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Desert Companion

Too fat, too furious: A new way to track your weight

Happy New Year! Ready to lose weight? Great! First, let's calculate your Body Mass Index. Take your weight, divide it by your height in inches squared. Then multiply that figure by 703, and then take that number and look it up on this complicated chart...you still there? Hello?

We don't blame you. University of Nevada Reno's George Fernandez has come up with a weight-watching system that's easier to figure out - and easier to stick to. It's quite simply called Maximum Weight Limit. And what better time to learn about it than during National Healthy Weight Week, Jan. 16-22?

"It's one number that we can't go over, just like a speed limit," says Fernandez, director of UNR's Center for Research Design and Analysis. No charts, no heavy math - and it's applicable to people from 20 to 75 years old.

It works like this: The man of average height - 5 feet, 9 inches - should not weigh more than 175 pounds. For every inch he is taller or shorter than 5 foot 9 inches, add or subtract five pounds to the maximum. Women? If you're 5 feet tall, you should weigh no more than 125 pounds. Taller or shorter? For every inch, add or subtract 4.5 pounds to the maximum.

Fernandez came up with the system to cure his own confusion when he hit 50 and started facing weight-related health issues. "I asked my doctors, 'How much weight should I lose?' All of the answers were different, so I used BMI. But then a new issue arose: How does a BMI of 30 relate?" Fernandez knew there had to be a simpler way.

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His eureka moment came when - you guessed it - he was driving down the freeway. "Speed limits," he says. "If we go above that limit, we are punished. If you are over MWL, it doesn't mean you will die. If you're driving at 70 miles an hour, it doesn't mean you will get into an accident, but you are definitely at a higher risk."

It's not a perfect formulation. For instance, it doesn't account for active lifestyles, and doesn't apply to 15 percent of the population. But if you want a simple number to shoot for when tackling your New Year's weight-loss resolution, maximum weight limit might keep your needle out of the red.
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