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Weight loss is a hotly debated topic with much to be money to be gained and pounds to be lost. Hundreds of weight loss products and programs compete with each other to lure you with the promises of becoming thin and fabulous. To the great disappointment of the dieter, all too frequently it's just an allusive dream. Try as hard as you might, either the weight wont budge or if it does, when you return to normal meals and calories it piles back on, and then some. Net result is the weight loss industry is delivered a gratifying bottom line whether it affects yours or not.

So what is a healthy body weight? What is the acceptable range of body fat to muscle ratio? Is there such a thing as the ideal body shape?

A healthy body weight is relative to your height. Most people are familiar with the Body Mass Index (BMI). It is a measure of your height in meters squared divided by your weight in kilograms. A result of 18 - 24.9 is considered 'normal' which means you have a relatively low risk for disease and mortality compared to someone with a higher BMI score. Because people of Asian ethnicity have lower bone mass, a result of between 17 - 22.9 puts them in the 'normal' category. Find out what your BMI is at My Free Assessment.

Another measurement that indicates your health status is muscle/fat analysis. The body consists of about 70 – 75 percent water. The rest is bone, muscle and fat. A normal amount of fat for an adult male is between 18 – 24 percent. For a woman it is between 25 – 31 percent. People with a higher level of fitness have lower fat mass. People have different shapes, sizes and fat distribution profiles, but having a fat ratio above this range indicates overweight. To reflect this, the new term 'Normal Weight Obesity' was coined which the media calls 'Skinny-Fat'. This describes people who have a 'normal' BMI but carry too much fat.

Where you carry fat is important, for instance studies have shown that visceral or intra-abdominal fat (around the tummy) is more harmful than peripheral or subcutaneous fat (distributed under the skin), or weight carried on the hips and thighs. The Waist-Hip-Ratio estimates visceral fat. It is a simple measure of the narrowest point around the waist and the largest point around the buttocks. The waist measurement is divided by the hip measurement. A result greater than 0.8 in women or 1.0 in men may be a sign of increased visceral fat.

Obesity is one of the leading modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases in the developed world and is rapidly affecting emerging countries. Reasons for association between obesity and ill health are (1) obesity is a marker for other risk behaviors such as poor diet and sedentary lifestyle which result in a loss of cardio-respiratory fitness, and (2) excess fat (especially abnormal white adipose fat) disrupts the body’s normal endocrine balance and creates chronic systemic inflammation. This is highly predictive of ‘metabolic syndrome’ – hypertension, dyslipidemia and insulin resistance – which underlies much chronic cardiovascular ill health.

If you have decided it is time to slim down, which program or product should you choose? And how much weight should you lose?

The American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RD, recommends that a person consume at least 1,200 calories per day. By contrast Skinny-World supports the HCG Diet which only allows 500 calories through the weight loss phase.

Take your time to read the following information. It will help you make a choice that is right for you.

If you don't want to lose weight but just want to know what diet is good for you, check out the Mediterranean Diet - nothing beats it. It's the hands down Skinny favorite.

NOTE: Dieting is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women.

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