Why A Healthy Weight Has Nothing To Do With BMI

The body mass index, or BMI, has long been used as a way to determine how healthy someone is. This number is calculated by dividing your weight by the square of your height. Your respective number then puts you into one of four categories: ​​underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese (via CDC). While the BMI is still used around the world to determine whether or not someone is at a healthy weight, many doctors believe this system is outdated and not a good indicator of health.

"In my experience, BMI is quite simply the wrong way to approach weight," said Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D via Mindbodygreen. "It's a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine in a world that now offers more nuanced solutions. On top of all that, it can be unjust and discriminatory." The BMI was developed with Caucasian men in mind, so women and people of other ethnicities are often put in an incorrect weight class. Black women, for example, are often able to maintain higher BMIs without any health problems, but are still told they need to lose weight due to a higher BMI. The BMI scale also does not take into account that muscle and fat affect the body differently. Someone who is very muscular (and heavy because of all that muscle) might be told that they are overweight due to their BMI even if they have a low body fat percentage.

How to track your weight without looking at your BMI

If your BMI is not a good way to determine your health, how should you do it instead? According to USA Today, one easy way to gauge your health is to determine your waist-to-height ratio. This method is more accurate than the BMI system because it takes into account your belly fat. According to Harvard Health Publishing, abdominal fat is at the center of many health problems including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. If your waist-to-height ratio is too high, it means that you have a high amount of stomach fat, which may put you at risk of those health problems.

This should be used as a single way to determine health, but it can be helpful when figuring out whether or not you are at a healthy weight. This number can be found by dividing your waist circumference by your height. Your body fat percentage is also a more useful tool than your BMI (via WebMD). You can measure your body fat with special machines or by using a caliper to perform a skin fold test.