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This number screams: Diet!

September 22, 2009 |  9:41 am

Confused by the various recommendations from doctors and nutritionists on how much he should weigh, a University of Nevada, Reno, statistician has devised a better way for people to gauge their weight.

The Maximum Weight Limit is a tool to advise people of the number that should set off alarm bells and whistles when they step on the scales. Using calculations, George Fernandez devised the tool so that it closely corresponds to weight recommendations listed on body mass index charts. But it's far easier to calculate and remember compared to BMI.

"When you drive, you have a speed limit. This is similar to that concept," says Fernandez, director of the Center for Research Design and Analysis. "This number tells people, 'This is your maximum weight. You should not going over that weight.' It's a simple concept that should stay in their heads."

The Maximum Weight Limit is calculated on a baseline height and weight. A man who is 5 feet 9 should weigh no more than 175 pounds. A woman who is 5 feet should weigh no more than 125 pounds. To find your Maximum Weight Limit, calculate how much taller or shorter you are in inches. A man should subtract or add 5 pounds for every inch taller or shorter than 5 feet 9. A woman should add or subtract 4.5 pounds for every inch she differs from the baseline height of 5 feet.

The number does not reflect a person's ideal weight, Fernandez says, because people differ in their build and muscle mass. The tool is meant to give people a stop sign. "This is something strict that says, 'This is your limit,' " he says. People who reach their limit should change their lifestyle to eat healthier and exercise more or should seek professional guidance to curtail further weight gain. "It's time to intervene and take steps immediately," he says.

Fernandez came up with the formula after talking to doctors and nutritionists about his own weight. "They all came up with different numbers: a weight range, ideal weight, healthy weight, BMI." After delving into research on weight guidelines, Fernandez says he was struck by how complex the BMI calculation was. BMI was introduced by a Belgian statistician more than 200 years ago, Fernandez says. "It's a fine, valid measurement for identifying or diagnosing overweight and obesity. But for common people, it's hard."

Fernandez is presenting his theory today at a conference of the Nevada Public Health Assn. He plans to begin testing the Maximum Weight Limit to see whether people find it helpful and to identify whether the number could replace BMI in clinical studies on weight.

-- Shari Roan

MaxWeight

Photo: Maximum Weight Limit charts for men and women. Credit: George Fernandez, University of Nevada, Reno.

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