Although not a perfect measurement, BMI can be a good indicator of how much fat your body is carrying and the risks associated with it.
Your body mass index (BMI) is a way to measure and track your weight loss goals. You’ve heard doctors talk about BMI, or body mass index, for a long time and you may know yours from the start, especially if you’ve been told your number is in the unhealthy range. Technically, BMI is used as a good, albeit rough, indicator of how much body fat you’re likely to have.
Here is how BMI ranges are categorized:
Underweight is a BMI of less than 18.5.
Normal weight corresponds to a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.
Overweight is a BMI between 25 and 29.9
Obesity is a BMI of 30 or more.
Much is said about the negative effects of overweight and obesity on health, but that’s not all. Excess body fat, especially visceral fat (that which covers the inside of the body and accumulates on internal organs), is linked to increased blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, which can all affect the risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. BMI is just one correlate of this phenomenon, since generally the higher the BMI number, the more fat you are likely to be carrying.
That said, BMI has its limits in what it can and cannot tell you about your health and the need to lose weight. Like age, gender, ethnicity, and muscle mass can skew BMI when it comes to body fat. For example, if you are extremely athletic and have a lot of muscle mass, your BMI may indicate that you are obese when you are healthy.
That said, if your BMI is in the upper range and your waist circumference also indicates that you are at risk for health problems, your doctor may advise you to lose weight, which will likely lower your BMI.
Here are the steps backed by science and experts that will help you achieve lasting results.
1. Get an accurate reading of your personal BMI
Online BMI calculators are legion, but you should get an official reading of your BMI from your doctor, from someone who weighs you and measures your height. “If you ask most of us how much we weigh, we’ll say we weigh less than we do, and we’ll say we’re a little taller. That would lead to an understatement,” O’Neil says.
2. Set a realistic goal if you’re trying to lower your BMI
According to the CDC, a loss of 5 to 10 percent of body weight can have significant health benefits. (5) For some people, this means your BMI may still be in the overweight range, and that may be okay. It is unrealistic and unnecessary for everyone with a BMI of 30 or more to achieve a BMI in the normal range. The importance of BMI for health is not indicated by the number it represents today, but by the fact that today’s BMI is higher or lower than yesterday’s. In other words, it’s about whether you’re making progress towards a healthier future. Your goal should be to lose a modest amount of weight and then reevaluate your progress.
3. Keep track of your weight loss progress
Know where you are today, and where you were yesterday. Then give yourself a pat on the back. Self-monitoring is really important when it comes to weight control. Note your food or calorie intake for a few days to understand what your eating habits really are. This may be the reality check you need to change your ways. Use whatever method works best for you, whether that means writing it down in a journal or using an app on your smartphone. One study showed that the longer participants used a web app to track their eating habits for six months, the more weight they lost.
4. Know how much you move
As with tracking your diet, you need to know what your level of physical activity is. There are tons of apps available to you, whether you have an Android or an iPhone, and fitness trackers you can wear on your wrist.
5. Weigh yourself regularly to find out what’s working (and what’s not).
Once a week, step on the scale. Then write down your weight (this is easy to do via an app. This way you’ll know if you need to change your approach to weight loss or stay the course.
6. Now get moving with a workout of your choice
If you know you need to start exercising more and your activity log proves it, you’re going to want to exercise. It doesn’t have to mean getting into kickboxing or trying CrossFit. Better to choose an activity that you find fun or tolerable, like walking your dog or going for a hike, and make it your regular workout.
7. Set training goals to be more likely to stay on track.
It’s not enough to say that you’re going to start exercising “more”. Rather, you have to plan it. Commit to walking for 20 minutes three times this week, and plan when and when, such as after work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And if something unexpected happens, know that you can shorten your session to 5 or 10 minutes, whatever counts. Start by establishing the habit of doing an activity, then focus on the duration and intensity of it.
8. Get your diet in order to ensure your diet is effective.
When you want to lose weight, diet tips abound. Plus, research shows that focusing on both diet and exercise is the best combination for successful weight loss. But since diets vary so much from person to person, your colleague may swear by a low-carb diet when it would make you unhappy – research suggests that the quality of your diet may be more important.
For example, one study found that foods like chips, processed meats, red meat, and sugary drinks were associated with weight gain, while foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurts were associated with weight loss.
9. Stay consistent, even if you don’t see results right away.
Even if you feel like the weight isn’t going fast enough, stay the course. Research shows that only by making consistent efforts to eat well, move more, and maintain other healthy habits that affect weight (like getting enough sleep) will the pounds disappear for good. Researchers have found that when weight goes up and down, possibly due to inconsistent exertion, people are more likely to give up on their goals. Remember: you can do it.