How Much Should I Weigh?

There is no right answer that goes beyond the individual who asks the question. However, there are a number of general indices that at least provide a clue or two if you decide to consider this question for yourself. One of the indices is the Body Mass Index.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The Body Mass Index is a currently popular method for determining whether you might be overweight. It has the advantage of not requiring any specialized equipment to make the necessary calculation.

This calculation takes into account your height and weight in a manner that scientists have determined provides a reasonable prediction of the level of body fat. It has been adopted by an expert panel appointed by the National Institute of Health as a standard for predicting the risk associated with overweight.

The formula for determining your BMI is quite simple

Weight in pounds X 704

Height in inches X Height in inches = BMI


Wt(pounds) X 704 ÷ Ht(inches) ÷ Ht(inches) = BMI

Using my weight at the current time as an example,
the calculation looks like this:

240# X 704 ÷ 69" ÷ 69" = 35.5 BMI

There are any number of websites that will do the calculation for you and there are graphs with height and weight as the axes.

Here is how the BMI is interpreted:

<18.5 underweight and potentially unhealthy
18.5 - 24.9 healthy weight
25.0 - 26.9 somewhat overweight, avoid gaining weight
27.0 - 29.9 overweight, elevated risk of health problems
30.0 - 34.9 Class 1 obesity, high health risk
35.0 - 39.9 Class 2 obesity, very high health risk
40.0+ Class 3 obesity, extremely high health risk

If you have any health related conditions that can be adversely affected by increased body fat, like high blood pressure the level of health risk moves down one step. For example, the health risk of a BMI of 27 to 30 moves from elevated health risk to high health risk.

Keep in mind that the BMI calculation may not be very accurate in extremely muscular individuals or persons with posture abnormalities. Also, it does not deal with the distribution of fat in the body.

Most important neither the BMI or other indices should be considered an absolute standard. General population standards should be used as guidelines but not definitive markers. Use them as indicators as you make a judgement about how much you decided you should weigh.

I decided to see how our Presidents have done when it comes to their size and weight. After all we expect them to lead us in a variety of ways, why not when it comes to weight. I was able to locate published information for only 23 of the 44 presidents.

The smallest was James Madison who was reported to stand about 5'4" in height and weighed in at 100 pounds (BMI 17.8). The "heavy weight" was William Taft who entered office at 6'0" and 330 pounds (BMI 44.65).

As you can see from the list that follows most Presidents had BMIs that were within or close to the so-called "healthy" weight class (a BMI of less than 25). All but two of them would have been in that class before the standard was changed in 1998 when the top number of the healthy weight class was changed from 27 to 25. (As a result of that change some 29,000,000 more Americans were classified as overweight.

President Height Weight BMI

Washington 6'2" 175 22.50

J. Adams 5'7" "corpulent"  

Madison 5'4" about 100 17.8

Jackson 6'1" 140 18.50

Taylor 5'8" 170 25.88

Lincoln 6'4" 180 21.93

Hayes 5'8 1/2" 170 25.50

Cleveland 5'11" 260 36.31

Taft 6'0" 330 44.84

Wilson 5'11" 170 23.74

Hoover 5'11" 187 26.11

F.D. Roosevelt 6'2" 188 24.16

Truman 5'9" 167 24.69

Eisenhower 5'10 1/2" 171 24.22

Kennedy 6'0" 173 23.49

Johnson 6'3" 200 25.03

Nixon 5'11.5" 175 24.10

Ford 6'0" 195 26.48

Carter 5'9 1/2" 160 23.31

Reagan 6'1" 185 24.43

Bush 6'2" 191 24.55

Clinton 6'2" 216 27.79
(entering office)

Bush (2nd) 6'0" 189 25.66

The two heftiest Presidents, Grover Cleveland and Taft were often the subject of editorial comment of one kind or another.

When Cleveland arrived in Washington he was described as a "huge, bejowled man, a walrus in wingtips, resembling Boss Tweed carrying 280 pounds on a small, beleaguered frame. "Porcine" is a another word that was used when describing him while his suits were said to be "like Tarpaulins" and straining at the buttons. Toward the end of his second term he was called "The Fat Knight."

William Taft who was likely our heaviest President was pictured in one cartoon as setting foot in Cuba and sinking one side of the island, in another he was characterized as a kewpie doll. Nathan Miller, in his book "America's Ten Worst Presidents" refers to Taft as weighing somewhere between 300 and 350 pounds. Whether or not that fact had anything to do with how well he did or didn't do as President is a matter of conjecture.