Why BMI & Body Composition Are Overrated
I really wanted to call this post, “Why BMI & Body Composition Aren’t The Best Way To Measure Health & Success,” but it looked way too long. So I chose, “Why BMI and Body Composition Are Overrated,” instead!
I recently decided to get a DEXA Scan to see what my bone mineral density looks like. With my history of anorexia and disordered eating with low estrogen and progesterone, I wanted to be proactive if I happened to have any signs of osteoporosis. The Dexa Scan not only tests bone mineral density but also body mass index (BMI), BMI classification, percentage of body fat, android/gynoid ratio, resting metabolic rate and more.
I haven’t weighed myself in years, as I used to have an obsession with the number on the scale and would base my worth on that number. Since it had been so long, I really had no clue how much I weighed. The last time I weighed myself I remember my weight fluctuating from 140-150lbs. The lowest weight I ever weighed my 5’7″ frame at, was 120lbs and I was anorexic at the time.
Now, I don’t focus on weight, as I know that number really means nothing in regards to my physical or mental health.
The tech weighed me in at 165.5lbs and you know what I thought? “Daaaamn! So that’s what sexy, for me, weighs!”
Okay, okay! Jokes aside, it didn’t upset me one bit. I know I have a lot more muscle mass now, than I did back in the day and probably more bone mass too. I do also have more body fat and that’s okay too because I have a regular menstrual cycle again. Another bonus is that I finally know that I am actually 5’7″ and not 5’6″. Yes to being taller!
My bone mineral density is 1.160g/cm2. All I know, is that means I have average bone mass for someone my age. Yay! The tech showed me my results on a graph, which was more visual and you could see that I was actually right on average.
Now, let’s look at my BMI, which is a measure of body fat that uses your height and weight. It’s not very accurate for people that have more muscle mass. My BMI is 26 and according to the World Health Organization, I’m overweight. Normal BMI is between 18.5 and 25, whereas overweight is between 25 and 30.
The tech quickly pointed out to me that I have a lot of lean muscle mass and asked if I workout. He said normally women come in at around 70lbs for lean muscle mass and I came in at 109.8lbs. If my muscle mass was only 70lbs, that would put me back at my anorexic weight. I don’t think you can make a generalization like that. We’re all built differently and what’s healthy for one 5’7″ women, may not be for another.
Again, I’ll say yay for strength training and feeding myself enough to build muscle mass.
My body fat percentage, on the other hand, was actually a bit high at 31.3%. This is on the high end of average according to the print out I got and obese starts at 32%. I’m not sure how it just jumps from average to obese, but it does.
Also, I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider myself to be obese. In fact, I consider myself to be pretty darn healthy after being anorexic and struggling with disordered eating for many years. I do have some abdominal fat, as you can see in the pictures below, but I also know its mostly hormone and adrenal related.
The test broke down my ratio of Android to Gynoid fat. Android fat tends to be more common in men, as it’s stored in the midsection of the body. Gynoid fat is more common in women, as it’s stored primarily in the hips and thighs. The “apple” shape caused by Android fat, can also occur in women with adrenal dysfunction and/or insulin resistance.
We all know that abdominal fat is unhealthy and so we want our Android to Gynoid ratio below 1. My ratio is a 1.05, which obviously is no big surprise to me. I’ve struggled with Adrenal Dysfunction in varying phases over the past few years now. I also check myself out in the bathroom mirror before jumping into the shower every day. 😉 You know you do it too!
This is where my health conscious mind and my recovered eating disorder mind come into play. The recovered eating disorder mind says, “Screw you, I’m healthy! I am not overweight, let alone obese.” The health conscious mind knows that the abdominal fat isn’t healthy but that it’s linked to my adrenal health.
I know that I need to continue to focus on health, self-care and restoration.
The tech on the other hand didn’t understand this, and made a comment that I might want to do something about the high ratio of Android to Gynoid fat. I actually laughed inside when he said that, as I knew he would think that I need to eat less and exercise more. If only he knew that’s what put me into Adrenal Dysfunction in the first place. I was impressed at my response to this, as in the past it would have triggered me to start restricting my calories and over exercising again.
What I was surprised with, is that my numbers show I’m overweight and close to obese.
The pictures above are recent and I bet you would agree that I’m not obese. If you don’t have the view that most of society has, you would also not think I’m overweight. On the other hand, maybe you do think I look overweight, because you’ve been brainwashed by societal norms as to what “healthy” and “fit” looks like.
Let me tell you, healthy and fit comes in all sizes.
This is where I don’t think, using these numbers is the best way to measure our health and success. There are so many other factors at play including our mindset and mental health. This is again, where generic one size fits all does not work. We need to look at our own situation and see how far we’ve come in our own personal journeys.
I am much healthier and happier now, than I was in the pictures where I was really thin. I was starving my body and running hours a day. I was depressed, my blood sugar was all over the place, I had no energy, didn’t sleep well and was in a bad relationship. I never would have chosen to be in that relationship, if I’d been in a good one with myself.
Today my health has vastly improved both mentally and physically. I’m in a relationship with an amazing, caring and generous man and it’s because I chose to focus on improving myself first.
Numbers, whether its weight, BMI, calories, or body fat percentage, aren’t the only way to measure your health and success. In fact, they are far inferior in my opinion, to happiness, health and how you live your life.
This is why BMI and Body Composition are overrated and aren’t the best way to measure health and success.