Evaluating weight status is tricky. People can be sensitive about their size, especially when they think that they may have lost control of their weight. Plus, there are lots of hurtful ways that people evaluate weight and size in society today.
So how do you address weight when it comes to health and well-being without bringing in the baggage that accompanies discussions about weight?
As you already know, a great deal of it comes down to sensitivity and personal skills. Talking with people individually and in an open and honest manner will do a lot towards addressing weight in a thoughtful and productive way.
Another element that can be helpful is science. Take value judgements out of the equation and focus instead on the science of health. What increases the risk of chronic disease like heart disease and diabetes? What will impact quality of life? Energy levels? Highlight the research that points to the benefits of managing weight as you begin an evaluation of weight status, then turn to scientific measures. BMI and waist circumference are great tools to help evaluate weight status objectively.
BMI stands for body mass index. It’s a measure of weight as it relates to height. To calculate BMI, take a person’s weight in pounds and multiply it by 703. Take their height in inches and multiply it by their height in inches again. Take the first number (weight times 703) and divide it by the second number (height squared) to get a person’s BMI. You can also use a free online BMI calculator.
Traditionally, a normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, an overweight BMI is between 25 and 29.9, and an obese BMI is 30 or more. This can be a good place to start when it comes to exploring weight status.
Another way to examine that is through waist circumference. To measure waist circumference, have the person stand up straight, relax, breathe out, then gently wrap the tape measure around his or her waist. Look at the number on the tape where it reaches the end; that’s the waist circumference. Men should keep their waist circumference below 40 inches. Women should keep theirs below 35 inches. Any higher and they face additional health risks.
Using science as a starting point removes value judgments and can make it easier to thoughtfully evaluate weight status.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.