The average American woman over age 20 weighs 168.5 pounds and stands at just above 5 feet 3 inches (about 64 inches) tall.

And the average waist circumference? That’s at just over 38 inches.

These numbers may or may not be surprising to you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that some 36.5 percent of adults in the United States are obese.

For women, this statistic breaks down as follows:

Age groupPercent obesity
60 and over38.8

North America boasts the highest average body mass in the world. More than 70 percent of the population falls into the overweight to obese ranges.

Asia, on the other hand, has the lowest body mass. Specifically, the average body mass index (BMI) for Japan in 2005 was just 22.9 compared to 28.7 in the United States. If you need another way to look at it, in America 1 ton of body mass represents 12 adults. In Asia, 1 ton represents 17 adults.

Percent of overweight people per population:

Region Percent obesity
Latin America, Caribbean57.9
North America73.9

Your height, sex, fat and muscle composition, and frame size all factor into your ideal weight. There are various tools to help you figure out your number. One of the most popular is BMI. BMI uses a formula that involves your height and weight.

To calculate your BMI, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared. Then multiply that result by 703. You can also plug this information into an online calculator.

Once you know your BMI, consult this chart to determine where your BMI falls:

  • underweight: anything under 18.5
  • healthy: anything between 18.5 and 24.9
  • overweight: anything between 25.0 and 29.9
  • obese: anything above 30.0

Although this method offers a good starting point, your BMI may not always be the most accurate measure of your ideal weight. Why? It goes back to factors like frame size, muscle composition, and your age.

Athletes, for example, may weigh more due to high muscle mass and get an overweight result. Older adults, on the other hand, tend to store more fat than younger adults.

Even with its limitations, your BMI can be a good starting place when looking at your overall health. To see where you fall in the ranges, take a look at this chart for your ideal weight by height.

HeightHealthy weight (BMI 18.5–24.9)

Think you’re big-boned? Your frame size plays a part in your ideal weight as well. Measuring your wrist is a quick way to figure out if you have a small, medium, or large frame. From there, you can discover a more catered ideal weight for your specific frame.

To determine your frame, measure your wrist with a flexible measuring tape and then consult this chart:

HeightLess than 5’2”5’2” to 5’5”More than 5’5”
Small frameLess than 5.5”Less than 6”Less than 6.25”
Medium frame5.5” to 5.75”6” to 6.25”6.25” to 6.5”
Large frameMore than 5.75”More than 6.25”More than 6.5”

This chart displays the ideal weight for women by frame size:

HeightSmall frameMedium frameLarge frame

Although this method is slightly more specific to your individual size and shape, it has some of the same limitations as BMI.

For the most accurate measure of your ideal weight, you may consider visiting your doctor for specialized tests like:

  • skinfold thickness
  • densitometry, which uses underwater weighing
  • bioelectrical impedance, which uses a device to measure the flow of electrical current in the body

Keeping your weight within the healthy range can take hard work, but it’s well worth the effort. Not only will you potentially feel your best, but you’ll also prevent diseases tied to obesity.

This includes:

If you need to lose a few pounds to get to your ideal weight, here are some key steps to help get you there:

Slim your portion sizes. A quarter of your plate should contain a palm-sized portion of lean protein, such as salmon or chicken breast. Another quarter of your plate should hold a fist-sized portion of a whole grain, such as brown rice or quinoa. The last half of your plate should be piled with vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and bell peppers.

Try waiting a while. If you’re still hungry after you’ve completed your whole meal, wait 20 minutes before digging into that second helping. Even then, try eating fresh fruits and veggies before desserts.

Eat breakfast and don’t skip meals. Your body needs consistent nutrition throughout the day to run at its best. Without proper fuel, you won’t feel well and your body won’t work efficiently.

Munch on more fiber. Women should be taking in 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day. If you’re having trouble in this area, add foods to your diet like whole-grain breads and cereals. Whole-wheat pastas, rice, and beans are other good options. The idea here is that fiber fills you up quickly, ultimately curbing your appetite.

Get moving. The current recommendations for weekly exercise are 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity — such as walking or yoga — or 75 minutes a week of more vigorous activity — such as running or cycling.

Drink more water. Women should be getting in nine cups of fluids each day. Water is best and lowest in calories, but any beverage — including tea, coffee, and sparkling water — counts toward your daily hydration goal.

Weight alone doesn’t equal health. Eating well, exercising, staying hydrated, and getting good sleep are all important, no matter your size.

If you do need to shed a few pounds, start by setting a realistic goal with your doctor or by determining your appropriate BMI or weight for frame. From there, create a plan with the help of your doctor or dietitian and set goals that you can work toward.