 whole points. Using BMI to track your progress toward a healthier weight means that you get to notch a victory every time you lose 4 to 8 pounds, depending on your height and starting weight. Seeing those numbers fall can help keep you on track.

You can easily calculate your BMI using a calculator provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the Body Mass Index calculator provides your BMI measurement to the nearest tenth, so you can really see changes.

You also can get a quick estimate using this downloadable table.