Scale Number Only One Measure Of Health
How much does weight matter? Should we focus more on where the extra weight is? Can you be overweight and healthy? Skinny and unhealthy?
Obviously, we should control weight by eating healthy foods in small portions and getting physical activity. The human body just wasn't meant to carry around too much weight. But we have to be careful not to obsess about a number on the scale. It's not always the best indicator of good health.
There are plenty of slim people who have chronic health issues. Regardless, if unhealthy habits manifest as fat on the outside, it's still slowing down the heart, the pancreas, kidneys, liver, etc.
And then there's the BMI -- the body mass index. The formula has long been under scrutiny, as the 150-plus-year-old calculation does not account for different body compositions and muscle mass.
So, you can't accurately measure a person's body fat if they're a bodybuilder. It's also difficult to use the standard on certain ethnic groups. For example, African-Americans are generally more muscular, and black women tend to carry more weight in the buttocks than around the waist. The BMI chart may show they are overweight. But is that the case?
While the standard BMI chart may overestimate obesity in African-Americans, it underestimates it in Asians. They tend to suffer from obesity-related illnesses even when they are within the healthy BMI range in the chart.
BMI does serve a purpose. It is one tool in assessing health. Owners of Beyond Fitness in Rusk said last week they don't recommend that their clients weigh too often and they don't care so much about BMI. The same rules apply to a 150-pound person as a 250-pound person, they said.
Jenny Pratz, a trainer at the facility, believes unrealistic goals of being thin lead many people to eating disorders.
"I think it's ridiculous what the chart says somebody at (5 feet 4) should be," Pratz said last week. "No. As long as you feel good and you're healthy ... it's all about them. Everybody deserves to look and feel the way they want."
There's always contrasting studies about weight and health. Reports earlier this spring said BMI probably underestimates how obese Americans are. Meanwhile, data presented at the European Congress on Obesity last month concluded that waist-to-height ratio was a better measure of obesity as well as a better predictor of whether an individual would develop diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease. The study observed 300,000 people across different ethnic groups.
Health officials believe the waist circumference should be less than half of a person's weight. Anything over that puts them at risk for chronic illnesses.
If you're dropping extra weight, wonderful. But don't let weight loss be your only indicator of health. Also, don't let it be the only indicator of progress. Sometimes the numbers on the scale are slow to go down because we are gaining lean muscle, which is denser than fat. Trainers say that number reflected on the scale sometimes discourages people and they drop out of the race toward the end.
Don't give up on yourself. Take notice of your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers, how your clothes fit, and most importantly, how you feel. Everything else, including weight loss, will follow.