We’ve all heard the term BMI, or Body Mass Index, but what does it mean? What does our BMI tell us about our overall health? And how do we impact our bodies when our BMI goes up or down?
In medical terms, BMI is a measurement of your body’s size. It’s calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. Doctors use BMI as a screening tool to evaluate whether a patient is an appropriate weight for their height.
This metric tells you how much of your body weight consists of fat as opposed to other tissues. Your doctor may use your BMI to make predictions about your health and the medical risks you’re likely to face.
Doctors can then classify individuals as underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese. Most doctors, nutritionists, and fitness specialists recommend aiming for a target weight in the healthy range. That’s because being either over- or underweight can invite myriad health problems. Furthermore, some of those conditions are quite serious.
Weight Gain: An Uncomfortable Reality
According to a Harvard University study, most adults between the ages of 18 – 49 gain an average of 1 – 2 pounds per year. That’s not a substantial increase from year to year. However, it can add up over time leading to some undesirable consequences.
Experts advise that if you weigh more than ten pounds now than you did at the age of 21, you should make weight loss an immediate priority. If you do not weigh more than ten pounds than you did at 21, concentrate on maintaining your weight.
Contrary to what daytime TV commercials would have you believe, there are no safe instant weight-loss remedies out there. What’s the most reliable way to lose weight and keep it off? By making gradual changes to your diet and exercise regimen.
Some safe and effective strategies for long-term weight control are as follows:
- Eat a high-protein breakfast
- Avoiding sugary drinks including soda
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Drink water a half hour before each meal
- Eat as many unprocessed foods as possible
It is possible to lose weight strictly through dietary changes. However, a regular exercise regimen offers a vast range of benefits. Exercise designed to develop muscle can be especially beneficial. That’s because the more muscle you have, the more efficiently your body will burn calories.
A range of cardio exercises, such as walking, running, aerobics, and cycling are great for building endurance. One the other hand, cardio also improves circulation and melts body fat.
Add in resistance training activities to build muscle. Include exercises like weight lifting, squats and lunges, indoor climbing, and rope climbing.
What Causes Weight Gain?
We all know that a poor diet and infrequent exercise are significant contributors to unwanted weight gain. However, there are additional complications to be aware of, as they can hinder your weight loss endeavors.
Some people have a genetic predisposition to gain weight more quickly than others. Moreover, some tend to store unwanted fat around their trunks. Medical conditions like underactive thyroid, Cushing’s disease, and polycystic ovarian syndrome can make weight gain easier and weight loss harder. Additionally, certain medications can increase your appetite, as well as make it harder to burn calories.
The Medical Risks of Being Underweight
In modern society, thinness is frequently glamorized and considered to be sexually desirable. But being too thin can be symptomatic of an underlying medical problem. Furthermore, it can even cause problems if left unaddressed.
Many underweight people are malnourished and consequently suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Also, they may struggle with anemia, which is marked by low hemoglobin in the blood. These conditions can cause a host of symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, and rapid heart rate.
Underweight people can also experience decreased immune system function, hindered growth, and development, particularly among young children and teenagers. In addition, they face an increased risk of complications from surgery and fertility problems due to irregular menses. In the long term, being underweight can even put you at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
Interestingly, one study done in Japan found that women with a desire to be thinner had less healthy eating habits than women who did not. Though thinness is commonly associated with good health, it’s essential to realize that there are healthy and unhealthy ways of achieving weight loss goals. Losing weight through malnutrition can cause more significant harm in the long term than gradual weight loss through sustainable diet and exercise habits.
The Dangers of Being Overweight
Just as being underweight can pose some serious risks to your health, being overweight brings its assortment of possible complications. Obese people have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Though these conditions can all be manageable with medication, there are some potentially life-altering and even deadly side effects associated with them all. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to medical emergencies like ketoacidosis. Some diabetic people lose digits and even limbs due to the poor circulation commonly associated with the disease, whereas others lose their vision.
High blood pressure puts sufferers at an increased risk of stroke, and cardiovascular problems can lead to severe complications, including heart attack, cardiac arrest, and early death. If left unchecked, these diseases often require surgical intervention.
Very overweight people often face the additional challenge of dealing with the excess strain put on their joints. Some obese individuals suffer chronic pain due to the repetitive stress of needing to support the extra weight the human body was never intended to carry, and over time this can create a need for joint replacement surgery.
In old age, it’s not uncommon for obese people to require mobility aids, as their weight and the resultant strain it puts on their bodies can make walking painfully awkward or sometimes impossible.
The Advantages of a Healthy Body Mass Index
While a healthy body mass index doesn’t make you immune to developing medical problems, it can help reduce the risks associated with specific diseases and disorders, as well as improve your mobility.
In addition to facing a lower risk of developing joint problems, cardiac problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and other medical issues, people who are a healthy weight are less likely to experience conditions including sleep apnea, gallstones, snoring, asthma, and cataracts.
Additionally, people with a lower body mass index generally report higher self-esteem than those with a higher body mass index. Though this is undoubtedly due at least in part to popular images of beauty hinges on thinness, the fact is that those who adhere to a healthy diet and exercise regularly tend to have a greater sense of accomplishment about their self-care than those who do not.
Lowering Your Body Mass Index
Even if you’re currently overweight, it’s possible for you to achieve a healthier BMI and to decrease your risk of certain diseases and medical complications. According to experts, even losing a mere 5% of your total body weight can lower your cancer risk, relieve strain on your joints, prevent – or, in some cases, even reverse – diabetes, and improve your cholesterol.
Many overweight people who suffer from sleep apnea find that the condition lessens or even resolves entirely once they lower their BMI. Because certain types of sleep apnea ar aggravated by inflammation, fluid retention, and excess fat held in the throat, weight loss can help relieve these symptoms, decreasing the sufferer’s risk of further complications related to apnea.
For those carrying excess fat in their mid-sections, lowering the body mass index can help improve insulin resistance. The pancreas produces insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels. Excess fat can make your body stop reacting to insulin, which can lead to undesired weight gain.
If none of this has you convinced, consider that weight loss can help improve your mood. The endorphin rush associated with vigorous physical activity like aerobic exercise and weightlifting can trigger the release of pleasure-enhancing chemicals in the brain. These chemicals can affect similar to the painkiller morphine, inducing a state of pleasurable relaxation.
Weight Loss Can Improve Your Appearance
Thinness alone isn’t the only reason to consider losing weight. Many people find that skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis, and hidradenitis suppurativa, frequently resolve with weight loss. Losing body fat can help prevent chafing, particularly in areas like the armpits and groin, where conditions like these tend to be the most severe.
According to one 2003 study, obese people tend to have a higher rate of periodontal disease, which can cause tooth loss and other oral health problems. Losing weight can help lower the risk of developing these conditions, reducing the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay.
Finally, weight loss will likely cause your nails to become stronger, as many overweight people are iron-deficient, which can weaken nails and make them more prone to breakage.
If you are already a healthy weight, you are probably enjoying many of the health benefits listed above. But if you’re dealing with obesity, know that reducing your body fat can help improve your appearance, your health, and your overall quality of life.