Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

What is a “healthy weight”?

Maintaining a healthy body weight is important to overall health. Measurements such as Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist size can help you determine if you are a healthy weight.

BMI - To determine your BMI, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared. Then, multiply by 703. The ranges below help you interpret your BMI result. You can also visit www.aicr.org/bmi to use an online BMI calculator. 

  • Less than 18.5 = underweight
  • Between 18.5-24.9 = normal
  • Between 25-29.9 = overweight
  • 30 or more = obese

Note: BMI may not be an appropriate measurement if you are frail and elderly, less than 5 feet tall, an athlete, pregnant or a child.

Waist Circumference – To measure your waist, place a tape measure halfway between the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs and measure after breathing out. The tape should be snug but not compress your skin.  A healthy waist measurement is less than 31.5” for women and less than 37” for men.

Overweight

There is strong evidence that being overweight increases the risk of certain cancers as well as other diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  The goal for cancer survivors is to get to – and stay at – a healthy weight. Additionally, studies show that excess abdominal fat (even in people who are a healthy weight), can lead to a greater health risk.

Tips for maintaining a healthy weight include:

  • Choosing foods lower in calorie density
  • Keeping an eye on portion sizes
  • Being physically active
  • Limiting sedentary activities

Each of these strategies is discussed further on the following pages. 

Underweight

If you are underweight or have had unintentional weight loss, talk to your doctor or dietitian about ways to maintain a healthy weight. Some of these strategies include:

  • Have smaller meals or snacks more frequently during the day.
  • Don’t wait until you feel hungry; schedule your meals and snacks throughout the day.
  • Choose foods that pack a lot of calories into small amounts such as nuts, dried fruit, liquid oils, and avocados.
  • Include liquid nutritional supplements in your diet (e.g., Ensure, Boost, Carnation Instant Breakfast).