We all have our own ways to judge whether or not we need to go on a diet. Some of us may notice that our favorite outfits are getting a little too snug; some might notice some changes in the mirror; others might be happy with their weight.
Yet it's also common to refer to measurements like the body-mass index - commonly known as BMI - to let worry or doubt about our weight creep into our minds. BMI is a very common way for doctors, trainers, and others to measure whether a person is overweight or underweight.
But should we still be using an equation that's almost 200 years old tell us whether or not our weight is healthy? In recent years, experts have discovered just how flawed BMI is when it comes to measuring healthy body weights.
We’re going to show you why BMI is not the be-all and end-all of measuring body weight and fat. Plus, we will show you much healthier ways to keep tabs on your health.
At first, BMI seems pretty straightforward. The equation needed to get your BMI is your weight in pounds multiplied by 703 and then divided by your height in inches squared. For example, if you weigh 198 pounds and your height is 70 inches, your BMI is 28.4.
A BMI of 18.5 and below indicates you are underweight; a BMI between 18.6 and 24.9 indicates a "healthy" weight; a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is overweight; and a BMI higher than 30 is listed as obese.
Many health providers use BMI because it helps them identify potential health issues. Higher BMIs indicate a higher risk for certain diseases, like heart disease and diabetes.
However, one of the major flaws of the BMI is that it doesn't account for sex, age, fat distribution, or bone structure. It solely focuses on weight and height, which can lead to certain people having their body fat being improperly calculated. Additionally, BMI does not account for a difference between fat and muscle, so it's prediction for certain height issues isn't always accurate.
A recent study estimated that around 74 million people deemed "unhealthy" by the BMI may actually be healthy in the eyes of their doctor.
What's more, Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet created the BMI to measure the degree of obesity of a general population and not for individuals. He was a mathematician and not a physician. Plus, he stated that his index should not be used on an individual level.
This just goes to show why BMI should not be the main indicator of healthiness.
Although BMI can be useful for some groups of people, it can be very misleading for others. There are certain demographics of people who should avoid using BMI altogether when it comes to measuring their overall health.
Here are the groups BMI most often gets wrong:
A study measuring obesity found that almost half of the women who participated were categorized incorrectly by BMI. When compared to men, women have higher levels of body fat, which can lead to incorrect BMI results.
This is especially true for women who are nursing or pregnant, as they tend to have a higher body fat percentage and weight during this time.
The BMI scale is also not a great measurement for certain ethnic groups. Asian people, in particular, may see increased health risks before their BMI classifies them as overweight.
Anyone who is extremely active will have more muscle and heavier bones that lead to higher weights and higher BMIs. The extra muscle athletes possess is lean mass that increases metabolism and prevents many of the conditions caused by being overweight. So, BMI is obviously not a good way to measure the healthiness of this group of people.
Traditional BMI groupings do not typically work for those over the age of 65. A BMI of less than 23 for older people comes with a higher health risk, even though it is "healthy" by basic standards. A BMI over 25 is technically "overweight" but those over 65 should shoot for a BMI of 27 to decrease their risk of mortality.
This is because those with a higher BMI often have more muscle, which can reduce fall risk, improve immunity, and be generally beneficial.
So, now that we have established the many limitations of the body-mass index, what are some better ways to measure your health? Here are our recommendations:
BMI is clearly flawed. While it’s smart to trust your health professionals, it’s also important to trust your body and the way you feel. If you feel happy with your current weight, then there’s no need to make any drastic health changes.
If you feel like it’s time to make a change in your health, then begin taking those steps. If you need some support as you get started, you can join our Facebook group! Our little community is full of juicers trying to make positive health changes, so you can expect support, tips, recipes, and much more.
Waist-to-height ratio is believed to be superior to BMI when it comes to predicting health issues like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
So what is a good waist-to-height ratio? It's recommended that you keep your waist circumference to less than half of your height. A woman who is 5'4", for example, should try to keep her waist to 32 inches or fewer.
Waist circumference is also a common alternative to BMI. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, men should aim for a waist circumference of fewer than 40 inches and women should stick to 35 inches.
This measurement is touted by the World Health Organization. You can calculate your waist-to-hip ratio by measuring your hip circumference and dividing it by your waist circumference. A ratio of 0.85 or lower is recommended for women, while a ratio of 0.9 or lower is recommended for men.
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