Health & Wellness

Study shows how much weight you need to lose for people to notice

When it comes to slimming down, your focus may be your belly, derriere or thighs, but one of the first places a weight change shows up is on your face.

Now, researchers have pinpointed the least amount of weight you need to lose for people to notice a difference in your looks, plus the weight loss at which they find you more attractive. Yes, those are two different concepts.

The face, it turns out, can broadcast all sorts of information about what’s going on with your body.

“It says a lot of things about our health, actually,” study co-author Daniel Re, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, told TODAY.

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Besides offering cues about your immune system, cardiovascular health and stress levels, the face can also be a good indicator of your weight and body mass index (BMI), he noted.

If you’re overweight, the fatty areas in your cheeks, called buccal fat pads, will give you a heavier appearance. If you’re too skinny, the lack of fat on your face will leave you looking gaunt.

Healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9, and most people like to gaze at faces that correspond to a BMI in the lower end of that range, the study notes. You can calculate your BMI here.

“The healthy weight is what tends to be the most preferable weight to look at,” Re said.

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  • For a weight change to show up on your face, you’d need to change your BMI by 1.33 points, the study found. That means a woman and man of average height would need to gain or lose eight pounds and nine pounds, respectively. For this study, the average woman was 5 feet 4 inches tall; the average man 5 feet 10 inches.

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But just because other people notice a weight change doesn’t mean they will find you more attractive. So for part two of his study, Re set out to measure how much you’d need to lose to boost your looks.

  • To make your face look more attractive, you’d need to lower your BMI by about 2.5 points. That means a woman and man of average height would need to lose about 14 pounds and 18 pounds, respectively, the study found.

For technical reasons, Re focused on weight loss, even though gaunt faces are just as likely to be judged as unattractive as overweight ones, he said.

  • The most attractive faces corresponded to a BMI of about 19 for women and 24 for men. For a woman and man of average height, that translates to body weights of 111 pounds and 165 pounds, respectively.

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The speed of weight loss may affect when others notice it, Re added.

“A rapid weight loss would be much more noticeable to those around you, whereas a slower one — people adapt to the way you look with time,” he said.

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For the study, researchers used a collection of photos of men and women that they digitally altered to show gradually increasing “facial adiposity,” or the perception of weight in the face. The results are based on responses from participants who noticed the changes and judged their attractiveness.

Re cautioned the study is not intended to pressure anyone to slim down. Rather, it’s meant to be helpful for people who are already looking to lose weight and could use specific guidance as an incentive.

“We don’t do these studies to tell people that they should be more attractive,” Re said.

“We know from other research that people are more motivated to look attractive than they are to be healthy, and a concrete goal with an actual number attached is more motivating than just an abstract goal.”

Follow A. Pawlowski on Google+ and Twitter.

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