You’ve heard of it, I’m sure. Whether that be from a news story, healthcare provider, or on the morning radio show on the way into work, you’re likely acutely aware if your BMI is in the “normal” range or if it’s not.
BMI stands for “Body Mass Index” and I believe it’s among the lamest tools for measuring someone’s individual health risk for chronic conditions.
For most people, having more weight on your frame means you have a higher percentage of body fat. The idea is – the higher the percentage of body fat, the more risk you have for chronic disease. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to assess body fat, so BMI is used in population based settings (think employer-based screenings, public health settings, and schools). But here’s the thing: a higher percent body fat does not always mean an increased risk for chronic disease.
While the BMI measure might have a place in public assessment settings, providing a snapshot of the overall body size of a group of people (and that’s pretty much it) it does little to tell us about the health of that population. And, for that reason, I believe “BMI” and “health” should remain exclusive and unrelated to each other.
In this post, I ‘ll share 3 better ways to measure your health as it relates to body size, body fat, or body composition.
Keep in mind, however, that these are only THREE out of hundreds of ways you could measure health. A person’s body shape, size and composition might give some insight to how their eating, moving and taking time to care for themselves, but it’s only part of the picture. But for my clients, looking at these measures indicates that they are eating nourishing foods, participating in movement that makes them happy, and actively working to manage their stress and sleep habits.
They’ll ebb and flow, obviously, but when you’re focusing on eating enough of the RIGHT stuff, in balance for your lifestyle, you’ll likely gain inches where could gain, and lose inches where you could lose.
the way your clothes fit
When your clothes fit better not only will you carry yourself differently, but that confidence spills into many other areas of your life, including nurturing other health habits. I would argue that if your clothes are fitting better it’s because your stress hormone, cortisol is lower, leading to less midsection bloat. Or that you’re eating enough of the right stuff to pinch inches in specific areas. Or that you’re putting in some time to build your larger muscle groups, which make you more lean, toned and fit.
lean muscle gain
Building muscle on your frame is a direct reflection of eating enough of the right stuff (i.e. carbohydrates and protein) to support your strength-based workouts. More lean muscle means a higher metabolism and a higher metabolism often means lower body fat. Lower body fat can also mean lower risk for chronic conditions.
Here’s the deal, we can measure health in a number of ways depending on the lens we use. And, in this case, when we use the lens that relates health to body size and composition, my clients are changing specific habits related to their eating pattern, physical activity and stress management to see change here.
Don’t sweat which category your BMI sits today.
Take steps to change your body shape only if you want to, whether that’s because you’re motivated to bring down biometrics like blood pressure and blood sugar. Or, take steps to change your body shape for aesthetics because you’d be more comfortable and confident with less body fat and more lean muscle on your frame. Chances are, while working toward your goals to take better care of yourself emotionally, physically, or mentally, you’ll be adopting changes to your routine that will pay off – or show off – in other areas.
You’re not either healthy or unhealthy. Healthy living is a spectrum on which you can take steps to eat better, move more, stress less – among so many other habits. You might value something completely different than me in terms of health and that’s ok, too!
My role in my clients’ journey is to help them better their health through improving the quality of their nutrition, supporting sustainable eating habits, and improving mindset around food. If that sounds like something you crave, consider applying for coaching – we have group and individual programs available!