Recently, I’ve been thinking about the best ways to measure our health. Body Mass Index (BMI) is one of the most common measurements used today. BMI estimates how much body fat a person should have based on their height and weight, and categorizes them as underweight, normal, or overweight. But what is more accurate: BMI? The scale? Are numbers even the best way to measure success? For me, the answer is a resounding no. We need body positive holistic ways to frame our fitness goals. Thus, I was pumped when I saw this feminist fitness article last week.
Blogger Amber Rogers has credentials as a Weight Management Coach and a Personal Trainer, and has an awesome story about turning her life around through healthy changes. Still, after years of changes and a current active lifestyle, according to her BMI she is overweight. This highlights BMI’s shortcomings.
One issue is it can’t distinguish between fat and muscle. Muscle is more dense than fat and can lead healthy individuals to be determined as overweight, which is potentially what happened with Rogers. Also, different types of fat aren’t measured by BMI. According to another great article, visceral fat “disrupts the body’s ability to balance its energy needs. Even relatively thin people can have high levels of visceral fat, which means they might be considered healthy by BMI standards, but internally they may actually be at higher risk of developing health problems related to weigh gain.” That fact shows just how inaccurate our superficial health are. Rogers and I are in agreement on this: it’s time for a new health paradigm that isn’t based on numbers. Your BMI may be useful for your doctors, but here are 3 more holistic ways for you to measure your health success.
- Log your exercises. There are plenty of websites for you to track your workouts on, but even keeping a simple written log would suffice. Note how you felt prior to exercising, the level of difficulty you experienced, the length of time you exercised, your energy level afterwards, and any pertinent notes. Logging your exercises is an empowering way to witness your health transformation.
- Commit to consistency. Exercising twice a week won’t create the happiest, healthiest version of you. One of the many reasons for this is that inconsistency steals your momentum. It’s easy to psych yourself out going to that yoga class or hitting the treadmill when you space out your workouts. And you don’t see results as quickly as you’d like, leading you to lose motivation. Commit to creating time for your health, even if it is just 20 minutes in the morning. Mark your calendar every time you honor that commitment. Seeing rows of Xs on the calendar is a gratifying measurement of your success.
- Take pictures of your progress. Your BMI doesn’t reflect how toned your arms have gotten from plank pose, or the muscle definition in your legs from all those Warrior IIs. Snap a few pics of yourself once a month and note how much progress you’ve made. But make sure this process is shame and judgement free. I know all too well about the mind games that can come along with taking photos of your body when it’s not as fit as you’d like it to be. Don’t be fooled into thinking those negative thoughts are helpful motivators. A toxic mindset hinders any physical progress you make. When embarking on the journey to health, self compassion is a must.