The Body Mass Index (BMI) was designed to take a defined look at someone's height and weight to assess overweight and obesity.
A BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight; 18.5-24.9 is normal; 25.0 – 29.9 is overweight and 30.0 or greater is obese.
But not all weight is created equal.
Lean body mass (which is basically all of your body parts except your fat) weighs more than fat. So conceivably, if you have a high percentage of lean body mass (the good, healthy stuff including muscle), you could still top out as overweight according to the BMI!
Fat is where it’s at
What is far more telling is your Percent Body Fat (the percentage of total body fat compared to body weight) and the Visceral Fat Level (the amount of fat surrounding your internal organs)—aka your belly fat.
Since excess fat is really the true health concern, focusing on your body fat allows you to better assess your risks, and you won’t be “penalized” for having a good amount of lean muscle mass.
Specialized machines like the InBody can measure PBF and Visceral Fat—you can find this machine in some doctors’ offices or health clubs.
You can also estimate body fat using your waist-to-hip ratio.
Measure your natural waist (where you “crease” when you bend to the side) and your hips (at their fullest point) and divide the waist number by the hip number. A result greater than 0.9 for a man or .83 for a woman suggests excess fat.
So for example, if you’re a woman and your waist is 26 inches and your hips are 34 inches, your visceral fat ratio is 26/34 or .76, which is in the acceptable range.
What fruit are you?
It’s also important to see what fruit you resemble by looking at where most of your fat happens to reside in your body.
People with an apple shape (carrying more fat around the middle) have far greater health risks--including heart disease—than pear-shaped people (who carry their fat in the hip and thigh area).
Studies are challenging the BMI too
The shortcomings of the BMI are becoming more obvious in several studies too.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine followed more than 50,000 middle-aged and older Canadians and found that body fat percentage was a better predictor of life expectancy than BMI.
In this study, having a low BMI didn't protect against early death—as a matter of fact, mortality rates increased as BMI decreased but body fat percentage went up.
Win the battle over blubber
Here are some ways you can help win the battle over blubber and attain a healthier body fat percentage.
There’s no way around it—if you want a chance at a healthy body weight and to minimize your risk of all kinds of diseases, you simply MUST move….more than just from the couch to the refrigerator and back during commercials.
Get your doctor’s approval and get going.
Avoid refined carbs
Refined carbs are a leading factor behind not only our blossoming blubber but also our ever-increasing rates of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer!
So the more you can avoid refined foods in general and instead rely on nutritious REAL foods (like fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, whole grains, good fats, dairy, and legumes), the greater your chances of living the rest of your days free of pain, disease and excess fat.
Get enough Omega-3 essential fatty acids
Studies have shown that people who maintain a rich supply of Omega-3 EFAs have lower blood triglyceride (fat) levels and remain free of cardiovascular disease and other degenerative conditions far longer than those with lower Omega-3 levels.
Since our typical diets are grossly lacking in these important nutrients, supplementing with a quality Omega-3 fish oil like VitalMega-3 can help ensure you have a health-supporting supply of these natural anti-inflammatories.
Most people don’t realize this, but chronic stress and overproduction of cortisol can deplete lean muscle and make your body hold on to fat in the belly region. It also enlarges your fat cells, allowing them to store more fat!
Do what you need to do (regular exercise is great) to reduce stress in your life.
Get enough sleep
Proper sleep increases levels of immune system chemicals that help reduce fat-causing inflammation in your body.
The average person requires between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. So if you’re getting fewer than that, it’s time to turn off the TV or computer and get some decent rest.
You are now an expert in body fat and have some great strategies to help your body achieve a more healthful level.
To your health,
The information in our articles are NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and are not intended as medical advice.