It’s no secret; for the past several decades we have been bombarded with many studies indicating that obesity is the biggest health epidemic we deal with in America. We have also been told that obesity greatly increases the risk for degenerative diseases like heart failure, diabetes, and cancer. THIS IS NOT ENTIRELY TRUE! When these studies were released, the only factors they looked at were weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). People are easily enamored with these figures but in reality, they do not tell you very much.
Your BMI is computed by knowing your height and weight; the formula can be searched for easily if you are unfamiliar with the calculation. The BMI calculation does NOT take into account how much of your weight is fat, muscle, bone, water, mineral, etc. It also does not take into account lifestyle choices like exercise, eating habits, diet drug use, attempted crash diets and weight fluctuations. The BMI was used by insurance companies as a blanket way to determine the health risk of an individual. This is a problem because very muscular people and some athletes end up being classified as obese despite being amongst the healthiest people in the world. The BMI system is relatively useless but because insurance companies do not have the time, manpower or resources to fully assess people how they should, this is the best system they can use. For those who are sedentary and do not have healthy habits, the BMI scale proves to be somewhat accurate.
If obesity is not the issue, then what is? There are more and more studies starting to surface showing lifestyle is a far better indicator of health as well as evaluating the risk of developing a degenerative disease. While studying Exercise and Wellness at Arizona State University, I was first exposed to this and was convinced by the overwhelming evidence. Studies are showing that people who are active physically and practice healthy eating and lifestyle habits but are considered overweight or obese by BMI standards are just as healthy if not healthier than those who fall in to the “Normal” BMI standards but are sedentary and do not exercise or practice healthy eating and lifestyle habits! The real indicators of health include the following items:
- Lifestyle habits (smoking, recreational drug use, alcohol consumption, etc.)
- Diet drug use
- Weight cycling (gaining and losing weight numerous times in a short period of time)
- Crash diet attempts
Now this is NOT saying the all people who are overweight or obese are healthy. If you lead a poor lifestyle and are considered overweight or obese then you still are at a much higher risk for health issues, but you can change that with a few lifestyle changes! If you find yourself in the Underweight or Normal categories, this does not mean that you are automatically healthy either. If you have poor lifestyle habits and do not exercise then you still have a higher risk of disease than if you exercised and led a healthy lifestyle. If you want to be healthy regardless of your weight you need to exercise, eat right, avoid crash diets, avoid weight loss or diet drugs and make it a point to lose weight the right way. If you lose weight the right way, you should only have to do it once. If you need to lose weight, you should only lose 1-2 pounds per week to ensure that you are not losing too much muscle mass. I hope this encourages EVERYONE to get up and start taking care of themselves! Your weight does not determine your well-being!