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Body Mass Index: Should I Believe the Hype?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a calculation that describes relative weight for height. While it’s a quick and easy tool to classify weight status, it’s not a perfect measure of health.

To calculate your BMI, take your current weight in pounds, divide it by your height in inches squared, and multiply the resulting number by 703. For those averse to math, you can enter your height and weight into this BMI calculator from the National Institutes of Health.

Now that you know your BMI, look at the definitions below to determine your classification:

  • 18.5 or less = underweight

  • 18.5–24.9 = healthy weight

  • 25–29.9 = overweight

  • 30 or greater = obese

Before becoming really sad (or really happy) about your results, here are a few other points to know about BMI:

  • BMI does not differentiate between fat mass and lean mass. This means you could have a healthy BMI yet also be considered "overfat". Similarly, if you are very muscular, you may have very little fat mass but a higher weight that puts you outside of the healthy BMI range. The most accurate measures of lean and fat mass are expensive and not feasible for most of us (be wary of the gym equipment that measures your fat mass).

  • BMI doesn’t tell us anything about fat distribution. A person classified as having a healthy BMI but who stores most of their fat in their front mid-section has a much greater chance of developing diabetes or heart disease compared to a person with the same BMI who stores their fat in their hips.

  • BMI doesn’t tell us anything about behavior. Perhaps you are eating a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and you exercise most days of the week, but your BMI falls outside of the healthy range. You may have a much lower risk of disease than someone who falls within the healthy BMI range who doesn’t exercise, sits at a desk all day, snacks on processed foods, and doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables.

So what does all of this really mean?

BMI is not stand alone tool. Individual factors such as your amount of lean mass, how your weight is distributed, and lifestyle factors such as activity level, eating and sleeping habits, how you manage stress, and smoking status are other important factors to consider when assessing current health and risk of future disease.

If your BMI is outside of the healthy range AND you have other medical symptoms such as prediabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, you may benefit from weight loss. For many people, losing as little as 10 – 20 pounds of excess weight is often enough to improve these measures, even if it doesn't move you into the healthy BMI range.

If you're thinking about losing weight, take some time to consider what you are willing and able to change over the long term. Whatever changes you are willing to make, start with an action plan! Research show that people who keep track of action plans are more likely to achieve their long term goals than those who do not.

If you're looking for more assistance, let Whole Food Is Medicine help transform you into your healthiest self! From tracking plans to individualized counseling tailored to fit your needs and lifestyle, Whole Food Is Medicine has you covered!

Whatever your health goals-remember that transformation into healthiest self is a journey. All journeys are filled with twists, turns, detours, plus lots of stuff in between. Your path is as unique as you-so be kind to yourself on your journey and embrace your lovely body that does so much for you every day!

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