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Is BMI a Useful Measure of Weight Loss? BMI and Weight Loss Explained.

Losing weight is a modern obsession. As we become more in-tune with our bodies and what is good – and not good – for us, change becomes essential. Finding out if you are healthy weight or not can be tough. For years, the Body Mass Index (BMI) was the go-to solution to see if we were in proportion with our body weight.

What is a healthy weight for you? BMI and Weight Loss.
What is a healthy weight for you? BMI and Weight Loss.

Using a formula that calculates your body height with your weight, you can quickly learn how “healthy” you are under BMI grounds. However, please note that BMI is probably not the one-size-fits-all tool that we had once assumed. Let’s take a look at the BMI, why it was such a useful force for good and why, today, you might do well to look at BMI in a different light.

Why Should I Measure BMI?

Many people use BMI to determine their ideal weight. For example, according to conventional use for BMI, staying within 18.5-24.9 indicates a healthy weight. If you fall outside of either 18.5 (underweight) or 25 (overweight) then according to your BMI, change needs to happen.

Is 18.5-24.9 REALLY Ideal?

I recommend that you look to measure your BMI more intelligently. Many people will look to use this number to help determine every part of their lifestyle, but it’s vital to note that there are some serious limitations in the way that BMI operates. BMI use in weight loss is not always the most valuable metric. BMI alone is not enough.

Limitations of the Body Mass Index

Muscle Mass is Not Fat Mass.

One of the most common reasons why you need to take a look at BMI with a skeptical view is that BMI does not take into account the importance of fat and muscle. Naturally, this means that someone who has more muscle may be in the wrong category. It also means that you might be in an ideal BMI range, but have too much fat and not enough muscle.

It’s an often used example, but super athletes in the past like Michael Jordan would have been in the wrong BMI count. They would have been ‘overweight’ as the average person is not cut to shreds with muscle and physical power.

Fat Distribution Matters

Not all fat is created equal. Many poeple with a “normal” BMI still carry a dangerous amount of belly fat. We all know someone with skinny arms and legs but a round belly. Belly fat is among the most dangerous fats and is far more important to deal with than other type.

So, Is BMI Useful For Weight Loss?

BMI is useful in that it’s quick, easy, free and gives you a broad guideline. However, for the reasons we mentioned until now, it is by no means a catch-all solution. Context is key, and knowing your BMI alone is not enough.

Other Ways To Track Weight Loss

Numbers on a scale have just as many limitations as the BMI – different people are built differently and the numbers can’t tell you that. For example, I’m built like a bird and am actually overweight at 115 lbs. My husband, who has a big frame, is underweight at 175 lbs. So here are some other things to consider:

  • Energy level. Being over or underweight is a stressor, so energy level can be a great indicator of your body’s overall health.
  • Strength. If you feel strong in your body then you’re doing something right. This doesn’t have anything to do with how much you bench press, it has to do with how well your body holds up to your everyday stressors.
  • Tone. If you can see changes in your muscles when you use them, then you’re doing something right.
  • Weight Distribution. Very few of us are lucky enough to have our weight distributed evenly over our whole bodies. Most of us have a place that fat collects (think belly, hips, thighs, butt). Use your problem area as a benchmark for weight loss. If that area is becoming more proportional to the rest of you, you’re doing great.
  • Fit of Clothing. I know that if I go through a sedentary period and then start working out again or re-connect with my focus on health, the first thing I notice is that my clothes fit better. This happens before the numbers on the scale change (and sometimes I gain weight at first but my clothes fit better). This matters.

BMI is great as a tracking tool or a rough guideline, but there are so many more important factors in weight loss that this shouldn’t be your only guide.