When it’s the exception (and not the norm) to be at a healthy body weight, yes, I think that qualifies as a crisis. Two out of three of us are carrying around excess baggage and half of those are outright obese.
And even though lately our average Body Mass Index (BMI) has stabilized, that’s not necessarily cause for celebration—because our waistlines are still growing!
Let’s talk about what your BMI does and doesn’t say about you, why our mid-sections continue to get wider, and how you can do your part to prevent this crisis from jeopardizing your health.
The evolution of the BMI
Back in the early 80's when I worked for a health insurance company, we used standardized tables that showed weight ranges for various heights for men and women.
There were color-coded sections for underweight, normal weight and overweight, and obesity was defined as being 150 percent of your normal bodyweight.
That may have been OK for insurance underwriting purposes, but in reality there was room for a big swing in each of the weight levels. Someone could fall within the range of "normal weight," but still look like they invented the Dunkin’ Donuts diet.
Current weight guidelines provide a more "specialized" look at a person’s build by first of all redefining overweight and obesity.
Overweight means have excess WEIGHT for your height, whereas obesity refers to an abundance of body FAT.
And the Body Mass Index (BMI) takes a closer, more defined look at someone's specific height and weight as an indicator of whether they just are carrying some excess baggage or are truly obese.
So what's your BMI and what does it mean?
Although there are formulas to manually compute your BMI, here is a handy BMI calculator that accepts both standard and metric measures:
Most medical organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) use the following criteria to assess bodyweight based on the BMI:
- < 18.5 = underweight
- 18.5 - 24.9 = normal weight
- 25.0 - 29.9 = overweight
- 30 or more = obese
What can give a far more accurate picture of your build is your Percent Body Fat (the percentage of total body fat compared to body weight) and the Visceral Fat Level (the estimated amount of fat surrounding the internal organs in your abdomen)—aka your belly fat.
Since fat (and not necessarily total weight) is really the true health issue here, the Percent Body Fat (PBF) and Visceral Fat Level will let you know where you stand, while at the same time 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.
If you can’t locate a machine, you can estimate both measures at home.
Here is a calculation tool for PBF that comes pretty close—just be sure to have a tape measure handy:
As far as visceral fat goes, 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. Any result greater than 1.0 for a man or .85 for a woman suggests excess visceral fat.
So for example, if you’re a woman and your waist is 27 inches and your hips at their fullest point are 35 inches, your visceral fat ratio is 27/35 or .77, which is in the acceptable range.
The latest trend—BMIs are stable but our waists are still growing
A recent study has shown that, although our average BMIs are relatively stable, our waistlines continue to grow!
In 1999 the average waistline in the US was 37.6 inches—now as of 2012 (when the latest data were collected) we’ve expanded to 38.8 inches!
And if you take a look around, it’s clear to see that those numbers haven’t come down in the last two and a half years.
Since BMIs haven’t been going up, then what is happening is that a growing percentage of people are accumulating more visceral (belly) fat than ever before!
And this is not good, my friend.
Having excess belly fat can increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and kidney disease, and even increase your risk of dementia!
The researchers in the study largely attributed this belly fat barrage to our lifestyles…in other words, too little exercise, too many refined carbs, poor sleep habits, high stress levels and our increasing reliance on medications (many of which have weight gain as a side effect).
An aging population is another factor, because we tend to lose muscle and gain fat as we age.
Shrink YOUR waistline!
The glimmer of hope here is that, even though we truly are in a crisis state with our average body weight and our amounts of belly fat, there is a whole lot of things you can do to shrink down your waistline and stack the deck in your favor to help keep excess fat-related diseases far away from you.
Here are four very effective steps you can take:
Step 1- Move it
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.
You don’t have to get fancy and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Even brisk walking in your neighborhood can be extremely effective and most everyone can do that.
Get your doctor’s approval and get moving.
And I bet you’ll see your waistline shrink very soon!
Step 2- Avoid refined carbs
Refined carbs are a leading factor behind not only our growing waistlines 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 and disease.
I can guide you with this important goal with Great Taste No Pain.
The Great Taste No Pain health system gives you step by step guides and meal ideas that help you to automatically limit refined carbs and processed foods, while eating real foods that are loaded with nutrients and disease-fighting antioxidants.
Now don't worry about eating rabbit food or bland foods! The dishes in the recipe book portion of the system are SO delicious, you'll swear they can't possibly be good for you!
Now, if you've got a gluten issue, Great Taste No Gluten is for you instead.
You'll get all the smart meal planning guidance as in Great Taste No Pain, plus guides to recognizing and avoiding gluten and a collection of mouth-watering gluten free recipes.
Step 3- 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.
That means a greater likelihood of feeling GREAT well into your golden years!
But unfortunately, our typical refined food diets are grossly lacking in these vital nutrients. And although they are found in abundance in fish, the average person doesn’t eat fish seven days a week.
That’s why supplementing with a fish oil blend like VitalMega-3 can be so helpful for SO many people!
The recommended 2 gel caps a day dosage give you 2,000 mg of pure medical-grade fish oil, including 1,200 mg of Omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Step 4- De-stress
Most people don’t realize this, but chronic stress can add to your expanding waistline!
You see, stress makes your body produce the hormone cortisol, which 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!
Regular exercise like I mentioned in number 1 above is a great way to de-stress.
Also you can try counseling, therapy, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, acupuncture, massage therapy, hobbies, visualization, Tai chi, aromatherapy, biofeedback and hypnosis.
Even adopting a pet has been shown to help! So pay a visit to your local animal shelter if you decide this is right for you.
You are now an expert in what the BMI really means, you have some tools to better assess your body weight, and most importantly, you now know four ways to help keep our current body fat crisis (and all its health dangers) far away from you.
So face the music and do what you need to do now.
You’ll be so glad you did.
And I’ll be so happy for YOU.
To your health,
PS: Always be sure to let your doctor or healthcare provider know what supplements you are taking.