One of the most common tools for tracking changes in body composition is by using BMI a.k.a. the Body Mass Index. BMI compares your weight to your height and places the eventual figure on a chart ranging from underweight to obese with a healthy weight sitting in the middle.
Although it’s widely used, many people actually refute using BMI because it doesn’t tell you the whole picture. For instance, you could have two people sitting in the overweight range but one is quite stocky with a large amount of muscle whilst the other has a massive beer belly. If you were just looking at their BMI, you would say that they both need to lose weight when in fact, the fitter individual is quite healthy.
However, with all that being said, it doesn’t mean that BMI is a completely useless tool, it just needs to be paired with other data in order to show a clearer, more accurate representation.
So, the first step to any successful body change is to be completely honest with yourself right from the start. Look at yourself be completely impartial as to how you think your body looks and performs. You may look at yourself and think that you’re actually incredibly healthy, and that’s fine! In that case, then BMI will only be an indicator of whether you’re right or wrong. If your BMI says you’re overweight but you’ve actually only got a small amount of fat but a large amount of muscle, then you can ignore the reading. However, if you suspect that you’re overweight and then your BMI confirms it, then you’re at a stage where you need to act.
After this, you need to work out what you want to change in terms of how your body appears but also how you feel and what your lifestyle is like. You can get slimmer by eating burgers and pizza as long as your calories are taken into account. Yet, this clearly isn’t healthy and you’ll feel grotty and lethargic. Look at your diet, your exercise habits, and how that reflects upon what your body looks like and how it performs. If you’re not happy with something or think that you could improve an area, then jot it down.
The next step is to make a plan of how you’re going to reach your goal. Don’t worry about a time frame, just focus on what you want to happen and how you’re going to get there. This is the part where BMI and other tracking tools come in handy as they can give you some tangible evidence showing what does and doesn’t work. If you’re on a new diet but your weight, BMI, and waist line isn’t going down, then it’s clearly not working for you.
A lot of people will pair BMI with their weight, but this still doesn’t give the full picture. Both readings might stay roughly the same, but you’re losing fat and gaining muscle. If you were to just look at those two readings, then you might think that you need to shake up your lifestyle. Instead you should combine your BMI, weight, and a few body measurements and/or progress pictures.
Progress pictures are one of the most useful tools as you can look back at what your body used to look like and how it’s changed over time. At the end of the day, this is what most people care about when trying to become happier and healthier, so being able to see where you’ve come from and the journey it’s taken to get there can be incredibly motivational. As well as this, if your weight isn’t shifting, then you can see whether that’s because other parts of your body are getting bigger whilst your waist gets slimmer.
The reason that measurements are so heavily recommended is because it’s a lot easier to track than progress pictures alone. Pictures have their drawbacks as you need to take them at the same time of the day in the same place with the exact same lighting. With measurements, you only need to worry about the first one of these. If you’re not losing weight but your waist is getting smaller, then you’re definitely losing fat. Other areas to track will be the chest or upper torso, arms, legs, and hips.
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So, your BMI can be a very useful tool as long as you combine it with other things. Using it simply as an indicator is a good idea, but place the majority of your focus on measurements and pictures. At the end of the day, if you’re happy with your body and not at any ill health risk, then you don’t need to take any notice of your BMI. It’s only a tool, and there are many others that will give you more information about your progress.