My thoughts vary here. First, I DO think that you can be healthy even if your weight doesn't fall into the range considered "healthy" for your age and height. My reasoning for this opinion is simple. There are LOTS of factors that affect the number we see on a scale. Body fat percentage, muscle mass, water weight percentage and bone mass can all affect that number. Knowing this, I think it is important look at one's body fat percentage, visceral fat percentage (the percentage of your fat that is held in the torso / abdomen / belly area, which surrounds your vital organs), muscle mass and body water percentage / ratio. You can learn a lot about a person's true level of health from these measurements as well as from assessing their overall fitness and endurance level.
For example, I am currently around 188 lbs. However, I do not "carry" my weight in the same way that others who are the same weight do. I have muscle definition and I hold slightly less fat in my torso / abdomen / belly region than some others with the same weight. I am also fairly flexible and may have better posture than some of the same weight, which can (in some cases) be an indication of one's cardiovascular health. I have "curves" as opposed to some others in the same weight range. Knowing this, should I be considered as having the same level of health as someone who weighs the same but perhaps has less muscle or holds more fat in their torso / abdomen / belly region? I don't think so. And there are likely plenty of people who weigh 188 lbs right now who are in better health and shape than I am!
The thing to understand is that human beings are not the same. We have all kinds of factors that can cause standard measurements to mean different things for each person across the board. The accuracy of BMI in determining and diagnosing obesity has been debatable for a LONG time. I don't think BMI is the only thing that should be taken into consideration. The problem is that the medical industry seems to want to hold to a standard measurement that can be used for everyone across the board, rather than taking each individual and assessing them on an individual level. My theory is that individualizing health, weight and fitness assessments will take more time and keep many doctors from taking in as many patients as they'd like per day. Having a standard measurement can allow them to treat their practice like an assembly line, but that isn't good for the health of society.
The best thing I can recommend (as someone now studying health and nutrition) is to keep track of the following measurements on your own at home and evaluate your progress on a monthly basis:
body fat %
visceral fat % (again, fat around your torso / abdomen / belly & vital organs)
body water %
level of flexibility and mobility
blood pressure & heart rate through exercise & endurance training
The measurements above will give you a more complete picture of your health. For example, if you notice your body water % and muscle mass decreasing, you are likely not drinking enough water and need to focus on better and more regular hydration. If you see your body fat % and visceral fat % decrease, that's a GOOD thing (just don't go overboard on losing body fat as there IS a safety recommendation for men and women). If you notice that you're able to breathe and focus better over longer durations while exercising, that is an indication that your fitness level is improving. And obviously your blood pressure and blood sugar decreasing are good signs.
Also, use your common sense. Doctors are humans that were given specific, structured, one-size-fits-all training in terms of the way they approach patient care. Some doctors will branch off, specialize and focus on giving individualized attention. Some, however, will stick to industry-prescribed standards and rarely venture out of them when making recommendations or treating their patients. Many doctors are also money-focused (sad but true). They often choose to medicate an issue over exploring more natural ways of resolving a health issue (such as adjusting a nutritional profile to lower blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar). They may also recommend actions that are in line with "fad" diets (you may be able to spot this if they try to sell you weight loss supplements that they sell within their practice). For example, not every obese or overweight person should be placed on something like Atkins. That means that depending on the doctor you have, you may need to take their advice with a grain of low-sodium salt (or else switch to a doctor who is willing to treat you like the individual you are). Use your common sense about what you know of health. If what you're doing is increasing your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar or weight, you need to adjust your current plan (not necessary with medication) to get those things under control. However, if what you're doing is lowering those measurements, you're feeling better and you're able to exercise longer and / or at higher intensities then your health is improving. There is not always a need to medicate or compound issues by medicating symptoms and side-effects caused by other medications. Health does not have to be as complicated as some of us make it. It can be simple to understand and manage if we just take the time to learn about our bodies and view things on an individual level rather than by a societal standard.
I may be considered "obese" according to my number weight, but my current focus is not just to get that number down. It is to focus on lowering my visceral fat %, body fat % while slightly increasing muscle mass, to ensure my water weight stays within acceptable ranges and to build my endurance and tolerance for physical activity. Toward that end I have purchased tools to help me monitor these things at home. When I start to see improvement in those measurements, I will know that my health is improving. When I go to the doctor in the Spring next year, I will listen closely to see how they view the numbers and progress. If the focus is only on BMI, "dieting" and medications, I will look for a new doctor who bothers to investigate additional ways of measuring overall health. We each need to take control of our own health levels. We cannot depend on a doctor (who is human, can sometimes make mistakes and who may in some cases be more motivated by money and the prestige of having a certain number of clients than a need to treat us as individual as our genetics, DNA and bodies say we are) for everything. Yes, go to the doctor when you are experiencing issue, symptoms or medical emergencies. Go to the doctor before starting a fitness or nutrition plan, when you are trying to become pregnant or when you become pregnant. But also be willing to take responsibility for your own health and be willing to assess and track it on a regular basis. Only then can you fully understand your individual level of health and fitness.
- 12/14/2013 3:18:19 PM