Or at least you would think so if you looked at my body mass index (BMI). I have written about the very imperfect science of the BMI scale before here on my blog, but I thought it deserved to be revisited. BMI is basically a height to weight ratio that comes up with a number designed to make it easy for clinicians to decide if a person is overweight or obese. Before the BMI scale was invented it was hard to assess someone’s weight and say that it was appropriate because height is also an important factor in weight. BMI combined those two.
Calculating BMI is relatively simple. You need your weight in pounds and your height in inches. Take your weight and multiply it by 703. Take your height and multiply it by itself (height squared). Now divide the first number by the second number and you have your BMI. To see my calculations or do your own click this link. My BMI falls in the “overweight category” with a score of 26.2. However, my body fat percentage is about 18%. This is well within the acceptable range for a 33-year-old man. (And I clearly do not look overweight!)
BMI misses many things when calculating whether someone is at the proper weight.
The problem for some people, like athletes, it does not take into account muscle mass. A person that is heavily muscled will always be overweight according to the BMI. As a matter of fact, I have been considered “overweight” since college despite always being is relatively good shape. If we look at professional level athletes, most of them would be considered obese!
I understand that not everyone is an elite athlete. What about the elderly? BMI is not ideal for them either. In the United States that equates to about 43 million people. Many times an elderly person will fit nicely into the BMI by being considered “ideal weight” for their height. This can be significantly misleading. Why? In the elderly muscle mass begins to drop. It happens to all of us. However, with this drop in muscle mass comes a drop in weight. As weight is lost a person is likely to fall into the “ideal weight” category even though they should be concerned about muscle mass loss. This loss in muscle mass causes a loss in strength and stability, increasing the risk of falls and increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Another problem with muscle loss is the change in your body composition. As muscle mass is lost one’s body fat percentage increases. Body fat percentage is a great indicator of health. The lower it is (within reason) the healthier you are, generally speaking.
BMI also fails to take into account many other health factors like diet, exercise, inflammatory markers, nutrient status, stress load, chemical exposure, social well-being, mood stability, and a whole host of other things we know have a large impact on our health. However, it is still widely used as a primary assessment of one’s health. As I said, it’s an imperfect science. In my opinion, it’s so imperfect it should be eliminated.
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Recently, I entered into a 6-week body transformation challenge at the gym I belong to. It’s called KDR Fitness. Great place. It began February 10th and ended March 22nd. It was technically 41 days long. I decided to enter because I needed a kick in the butt to get back to the gym. In the previous year gym days were hard to come by. With a brand new baby and practice, my gym time was way down. To top it off, I had a neck injury that took me completely out of the gym for 3 months at the end of the year. As a consequence my body fat had increased to 21.7%. Not ideal for me. During the contest, I recorded my diet and exercised in order to lose body fat and gain lean mass. I wore a heart rate monitor for all of my workouts to calculate my calories burned and generally keep track of my workouts. Here are the things I learned:
- I started at 21.7% body fat.
- By the 4th week I was down to 19.4%
- By the end of the 6th week, I was down to 18.4%
- I gained 3.7 pounds of muscle in 6 weeks.
- I lost 7 pounds of fat in 6 weeks.
- I missed the gym.
- I worked out 25 times in 41 days.
- That’s 4 workouts per week with an occasional 5th thrown in.
- I ate MORE food than I had been eating and was able to lose fat and gain muscle.
- I burned 15,655 calories in 25 workouts.
- Each workout was about 1 hour.
- Each workout burned an average of 626.2 calories.
- The range of calories burned was 273 all the way up to 958.
- It is not that hard for me to avoid grain.
- I can count on one hand how many times I ate grain in 41 days (and it’s less than the whole hand).
- Cheat meals are important.
This was a typical day in terms of food intake:
Wake Up: 6:15
Food for the day:
Breakfast: 6:45 – 3 eggs, mixed veggies, and cheese cooked in butter. Coffee with organic half and half.
Snack: 10:15 – 3 large beef and veggie meatballs, carrots, celery, and hummus.
Lunch: 12:20 – Chicken breast, mixed peppers, 1 whole avocado.
Snack: 3:30 – Protein shake, steamed broccoli.
Workout – 60 minutes – protein/carbohydrate workout drink
Dinner: 6:45 – Meatloaf, steamed broccoli and cauliflower with olive oil.
Snack: 9:15 – Greek yogurt and banana.
- Food preparation is key.
- Eating 6 times per day isn’t that hard IF you’re prepared.
- Eating a lot of vegetables is fairly easy IF you’re prepared.
- You don’t necessarily have to count calories if the quality of your food is good.
- You can eat A LOT of food if you are working out hard and still lose weight.
- Burpees get easier the more you do them.
- Working out more consistently makes you want to workout more consistently.
- Using the scale to measure your progress is a bad idea.
- My weight changed from 190.9 to 187.6 in 6 weeks. Hardly encouraging if you’re just looking at the scale.
- Body fat analysis is far more informative.
- You only have time for the gym if you make time for the gym.
- You don’t need to be in the gym 7 days/week.
- Two busy people (my wife and I) can each take turns working out during the week and get great results.
- You should be willing and able to do an extra workout or two from home if you need to.
- You can turn snow blowing and shoveling your driveway into a workout quite easily.
- Body mass index (a measure of height to weight) is a terrible health assessment tool. According to it, I am “overweight.” This is because my lean mass is high, not because I am actually overweight.
- My basal metabolic rate (calories I burn at rest over 24 hours) increased from 1,835 to 1,870 over six weeks.
- The area of my body that gained the most muscle (as percent growth) was my left arm.
I was on a team of three and our entire team (Bro’s before Hoho’s) did very well. The winning team will win $3,000. I’ll find out in a couple of days which of the 18 teams won the contest. That’s not the important part, but it sure would be nice!
Have you heard the news? There are five foods you should never eat. And here they are for your viewing pleasure.
Confused? You shouldn’t be. There is no such thing as a food you should never eat. There are a lot of foods that you should eat sparingly. Ice cream, bread, pasta, white potato, potato chips, french fries, and any fast food come to mind. But even those can be eaten every great once in a while without fear. However, you shouldn’t have ice cream on Monday, pasta on Tuesday, french fries on Wednesday, etc. and expect to feel healthy, lose weight, avoid chronic disease or whatever your goal is. That kind of thing can add up.
Eating food that is bad for us once in a while will never cause you to be unhealthy. It has no more potential to cause you to be unhealthy than eating healthily every great once in a while does to make you healthy. It’s the consistency that matters.
The exception to the rule:
There’s always one, right? If you have a food sensitivity or food allergy it is best to avoid those foods all the time. Do not cheat with those. Cheat with something else. For some this can be a life or death thing (i.e. an anaphylactic allergy or celiac disease).
I think this is an important concept as we all can be consumed by the information we see in the media and from health gurus telling us to “eat this” and “don’t eat that.” We have to remember, they have an agenda – it’s to sell books, get ratings, and generally be as polarizing as possible. That’s what gets attention and sometimes the information is lost.
The overuse of medication is getting out of control. Want proof? The 3 drugs listed below are among the most widely used drugs in the world, yet they don’t work! Don’t believe me? Check it out below!