Understanding body weight and health

Your appearance says a lot about you. The general assumption is that a skinny person is the picture of a healthy person, and vice versa, an overweight person must have at least a certain level of health issue going on. How true is this notion? Is it just a myth? Can a fat person actually be fit and healthy? Or do you absolutely have to be skinny to qualify as a healthy person?

For the longest time, body weight has been the indication of one’s health. But recent studies have suggested that just because someone is overweight, it doesn’t mean that he or she is not fit or healthy. This idea started to gain popularity as fueled by a number of scientific evidence where they show that men and women who are slightly overweight but physically healthy had less risk of cardiac disease than people of normal weight but sedentary.

The results of a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine should not come as a surprise. One of the most obvious examples to prove this claim can be seen in the sports industry. Elite athletes can have an appearance ranging from tiny Olympic gymnasts to massive NFL linemen. Athletes at both extremes- and all those in between- are in shape and trained to perform at high levels.

Understanding BMI

To assess how far an individual’s body weight relates to what is normal or desirable for a person’s height, a standard calculation of Body Mass Index is considered as the most proportional way universally.

Body mass index (BMI) is a value derived from the weight and height of a person. The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, and is universally expressed in units of kg/m2, resulting from mass in kilograms and height in metres.

The WHO regards a BMI of less than 18.5 as underweight and may indicate malnutrition, an eating disorder, or other health problems, while a BMI equal to or greater than 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is considered obese. These ranges of BMI values are valid only as statistical categories.

Curious to see which category you are? Try to calculate your BMI here!

Is BMI a Good Definition of Health?

While BMI is a good place to start to get a clearer picture of what healthy means, some experts still think that it can be deceiving.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s 1998 report, Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults :  People who are overweight can be considered healthy if their waist size is less than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, and if they do not have two or more of the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • High cholesterol

The guidelines point out that overweight people should not gain additional weight, and, preferably, should lose a few pounds. Other risk factors, such as smoking, also affect whether a person is considered healthy.

As such, the key to being healthy leans more toward your level of fitness, blood health, as well as lifestyle, especially your diet. It is best not to get fixated too much on your physical look or even the BMI as long as it’s not severely deviated. What matters is your consistent health maintenance which comes down to physical activity and what you eat.

The bottom line remains the same. What we look like on the outside doesn’t really matter; it’s what’s inside that really counts – including your meal.

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