Have you ever been told “you look thin” or “you look fat?” how did you feel about it? What is a healthy weight and why is it important to maintain it?
What does a healthy weight mean?
Research has attempted to define healthy weight based of parameters that measure body fat composition. In this article, we will use two parameters: the Basal Metabolic index (BMI) and the Waist Circumference (WC).
BMI is determined by your weight and height. It doesn’t measure body fat but correlates with direct measures of body fat. A higher BMI tends to indicate higher body fat, and a lower BMI indicates lower body fat. BMI is calculated by taking your weight in (kgs) divided by height in M2 and interpreted based on standard values. BMI <18.5Kg/m2 indicates Underweight, 18.5- 24.9Kg/m2 is a healthy weight, 25- 29.9 Kg/m2 shows one is overweight and obesity correlates a BMI>30kg/m2.
BMI is however a screening method rather than a definitive measure of a person’s body fat. Moreover, it doesn’t work in isolation nor replace guidance from a medical professional. It gives a general idea of a person’s body fat, but it is not a diagnostic tool for disease risk. Being within a healthy weight range doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re healthy. Being underweight or overweight doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unhealthy either.
Waist circumference (WC) screens for health risks associated with carrying excess body weight. Fat tends to settle around the waist rather than the hips. This indicates an elevated risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The risk level increases for women with WC >35 inches, and for men with WC >40 inches.
Why it’s important to maintain a healthy weight.
It’s not safe to be underweight or overweight. Underweight is associated with mineral and vitamin deficiencies, immunodeficiency, vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, and anemia. On the flip side, being overweight or obese is linked to most lifestyle diseases such as sleep apnea, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, lower quality of life etcetera.
Many weight management experts have over the years focused on the outward goal of measurable weight gain or weight loss. Whereas this has been quite beneficial, research proves it unsustainable. Focusing on individual behavior change proves beneficial and sustainable, then just losing kilo over a period of months. Whatever size you are, you need to appreciate you can be healthy at that. You need to modify your health behavior(s) to achieve good metabolic fitness i.e., blood pressure control, increase physical activity levels and have a better psychological status in pursuit of maintaining weight.