Many young women let numbers dictate how they feel about themselves. A dress size, numbers of candles on a birthday cake--these are the things that loom large. They also often worry about how many pounds they should weigh. Weight tables still exist, although health professionals discourage relying on them alone. A healthy weight may be different for each person, and achieving an ideal weight is more complex than just reducing those dreaded numbers on the scale.

So-called "ideal" weight tables are still around, taunting some who can't meet the numbers. Keep in mind that some desirable weight tables actually reflect statistics about lifespan rather than medical science. The Metropolitan Life Co. started weight tables in the 1940s. Officials revised the tables many times. According to the 1999 Met Life tables, a woman with a large frame who is 5 feet 9 inches should not weigh more than 170 pounds. Body mass index is another not-so-pretty term, but it is actually your friend. Body mass index, or BMI, compares weight to height. According to the UCLA Student Nutrition Action Committee, or SNAC, appropriate weight has more to do with fat-to-muscle ratio as indicated by a BMI index, rather than how many pounds a person weighs. Many websites feature BMI indexes--but if you want to calculate your own BMI, follow this formula: Multiply your weight in pounds by 703, then divide by your height (in inches) and finally divide again by your height (in inches). Health experts at the American Heart Association consider a person with a healthy weight to have a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. An underweight BMI is less than 18.5, while a BMI of more than 25.0 is considered overweight. This formula holds true for most average women, but there are exceptions.

## 2. Lean Machine

Muscle is more dense than fat, so inch for inch it weighs more. If a woman works out at a gym and builds muscle, she will look leaner but may stay the same weight or even gain weight. According to SNAC, some slender young women who eat very little actually carry more fat than their heavier, athletic counterparts. A BMI evaluation will inaccurately label a muscular fit woman as overweight when in fact her weight is optimal.

## 3. It's Mom's Fault

Your body type is determined as much by what your mother and grandmother looked like as by what you eat, or how much you exercise. Ectomorphs are tall, willowy and thin. True ectomorphs are rare. They do not gain weight or put on muscle mass easily. Mesomorphs are stockier, more muscular and compact. They put on muscle mass when they lift weights. Body fat is distributed evenly over the body. Endomorphs naturally carry more body fat, typically in the hips and thighs. Their ancestors evolved to survive famine by keeping a reserve of fat on them. If an endomorph diets, chances are her metabolism will just slow down, ensuring survival, but making weight loss a challenge. Most women are a blend of the three classic body types. The ideal weight for a young woman depends a lot on what nature intended.

## 4. Fat Versus Fiction

Media outlets bombard women with idealized images of thin models and celebrities. These images feature highly selected body types that are also highly retouched. Some of the featured models would have less than the 20 percent body fat advised for healthy lean women. Any young woman with less than 14 percent body fat falls into a high-risk zone, and she would likely stop menstruating. Those in the advertising and fashion industries champion ultra-thin models to best show off their clothing. Luckily, socially conscious companies now feature a representation of healthy, attractive, real women in their advertisements.

## 5. Embrace The Shape

If you cannot bear to throw away your scale, weigh your self at the same time of the day, and remember that your weight fluctuates during your monthly cycle. The best way to attain an ideal weight is to focus on a healthy lifestyle. Work out, or join a hiking group. Invest in a health club membership or sports equipment. Get rid of any toxic relationships and focus on yourself, your family and your good friends. Often, a person leading a full and active life finds that weight is not an issue. For many women, the ideal weight is more a question of satisfaction and self-worth than numbers.