We all want to be healthy. Most of us have tried to lose weight. Want to find out how you are really doing?
Most people check their weight loss with a scale. There is another way. Your Body Mass Index (BMI) gives you the key to real knowledge of what your weight loss efforts are really doing for you.
What is BMI?
BMI, or Body Mass Index, has long been used to assess a woman’s ideal healthy weight. BMI has been used for years to determine if your weight is classed as healthy, underweight, overweight or obese. Basically, it is a useful measure for learning how at risk you are to develop weight-related health issues.
You will find on most BMI calculators or charts that your weight classification will be determined by your BMI figure. For example, for women, the recommended BMI is classified as:
Underweight - a BMI of less than 18.5
Normal (healthy) - a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
Overweight - a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9
Obese - a BMI of 30.0 or higher.
How is it calculated?
To calculate your BMI, all you need to do is divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters, then divide that figure by your height again. The resulting figure is compared against a graph to determine whether your BMI is healthy or not.
For example if you weight 60kg and your height is 1.7m complete the following calculation.
60 divided by 1.7 = 35.3
35.3 divided by 1.7 = 20.8.
BMI = 20.8
Why is BMI important for women?
For women there is evidence that having a high BMI is linked to health issues. Some of these include:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Some Cancers
- Breathing Problems
Losing weight doesn’t have to be a chose and a few simple changes can go a long way. There are also several natural products which can help you on your weight loss journey.
What are the factors that effect your BMI calculation?
Since BMI was created, not only has women’s average height increased, so has the average weight. Using BMI to determine the healthiness of women has some controversy and its reliability has often been questioned. There are a number of basic factors that can impact the accuracy of the BMI calculation.
- Physical activity – it’s a known fact that muscle weighs more. The more physical activity you do, the higher your muscle mass will be and therefore the more you will weigh. Therefore, any BMI calculation is likely to be inaccurate and not truly reflect you. For example, most professional athletes will find their BMI figure in the overweight to obese range.
- Menopause/postmenopausal – as women age, they gather more body fat, particularly as they go through the menopause. This is because a woman’s hormone levels will decrease, which reduces muscle mass and increases belly fat. Some research has shown that although postmenopausal women may weigh the same as they did 20 or 30 years ago, due to an increase in body fat and less muscle mass, whilst their BMI suggests they are healthy, they are, in fact, overweight or obese.
- Ethnicity – a recent study found that ethnicity does have an impact on a woman’s body fat distribution, as well as their muscle mass. The study discovered that women of Mexican descent had greater body fat than black and white women. It was also shown that black women generally had increased muscle mass in comparison to white women or those of Mexican descent. However, the BMI calculation doesn’t account for these factors and will therefore provide a false indication.
Alternatives to using BMI
The first point to remember is that just because your BMI may seem at odds to your visual figure, it’s not the only measurement that can be used to determine if you are at a healthy weight or not. Any BMI should be considered alongside alternative ways to measure body mass.
- Electronic body fat scanner – a large proportion of today’s modern medical scales will include a body fat scanner. Metal plates are incorporated into the scales, which send a small, imperceptible current through your body. This will give you an estimate of your body fat percentage and whilst there is usually a deviation of around +/-7 on accuracy, when combined with BMI, it will give you a good idea of your measurement.
- Skinfold callipers – firstly, let’s just say that your body fat percentage is the absolute minimum amount of body fat you should have to stay healthy and good brain functionality. Secondly, we must say that this test should be conducted by either a medical professional or a fitness trainer. It comprises of testing 6 areas on your body with a pair of callipers – they look a bit like a pair of tongs. The tests are used to determine not only your body fat percentage, but also whether you have a higher muscle density that your BMI would indicate. For women, the average range of essential body fat percentage to remain healthy is 25% to 31%.
- Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) – this ratio is calculated by dividing your waist measurement, in centimetres, by your hip measurement. This helps to determine whether you are carrying any excess weight and if so, how much, which could affect your health. The WHR guidelines for women are:
o Low health risk – 0.8 or lower
o Moderate health risk – 0.81 to 0.84
o High health risk – 0.85 or higher.
When the test is being carried out, always make sure you are standing up tall. Measure your waist, typically above your belly button, and then measure your hips, typically the widest area of your buttocks. Then divide your waist figure by the hip measurement.
- A mirror – yes, it’s old-fashioned but it can actually be the best way to determine whether you are at a healthy weight, carrying a few extra pounds or are obese. Whilst it can be hard to look at yourself in the mirror, being brave and truthful about your body will give you the best indication. It is also a good way to measure your progress as you work towards achieving your ideal healthy weight.
Ultimately, whilst BMI doesn’t account for a variety of other factors for women, it can give you a good indication about your weight and whether it is healthy or not. Combining it with an alternative way to measure your body mass, body fat percentage, bone density and muscle mass will provide you with a much more accurate assessment. From there, you will be able to work with a fitness coach to help you eat and exercise your way to a healthy future.