In life, one arrives at a point where changes in the body are noticeable than before.  Aging becomes something you think of more often. Our eyes look more tired, skin starts to lose its natural bounce, metabolism slows down and losing weight is a constant battle between oneself. Generally, having over-all good health is something we do not prioritize. But upon experiencing injuries or illnesses that take longer to recover, you start to realize the need to check your body when symptoms that were once inconsequential wouldn’t just go away like it used to. This serves as a warning for us to pursue better health choices. ones which a health an wellness coach can help with.  

Sooner or later, people become more health conscious. We try to be more proactive in tracking our health condition and in doing so, there is a tendency to look for a health checklist to gauge baseline measurement. We tend to look for easy but scientific ways to measure our overall health; searching for a guide to understanding our risk of diseases and mortality.

One certain health indicator that we often heard of (even probably know ourselves) is BMI.

What is BMI?

BMI stands for body mass index, which is the ratio of your weight over height squared. It is a simple way to gauge body mass and is commonly used to categorize people in groups based on baseline ranges as reference.

How to Compute your BMI

BMI = weight (kilograms) divided by height 2 (meters)  squared.

Using the metrics system, BMI formula is calculated by measuring your weight expressed in kilograms and dividing it with your height in meters. If you’re more used to using inches and pounds, do the same with your weight and height but multiply the resulting number by 703 to get your BMI.

How Your BMI is Used

BMI is a widely used measuring tool to classify a person into a category based on a quantity that is known to indicate the level of body fat composition. By using the ratio of weight over height, the resulting number is used to predict future risks of conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Body Mass Index Chart

Below are the categories accepted by the World Health Organization to represent the BMI ranges for each gender, known as the BMI or Quetelet index.

BMI for women includes:

Category BMI range – kg/m2
UnderweightNormal Less than 18.518.5 – 25
Overweight 25 – 30
Obese Class I 30 – 35
Obese Class II 35 – 40

BMI for Men includes:

Category BMI range –  kg/m2
Underweight Below 18.5
Normal 18.5 to 24.9
Overweight 25.0 to 29.9
Obese 30.0 and Above

But how accurate are these values?

The accuracy of these figures and their corresponding equivalent is now being questioned. Generally, current scientific studies about BMI (please check this journal as well) shows that BMI is not a good screening tool as it lacks the depth needed.

Furthermore, your BMI is unreliable because.

It is Inconclusive and Often Leads to Misinformation

The major factor that BMI lacks is not considering an individual’s body type and physical predispositions. Body types are categorized differently – ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph. An endomorph might be genetically inclined to gain more fat compared to a person who is an ectomorph or mesomorph. For instance, if you have a person who regularly lifts weights and another who is a chronic couch potato, both of them might have the same weight and height. So if you use BMI to identify which person is obese, the resulting value might indicate that both are in the same category since computation will eventually yield the same value. This is inaccurate and might lead to a misunderstanding that the physically active person has poor health because he is ‘heavier’. Therefore, to know what comprises one’s body mass, it would be best to learn first what covers your body mass.

It Does Not Represent your Over-all Body Composition.

It is important to note that a muscle weighs more than fat. Our body is composed of fat and fat-free masses. Body fat is found under the skin and muscle tissue, as well as around the vital organs called ‘visceral fat’. This type is harmful. Having a higher amount of visceral fat is considered unhealthy and might indicate risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, fat-free mass includes your internal organs, bone, muscle, water, and connective tissue. They are always active and continuously burn unhealthy fats. There are many options in measuring your body composition such as skinfold measurements, bioelectrical Impedance, and DEXA scan. If you want to check your levels, it is best to make an appointment with a medical professional with the right equipment.

So what is the best alternative to BMI?

Measure your waist-to-height ratio. It is easier and more accurate than BMI.

Waist-to-height ratio measures abdominal obesity and is used as a predictor of risk cardiovascular disease.

To measure your waist, estimate where the narrowest part of your torso is. It is recommended to palpate your lowest rib and the protruding part of your hip called the iliac crest. In between these two points, you will find your waist measurement.

To find measure your hip circumference, wrap your tape measure around the largest part of your buttocks and record it.

How to calculate waist-to-hip ratio

When you have the data above, divide your waist circumference with your hip circumference.

Below is the accepted values (taken from healthline.com):

Waist-to-hip ratio chart

Health risk Women Men
Low 0.80 or lower 0.95 or lower
Moderate 0.81–0.85 0.96–1.0
High 0.86 or higher 1.0 or higher

Summary

Of course, there are other biomarkers for over-all health that you need to consider. This includes diet assessment, level of physical activity (strength and endurance), past medical and family history showing blood markers that could help you determine the complete picture of your health. Knowing the right tools helps you decide the best choices and take proactive control of your health, and a nutritional consultant can help.