The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a common way of determining whether you are a healthy weight for your height. BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered a healthy weight.
But is BMI the only standard for measuring a healthy weight? Is it accurate? What other standards are available to measure healthy weight? You could be asking yourself all these questions when you think of whether or not your weight is healthy.
You could also be wondering if all standards for measuring your healthy weight are the same, and whether or not you should rely on just one standard.
Standards for Healthy Weight
At the moment, there are two established standards for measuring healthy weight- Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist Circumference.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
It is not your first time hearing or reading about the BMI. Body mass index uses your height and weight to establish whether you are in the healthy weight range or no.
To get your BMI, CDC highlights that your weight in kilograms is divided by the square of height in meters. The result is your BMI.
Four ranges are available to check how healthy your weight is:
Underweight range: BMI less than 18.5
Normal range: BMI between 18.5 and 24.9
Overweight: BMI between 25 and 29.9
Obese: BMI of 30 or higher
Knowing your BMI alone is not enough to establish how healthy your weight is. This is because BMI does not take into account other important factors such as how much muscle and fat you have.
One can be considered overweight or obese on the BMI chart but have a healthy weight. For example, if their blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels are excellent, then they do not have any health risks associated with their weight.
BMI measurements do not account for how muscular you are. You could be a construction worker who takes up most of the heavy lifting tasks making you muscular. You could also be a weight lifter who is muscular. In both cases, your BMI is certain to show high and even place you as either overweight or obese. In a real sense, however, you are at no major risk of illnesses because your average body fat is very low.
BMI does not consider your age. Yes, BMI measurements are meant for adults but would you be aged 25 years have the same fat deposits as your father who is 50 years? While in some cases this could be realistic, it generally is not the case. Older people have more fat deposits on them than younger people- and stating that a BMI of 30 is obese would not be as precise.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Health Service (NHS), BMI can also underestimate body fat in older people and people who have lost muscle because they can be classified under “healthy weight” yet they are carrying excess fat.
Measuring your waist circumference is another standard to determine how healthy your weight is. This method has gained recent attention because excessive abdominal fat may deposit around the waist and put you at risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
Use a tape measure to find your waist circumference. You should take the measurements when you are standing and the tape measure placed horizontally above your hipbones. Bupa recommends that you should be careful not to pull in the tape snug, and to read off the measurement just after you breathe out.
You have a low risk of health problems caused by weight if your waist circumference is less than 94 cm (37 inches) or 80 cm (31 inches) for men and women respectively.
Waist circumferences of between 94 and 102 cm (37-40 inches) are considered high risk for men. A waist circumference of 80-88cm (31.5-35 inches) is considered high risk in women.
A waist circumference of more than 102 cm (40 inches) in men is considered very high risk. Non-pregnant women who have more than 88cm (35 inches) waist circumference readings are considered to be at a very high risk of health problems due to health. Asian men and women with waists more than 35.5 inches and 31.5 inches respectively are at a very high risk of illnesses related to excessive fat deposits.
Are the healthy weight standards the same?
The simple answer is no. The standards are not the same.
While the BMI takes account of weight and height in establishing the ranges for a healthy weight, the waist circumference only considers the circumference of one’s waist.
Waist circumference, unlike the BMI, accounts for body fat deposits that accumulate around the waist. Belly fat is a worse determinant of obesity-related illnesses such as chronic heart diseases and high blood pressure.
You may be wondering what now is a healthy weight and whether or not you should worry about your recent BMI reading and waist circumference.
What does a healthy weight mean?
A healthy weight is that which does not put you at risk of diseases while considering who you are as an individual. A healthy weight is a weight that allows you to confidently pursue your daily activities with ease.
A healthy weight is you as an individual. It goes beyond simple diet and physical activities. A healthy weight is affected by factors such as age, ethnic background, genetics, and lifestyle, among others. It is an outcome of self-care and not necessarily a goal.
A healthy weight is not a scale reading. It is not a body shape or size. It is not what society and social media perceive as having sporty or model-like bodies. A healthy weight is feeling better about who you are because you are not only at low risk of disease but also can find fulfilment in your life.
But this should not be a reason to fill your life with unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking just because you are naturally confident about your weight. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a natural process, and you should not be too hard on yourself either.
Now you know that healthy weight standards are not the same. They differ significantly and do not always rely on scale readings to measure your risk of obesity-related diseases.
Always visit a trained healthcare provider to advise and recommend whether your weight is within the healthy ranger or not if you have doubts. It is good to know your BMI and waist circumference, but they are not self-sufficient to determine your risk of illnesses.
A healthy weight is more of an outcome than a goal. It is something you need to naturally and progressively attain. Take one step at a time towards maintaining or achieving your healthy weight.
Healthy weights differ from person to person. Crucial factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and level of physical exercise, should be considered when talking about a healthy weight.
Avoid beating yourself because of your recent BMI reading that otherwise classifies you as obese. Even if you indeed are overweight, underweight, or obese- that is not a permanent situation. Make progressive little steps towards attaining your healthy weight by eating right, sleeping adequately, and staying physically active.