Monday, November 5, 2012

Weight: it is just a number

Picking beets
So you step on the scale - you know your weight. But, what is that actually telling you? How important is that number?

Weight is one tool that we can use to assess overall health, but unfortunately, it too often carries way more, er, weight than that. The number of the scale can be the difference between a good day and a bad day, if we feel pretty or not or if we "deserve" this or that. Yikes!

Our body consists of several kinds of tissues - our bones, our muscles, blood, food being digested and yes, fat. We do need some as an energy reservoir (in case McDonalds and the grocery store actually close) and some to cushion our organs, but for many Americans, we could stand to have less.

Based on our weight and height, we can calculate our Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI does not assess body composition - how much fat you have relative to muscle and bone. BMI is simply total weight as compared to height. That gives us a rough idea as to our weight status - too high, too low, or just right?

BMI is not perfect - and its ranges don't suit everyone. The ranges may be too high for some Asian folks as their frames are often more petite. It also is skewed for athletes as they often have much more muscle tissue. I am a biker and have always been very strong. For my height of 5'5 my weight of 148# my BMI is nearly overweight. While I have never been a good swimmer (don't float too well), I am really good at carrying heavy stuff, I usually wear a size 6 and can bike for many miles miles. I can also repel bicycles.Why confess my weight? I'm tired of worrying about it - and I think we do worry way too much about it.

The point is, we need to be a little more sophisticated in assessing our health and wellness. Yes, check out your weight once in a while, and keep it within a healthy range, but don't end your assessment there. Also look at your
  • hip to waist ratio 
  • fiber intake
  • blood pressure
  • fasting blood sugar
  • daily physical activity 
And ask yourself:
  • Could you run a mile if you were being chased by bulls? 
  • When was the last time you lifted weights or stretched? 
  • What are your cholesterol values? 
  • Do you use tobacco?

How are you doing on those criteria?

Furthermore: how are you sleeping? Is your work bringing you challenges, growth and satisfaction? Do you have positive personal relationships? Is water your main beverage?

There is indeed an obesity epidemic in our nation. Too many of our adults and our children are unhealthy. But it isn't just the weight - we aren't well. If we just focus on the weight, we are missing the big picture. If we just focus on the scale, we  are treating the symptoms. What is the real problem? There are many possible contributors: low intake of fruits and vegetables, exorbitant intake of junk, extensive hours in front of screens, minimal physical activity....the list goes on and on. We need to work on wellness throughout our daily lives.

The other downside of simply focusing on weight is that there are also folks who are thin in spite of their unhealthy habits - and their weight gives them a false sense of security. Sometimes health professionals refer to these people as the "skinny fat" - their weight is fine, but their health isn't.

In the end, weight is one tool to assess our health - but there many other factors of health. Don't let weight be an assessment of your own worth or beauty. 

Side note: BMI ranges are the same for all adults, men and women. For children, their body frame changes as they grow and ranges for suitable BMI are based on age and gender.

What would you include in a health report card?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

ShareThis

Print this!