Your BMI– or Body Mass Index– is a form of measurement used to determine if you are within the right weight range based on your height. This dated tracking method has been under a lot of scrutiny lately, particularly as weight lifting and bodybuilding becomes more mainstream.
With technology and knowledge about body composition developing rapidly in our culture, is BMI still and effective way to measure overall health?
When It Works
The short answer to the question is yes, in some cases BMI is still an effective form of measurement. Obesity is running rampant in North America, and the BMI scale gives individuals working to combat their obesity diagnosis a benchmark on which to base their progress.
On the other side of the coin, BMI can help determine if someone is dangerously underweight or be a strong indicator of an eating disorder. Okcalculator is a way to figure out if you or someone you love is dangerously underweight. With obesity being so prevalent, we often forget the other side of disordered eating and its place in our world. Up to 30 million people in the United States have had an experience with disordered eating.
When It Doesn’t
As muscle tissue is denser than adipose (or fat) tissue, scale readings and BMI measurements can become unfavorably skewed. This results in an inaccurate depiction of someone’s overall health. For example, a woman who regularly lifts weights might drop a couple of pants sizes while gaining twenty pounds. The scale and BMI systems would show that this woman is overweight or even obese, despite the fact that she is in amazing shape.
There’s also the broader definition of health to consider. A bodybuilder at a healthy weight with visible abs might have severe body dysmorphia and disordered eating habits. On the contrary, someone who exercises a bit but is slightly overweight might be mentally healthy and happy. This adds a grey area when defining overall health.
You may find when you visit a medical professional that there are very few standards they are required to follow– that’s why second opinions exist. The BMI system was created to add a standard across the board.
So what’s the problem? Too many doctors are staying steadfast to the BMI measurement system rather than looking at the overall picture. One doctor may look at the woman who lifts weights and say “your BMI is high, but that’s clearly because of your muscle mass; you are perfectly healthy.” Another might say, “your BMI is too high so you need to lose weight.”
Personal beliefs weigh heavily in medical practices and unfortunately impact the decision-making processes of professionals who are married to their archaic school of thought.
Other Effective Measurements
In your journey to good health, try to shy away from the numbers. If you are overweight, your BMI and a basic scale can be a good starting point. However, they can cause emotional duress as you gain muscle and cause the downward movement to become stagnant.
Body fat percentage is an effective way to determine how much lean mass you have. Unfortunately, many of the affordable options have a large margin of error and can give you conflicting results based on your hydration or residue on the sensors.
One of the simple ways to track your progress is by how you look and feel. Are your clothes getting looser? Are tasks that were once difficult becoming easier? Is your athletic ability improving? Take photos on a monthly basis to visually track your changes; it can be difficult to notice a visual change in ourselves.
In summation, BMI is still a valid measurement system in certain scenarios, though not as a standalone method of determining health.