BMI, or body mass index, was a measurement created to determine whether or not an individual is obese or overweight. Recently, however, more studies are showing that BMI isn’t such a great marker for health. BMI doesn’t take into account many important health behaviors such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep. In some studies, many individuals classified as “overweight” by BMI standard were healthy by other measures, like glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and blood pressure. Conversely, individuals with a “healthy” BMI were not found to be healthy via the same measures.
Even more importantly, medical professionals have found that evaluating children and adolescents using BMI could trigger eating disorders or disordered eating.
Many nutritionists and dieticians agree that there are better ways to measure health than just BMI. Here are some ways to determine if you’re on the right path that don’t have anything to do with BMI:
- Maintaining weight. Individuals should be able to fall into a biologically appropriate weight through exercise, adequate sleep, and intuitive, regular eating. If you’re constantly tired and hungry or exhausted from over-exercising, you may not be at a healthy weight.
- Proper nutrition. A restrictive diet is likely to cause someone to miss out on appropriate and necessary nutrients. It’s important to eat a range of foods—even desserts—as nothing is bad in moderation.
- Thinking about food too much. Being obsessed with eating or weight loss may have detrimental effects on many areas of your life. Moreover, thinking about food all the time may be a sign of malnourishment.
- Eating your feelings. Once in awhile, we might eat for comfort. For the most part, it’s not good to eat to deprive yourself of food for emotional reasons—like eating only a salad to feel in control. Food is meant to sustain you, not comfort your or prove how “good” you are.
- Exercise. There are many different ways to exercise, so even if you find that going to the gym is boring or makes you resent exercise, there are many other forms you can try. It’s important to find a method you enjoy, instead of suffering through something you dislike.
- Rules around food. When we construct rules around eating food, we move away from natural hunger cues from the body. Additionally, rules about food can lead to more serious problems.