This is the time of year when a lot of us may be stepping on the scale due to New Year's resolutions about dieting, exercising, and losing weight (find more articles on diet and exercise). But what does the number on the scale tell you?
Many of us understand that we need to lose weight because we want our bodies to look a certain way or we know we don't feel our best, but what should our goal weight be? How do we figure that out?
For adults over the age of 20, it is often recommended to go by your Body Mass Index, or BMI, goal. Granted, the BMI does not take into account factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, or muscle mass, but it is a good starting place to figure out what your goal number should be.
What is BMI?
Your BMI is a measure of your relative size based on your mass and height and is a simple, non-invasive way to measure your amount of body fat. Keep in mind that it does not directly measure body fat, so it shouldn't be used as a diagnostic tool.
(Fun fact! It was originally developed in 1832 by Belgian mathematician Adolphe Quetelet, but wasn't dubbed BMI until 1972 by Ancel Keys.)
How do I find my BMI?
Your BMI is calculated by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by your height in meters squared, or W / H^2. For those of us in America, you can use your weight multiplied by 703 and dividing by your height in inches squared, or (H * 703) / H^2.
You can also use this wonderful BMI calculator produced by the National Institute of Health (makes things a lot easier!)
What does my BMI mean?
After using either the above formulas or a BMI calculator, you will arrive at your official BMI number. Now what do you do with it?
There are several classes that your number may place you in which are underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese.
These number classifications are:
Again, keep in mind that this is not a diagnostic tool. Any diagnosis or change in diet/exercise should first be consulted with your doctor.
5 reasons to monitor weight with your BMI
1. Having more energy
Maintaining a healthy weight can provide you more energy. This comes in several forms from having an easier time exercising and breathing.
2. Reduces your risk of diabetes
Monitoring your weight is crucial to diabetes prevention. Being overweight or obese and physically inactive increases the risk of diabetes as extra weight sometimes causes insulin resistance and is common in people with type 2 diabetes (NIH).
3. Reduces your risk of heart disease
Next month is American Heart Month, and you are likely to hear a lot about this one. Coronary heart disease, the most common form of heart disease, is a build up of fatty deposits in your arteries which reduce blood flow and can lead to heart attack. This is usually caused by factors such as poor diet and physical inactivity (Mayo Clinic)
4. Could affect your risk for high blood pressure
Though the specific cause of high blood pressure, also called hypertension, isn't known, several factors can play a role including weight, physical activity, and alcohol consumption (which definitely affects your body and your weight via high calorie intake) (NHLBI).
5. Help you sleep better at night
Studies have linked obesity and trouble sleeping (which in turn cause cause weight gain). Who doesn't need a better night's sleep? (National Sleep Foundation).
So there you have it: 5 reasons to check out your BMI. If you are a smartphone user, there are tons of BMI calculator apps out there. Download one today!