By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
June 10, 2016
- Clearing up the confusion about weight and body mass index
- BMI can’t tell if you’re skinny or fat
- Waist size is a better predictor of health
These days it’s hard to know exactly what a healthy weight is.
That’s because the media latches on to all sorts of research articles that have entirely different conclusions.
One week you’ll hear that there’s a phenomenon called “healthy obesity”. The next week the news reports are loaded with news about the unhealthy consequences of “skinny fat”.
In fact, just a few weeks ago I saw a perfect example of this. There were two different news articles that came out within days of each other.
The first claimed that people with body mass indexes between 22 and 23 (normal) live longer than people with higher BMIs.
The second article claimed that a BMI of 27 (overweight) is the perfect number. Anything above or below it increases the risk of death. You may have seen some of the headlines for this one, like “Obesity is no Longer Linked to Higher Risk of Death.”
These types of articles lead to nothing but confusion. You have to ask yourself if it’s better to be fat or skinny… to have a lower or higher BMI… or what?
Why BMI is Misleading
The biggest problem with all of these reports is that they rely heavily on the body mass index. However, BMI is only a rough measure of health and weight. It simply calculates whether your weight is adequate for your height, without taking into account any number of other variables.
For example, you’ve probably heard that muscle weighs more than fat. So if you have a fit and muscular build, the BMI may clock you in as overweight or obese.
Conversely, if you’ve lost muscle and gained body fat with age – which is decidedly unhealthy – you may fall well within normal ranges on the BMI scale.
So using the BMI to determine your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even death can be misleading. And it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.
It doesn’t tell you how much of the weight you’re carrying is fat, or where that fat is located on your body. And believe me. The location of that fat is what really counts when it comes to your long-term health.
The most dangerous fat on your body is called “visceral fat”… visceral adipose tissue, or VAT.
This is the type of fat that builds up in your abdominal area, giving you an apple-like shape. It’s also called Android obesity, the type of fat that’s linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cancer risk and dementia.
Fat accumulated in the lower body (the pear shape) is subcutaneous, called gynoid obesity which is associated with toxins, gut and detox issues and hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal/thyroid/gonadal (HPATG)dysfunction.
Clearly, then, the BMI has its limitations. But there is a way to get a better measure of your health.
Waist Size Matters more than BMI
A far more accurate measure of your health can be found in your waist-to-hip ratio, or WHR.
Just take a tape measure and wrap it around your waist at the narrowest point (between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your belly button.) Record the circumference in inches.
Then measure your hips at the widest point. This is where your buttocks are at the largest. Record that number. Then divide your waist measurement by the hip measurement.
Let’s say that your waist is 36 inches and your hips are 40. Just divide 36 by 40. This would put your WHR at 0.9. The higher your WHR, the higher your risk of serious health consequence.
Here’s how to read your results:
|Low Risk||Moderate Risk||High Risk|
|Men||0.90 or below||0.90 to 1.0||>1.0|
|Women||0.80 or below||0.81 to 0.85||>0.85|
If you have a high WHR, eating a healthy Mediterranean style diet and performing high intensity interval training exercises on a regular basis can both help burn that extra belly fat.
Just as importantly, it’s absolutely necessary to gain control of your stress levels.
You see, when you get stressed out, your body triggers the fight-or-flight response. This causes your adrenal glands to release cortisol which, in turn, tells your body to store fat in your abdomen where there are more cortisol receptors.
De-stressing with simple activities like yoga, meditation, massage and just taking a few minutes for yourself each day can help. And it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep each night.
You can also lower stress by altering your breathing pattern. Simply take a deep breath through your nose to the count of four. Then, hold it in for a count of seven. And finally, release it through pursed lips for a count of eight. You can do this anytime, anywhere as a quick stress reliever.
For a little added support, I recommend taking a good B-complex formula to support adrenal function and reduce your stress load.
Heavy body shape across lifespan associated with highest mortality. Press Release. The BMJ. May 2016.
Increase Seen in the BMI Associated with Lowest Risk of Death. Press Release. The JAMA Network. May 2016.
Doyle SL, et al. Visceral obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and cancer. Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 Feb;71(1):181-9.
Debette S, et al. Visceral fat is associated with lower brain volume in healthy middle-aged adults. Ann Neurol. 2010 Aug;68(2):136-44.
Jannsen I, et al. Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference, and Health Risk: Evidence in Support of Current National Institutes of Health Guidelines. Arch Intern Med. 2002 Oct 14;162(18):2074-9.
Epel ES, et al. Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosom Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;62(5):623-32.