Body Mass Index: Discover 5 better measuring methods
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a widely used measure to determine whether you have a “good” weight. If you are not between the default values you are not healthy. As a result, many people, including even young girls, want to lose weight to measure up to the “ideal” sizes. Most of the population is usually blushed after calculating their BMI. Those who do have the “right” values think they shouldn’t have to worry about anything. This line of thought is obviously incorrect. Body Mass Index is an overestimated and very limited measure of our health. Discover 5 better ways to determine obesity risks and health status.
What is BMI?
BMI stands for Body Mass Index and was invented about 200 years ago by the Belgian mathematician Adolphe Quetelet. That is why we also know it as the Quetelet index. This index determines whether you have a healthy weight in relation to your height.
Calculate Body Mass Index (BMI)
The formula is very simple and makes it easy to calculate your BMI yourself. All you need is your weight and height and a calculator.
You calculate your Body Mass Index by dividing your weight (in kg) by your height (in meters) squared.
BMI = weight (kg) / (height (m) x height (m))
So if you weigh 65 kilos and you are 1.70 meters tall, you calculate this as follows: 65 kilos / (1.70 x 1.70 meters) = 22.5.
What is a healthy Body Mass Index?
For adults between the ages of 19 and 69, a BMI between 18.5 and 25 is ideal. These individuals would not have any health risks related to their weight.
From a BMI of 25, we speak of overweight. And from 30 even from obesity.
Overweight and obesity are related to diseases such as type 2 diabetes (diabetes), high blood pressure, gallstones, cardiovascular disease, back, and joint problems, sleep apnea, and even certain types of cancer.
A BMI below 18.5 indicates underweight, which is a risk factor for malnutrition. People who are malnourished do not absorb enough nutrients. This reduces the resistance and increases the chance of becoming ill. Due to the lack of nutrients, these people often feel lethargic and tired.
Why is BMI only a limited measure?
The BMI is not completely meaningless. Research shows on the basis of BMI that population groups are getting “fatter” over the years. That could be interesting to follow up. And anyone with a BMI of 35 may assume that he or she is overweight. But putting too much value on the sacred limit of 25 for your health doesn’t make much sense, especially for certain population groups.
The origin of the Body Mass Index
The Quetelet index was not even designed 200 years ago to determine an individual’s health. It was a way of mapping the characteristics of a population. The population group used for this were white Western European men. This, therefore, causes several problems.
On the one hand, statistically speaking, results about a population group cannot be used just like that for an individual. And the index does not say anything about other population groups, such as women and blacks. On the other hand, determining your health based on your weight and the amount of fat in your body is too shortsighted.
This is not to say that overweight (or underweight) does not entail any risks. On the contrary. The health risks of being overweight have been mentioned above and are certainly serious. But the full truth is much more nuanced.
Imagine two people for a moment. Person A has a BMI of 27, so overweight. However, he eats very healthy, meditates every day, goes to the gym 3 times a week, and goes through life laughing. Person B has a perfect BMI of 22. But this person lives on fast food (without getting fat from it), has all kinds of digestive problems, and is dissatisfied with his job. You can already guess which of the two is probably the healthiest.
A person’s weight often, but not necessarily, depends on a healthy lifestyle. There are other examples of specific population groups for which BMI is not a meaningful measure:
If you are a very muscular athlete, chances are your Body Mass Index is too high. In this case, it makes no sense to label these athletes as unhealthy.
Another downside of avid athletes with a “correct” BMI is that they often look healthy, but sometimes eat very unhealthy food. For example, they stuff themselves with sugary sports drinks and richly reward themselves with alcohol at the weekend. This allows them to develop insulin resistance. Are these people healthy?
A woman who is pregnant sees her body change. Of course, there is the weight of the baby, and in addition, a pregnant woman often retains more fluid and fat than before. This is all very natural and the measure of BMI cannot be used. Even after pregnancy when breastfeeding, the use of BMI is pointless. A woman’s body must first be given time to come back into balance in a natural way.
When you think of malnutrition, you immediately think of skinny people. Unfortunately, malnutrition is increasingly occurring in people with a normal BMI. In the rich west, many people are “overfed and undernourished”. We eat (too) much, but because we eat unhealthy food we do not get all the necessary nutrients.
For example, the majority of Dutch people, regardless of their BMI, have a shortage of vitamin D, omega 3, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
5 Better Ways to Assess Your Health
The ultimate goal of BMI is therefore not to determine your underweight or overweight. It is a method to indirectly estimate the associated risks to your health. However, there are better alternatives for this:
1. Your fat percentage
Your Body Mass Index does not say anything about the composition of your weight. To solve this, you can measure your fat percentage. This can easily be done with a modern scale or with a health professional by means of skinfold measurements.
Your fat percentage already provides much more information than your BMI. A healthy fat percentage for men is between 14 and 17%. For women, the values are slightly higher: 21-24%.
Also Read this: How many calories per day to eat to lose weight?
The fat percentage, therefore, takes into account the muscle and fat mass, and it even makes a distinction according to gender.
2. Your waist circumference
Unfortunately, the overall fat percentage does not say anything about the distribution of this fat in your body. And it has been proven that it is mainly the amount of belly fat or visceral fat that is detrimental to health. The amount of subcutaneous fat is much less correlated with those syndromes.
Some scales, therefore, give you the distribution of your fat. But you can also measure your waist circumference yourself. You can do this simply with a tape measure.
You have to make sure that you do this with the correct measurement technique. Officially, you should measure halfway between the lowest point of the bottom rib and the top front of the pelvic crest. You take the measurement after a normal exhalation, without the meter exerting pressure on the skin.
A healthy waist circumference for men is less than 94 cm. For women, this is less than 80 cm.
3. Blood values
Measuring weight, muscle, and fat tissue is only a small part of mapping the risks of overweight. Your blood values reveal a lot more information. Just think of the triglyceride level, your blood sugar level, and insulin levels. These values are more decisive in the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
And of course, blood values give you a lot more information about your general health. This way your vitamins and minerals can be measured and a balance of your hormones can be established. Correct interpretation by your doctor is very important here.
4. The mirror
Sometimes standard measurements fall short. Not everything can be measured. Maybe all your indicators are fine, and you are perfectly healthy on paper, but you don’t feel that way. Then literally look in the mirror and be critical of yourself. You may officially fall within the correct range, but there is no question of health. Take a thorough look at your posture, your skin and your facial expression. Deep down you feel whether you are really healthy or not.
5. Your own body image
According to the WHO definition of 1948, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease. And if you don’t feel good about yourself regardless of what all the measurements tell you, then it is important to look in the mental mirror. Take the time to listen to yourself and consider how you can improve your situation.
The impact of social media is enormous. We are faced with perfect bodies and have difficulty accepting our imperfections. Some people look fine and have a normal weight, fat percentage, and waist circumference. But they feel too fat.
This mental stress sometimes has a greater impact on health than the actual excess pounds in someone who is overweight. You don’t have to measure self-love, you have to feel that.