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Why Weight Is Not Always A Good Indicator Of Health

April 20, 2022

Every body is different. Yet, people often rely on a single measurement to determine health—weight. But the number you see on the scale isn’t necessarily the best indicator of your overall health. Other factors, such as height and body composition contribute to your health and can’t be overlooked. Let’s look at some common measurement tools that don’t tell the full story.

Table of Contents

BMI

BMI, or body mass index, is often used as an indicator of health. Your BMI is calculated by comparing your weight to your height. However, the biggest problem with this is that it doesn't consider body composition, or how much muscle and fat your body is made up of.

For example, someone who is muscular could have the same BMI as someone who has more fat mass. BMI metrics would say both individuals are “obese.” While your BMI can be helpful to know, it has its limitations and should not be used as a sole indicator of health.

Metabolic Health

The way your body can process food and extract nutrients helps determine your metabolic health. To measure your metabolic health, you might look at your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. However, metabolic health isn’t foolproof.

Some people deemed "overweight" are in great metabolic health, while the opposite is true for others. Your metabolic rate is important to monitor but it's also important to remember these numbers vary from person to person. It’s not nearly as cut and dry as many charts make it out to be.

man checking pulse on fitness tracker outside exercising

Overweight vs. Underweight

Several studies have questioned whether it’s better to be overweight or underweight. Health problems are linked to both, but most studies show that being underweight can cause more health issues than being overweight. In fact, one study showed that being underweight led to an increased risk of death, more so than being overweight.

While obviously, the best choice is to be within a normal weight range, it can be difficult to determine exactly where this “normal range” is for you.

Waist Circumference

Waist circumference has been a better health indicator than most. The visceral fat that can build up around your abdomen can be a good indicator of health because the more fat you have around your abdomen, the more risk you have for various health issues and diseases. Thus, measuring the inches of your waist—rather than BMI or scale weight—can indicate how healthy you are.

Measuring your waist is simple and can be done right at home. Start by measuring the circumference of your waist, followed by the circumference of your hips. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. If the number is above 1.0, you are at high risk for health complications.

man measuring waist circumference with a tape measure

Should You Throw Weight Out the Window?

Yes, and no. Overall, weight alone is definitely not an indicator of health because so many other factors need to be considered: BMI, waist-to-hip ratios, and metabolic health. The important thing is to understand all aspects of your body that could impact your health.

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