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Breaking Down BMI: A Guide to Understanding Your Weight’s Healthiness

Breaking Down BMI: A Guide to Understanding Your Weight's Healthiness
Photo: Unsplash.com

By: Amanda Reseburg

We live in a world that is increasingly focused on body image and size. Since the introduction of the BMI (body mass index) scale in the 19th century, the medical community has used it as a way not only to simplify the relationship between weight and height but also to determine the “healthiness” of one’s weight.

However, the use of BMI calculations is complicated, and there are limitations to the scale, not to mention controversies surrounding its continued use and efficacy. Yet, with the obesity epidemic in the United States raging, a focus on BMI remains and will likely persevere as one of the primary indicators of healthy weight. 

“We are fighting the obesity epidemic in the United States,” says Sergio Padron, founder of MD Exam. To continue this fight, this may require a more nuanced look at BMI and weight health, allowing the medical community and those within the weight-loss community the information and tools necessary to help people live healthier lives. 

What is BMI?

Simply put, BMI is a measure of one’s body fat based on height and weight that can be calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703. Those with BMIs of 18.5 or less are considered “underweight,” and those with a BMI of 30 or greater are considered “obese,” based on the scale. 

BMI was originally devised to track society’s obesity trends, which was a concern even in the 19th century. The scale gained popularity in the mid-20th century as a way of measuring healthiness and has been largely adopted by the medical community. It is used even today during health checkups along with other metrics such as blood pressure and pulse. 

However, BMI has been criticized for oversimplifying general healthiness. “It doesn’t consider body composition, muscle mass, or genetic factors,” explains Padron. As a result of these shortcomings, the limitations of BMI are starting to be recognized more and more in the medical community.

What influences BMI?

Several factors can influence BMI, and a growing number of people in the medical and weight loss community are calling attention to a more nuanced look at health and weight.

“Increased use of semaglutide medication, such as Wegovy, has increased interest in weight loss and body composition overall,” says Padron. His program considers several factors before starting clients on a weight loss program, including family history and exercise capabilities. 

Body composition plays a significant role in BMI numbers, which is one of the primary concerns, with the scale being used as the only indicator of health. “Individuals with a high muscle mass may come back with a BMI that calls them obese, even though they are healthy and fit,” Padron explains.

Genetic predispositions should also be considered, as some people have a genetic tendency to carry more or less weight, regardless of lifestyle factors. If you have ever met someone who can eat anything and still stay very thin, their BMI may indicate that they are underweight — to an unhealthy degree — regardless of their attempts to load up on calories. In these cases, BMI is not a one-and-done indicator of overall health. 

Age and sex also influence BMI, as older adults tend to have larger BMIs due to hormonal fluctuations, metabolism, and a slowdown in activity. Socioeconomic factors are also in play in BMI disparities, with healthy foods being in short supply in some areas and a lack of access to affordable weight-loss solutions. 

“BMI can be a useful tool to quickly assess one’s health,” says Padron, “but it should be used as one metric, rather than the only metric.”

Beyond BMI

MD Exam has taken a holistic approach to assessing each client’s overall health. “By considering multiple factors beyond simply BMI, we can put clients on the right path towards successful weight management,” says Padron.

Lifestyle habits such as diet, sleep, exercise, and stress management all play a role in one’s overall health and size. Mental and emotional well-being are also factors, emphasizing the importance of caring for one’s emotional needs when one embarks on a weight-loss journey.

“There has to be a comprehensive approach to health assessments,” Padron observes. “It gives us a better understanding of a person’s health and allows us to make informed decisions.”

Tips for healthier living 

If one’s BMI is in the “unhealthy” range, and other factors buoy those results, healthy living options are available. Many of these options are what MD Exam has built their program around. 

“Our game-changing program is built around semaglutide use, which works with your body to allow you to feel less hunger,” Padron explains. “We use these medications as part of a comprehensive approach to achieving a healthier lifestyle.”

Semaglutide is just one option in a healthier-living strategy — one must also focus on mindful eating and a balanced diet. Regular physical activity should be tailored to a person’s individual abilities, needs, and preferences. 

In addition, an understanding that a high BMI is not the be-all and end-all of one’s health level is key. Body positivity and self-compassion play a prominent role in getting healthy and staying healthy. 

BMI has served as a measure of weight health for over 150 years, but as Padron mentions, it is not the only metric available in modern times. By looking beyond BMI and adopting a mindset that many factors contribute to a healthy body, we can celebrate body diversity and help people find the right path toward healthy living for their individual needs.


Published By: Aize Perez

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