The Battle of BMI

 Is Body Mass Index (BMI) the best way to tell if you are an ideal weight or even healthy? BMI is a measure of how much body fat you have. It uses your weight and height to come up with a BMI number. Using this number, you and your doctor can tell if you might have a weight problem. But many people, even those who are in shape take issue that BMI doesn’t tell the whole story. Recent news tells of a high school student athlete that rejected a homework assignment that required her to calculate her BMI.

Gender, age and muscle mass are a few of the factors that can alter the body mass index.

Even though doctors and dietitians widely use it to identify possible weight problems in adults, the BMI has come under attack as a reliable health indicator. It may not provide an accurate measure of body fat for several reasons. Among these reasons are the following:

  • It doesn’t consider sex, bone structure, fat distribution, or muscle mass. Specifically, it doesn’t discriminate between fat and muscle, so a relatively thin person with a lot of muscle can have a high BMI score. According to the New York Times, “Fat takes up about four times the space of muscle tissue, for example, so it is quite possible to look and feel fatter even if your height and weight remain the same.”
  • It ignores changes that occur with age. Your proportion of body fat increases as you get older, while your muscle mass decreases. That means your BMI may not change over the years even if you have more fat than you did when you were young.

Consider these other ways to determine if you’re overweight or obese:

  • Waist size—Men with a waist circumference of more than 40 inches and women with a waist size of more than 35 are considered overweight.
  • High-tech strategies—Skin-fold thickness, underwater weighing, and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry measure body fat directly.

How can you lower your BMI?
If your BMI shows that you are overweight or obese, you can take steps to lower it. The recipe for lower BMI follows three simple steps:

  • Healthy eating: Eat balanced meals, and avoid foods with high saturated fat. Try to eat five or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables. And watch portion sizes . One serving of cereal should be about the size of your fist. One serving of meat should be the size of a deck of cards. One serving of low-fat cheese is about the size of four dice.
  • Goodnight: Sleep is an important part of a healthy life. Getting enough sleep can help prevent the onset of diseases like diabetes and obesity. And if you have a chronic condition, sleep can help you manage it better. Adults should get seven to eight hours each night.
  • Exercise: Just 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week can make a big difference. You don’t have to hit the gym. You can walk , swim or even dance. Just keep moving!

Calculate you BMI
Need help figuring your BMI, use this BMI calculator. A normal, healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 for most adults. BMI may not be a perfect way to assess weight, it still works as an important tool to use as a starting point to have a conversation with your doctor.

What do you think? Is BMI a good measure of health? Shout out your ideas in the comments!