Updated: Sep 23, 2020
In the past few decades people have become increasingly obsessed with being thin and have started equating thinness with healthiness. However, there is plenty of research showing that weight is not a clear indicator of health. In fact, more information is surfacing that demonstrates that BMI is highly ineffective for predicting health. Not only is it ineffective, but it has caused unnecessary weight stigmatization. One body positivity activist even went so far as to say that “fat people are getting blamed for everything.” While that may be an over-generalization, she makes a point that there are a lot of negative associations with being classified as overweight. It’s time that we stop judging people’s health and morality by their weight.
Therefore, the following is a list,in no particular order, of indicators of one’s physical health that are better than weight. Please keep in mind that no singular factor is a comprehensive indication of physical health.
Disclaimer: the most definitive answers about your physical health will come from a doctor’s appointment including a physical exam, blood and urine tests, and other scientific tests. This list is designed as a replacement for BMI or body weight which is meant to be a quick and non-invasive look at health.
Eating habits. Take a look at what you eat in a day. A well balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods and sufficient protein goes a long way for your health.
Regular exercise. How often are you exercising? The World Health Organization recommends adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more for optimal health.
Sufficient sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to a whole host of issues including long term damage to your health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults aged 18-64.
Managed stress. Similar to lack of sleep, unmanaged stress can cause a lot of damage to your health. Therefore utilizing stress management skills and achieving lower levels of stress points to better health.
Alcohol and tobacco intake. It’s common knowledge that overuse of alcohol and tobacco products is a serious health hazard. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends no more than one drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. They also make a good point that if you don’t drink now there really is no good reason to start.
Cardiovascular fitness (blood pressure, resting heart rate, aerobic capacity.) These require tools and tests, but are helpful in showing the health of your heart.
So what can you do to improve your health? If you focus on nutrition and exercise you’ll likely notice improvements in the other areas as well. Regular exercise helps to decrease stress, and both exercise and reduced stress usually lead to improved sleep. Less stress and sufficient sleep also leads to better nutrition choices, less need for alcohol and substance dependence and improved cardiovascular fitness. Wow. Exercise is truly amazing. And don’t forget to take your focus off of weight loss. This study shows that participants who didn’t lose the weight predicted during an exercise program still gained significant health improvements. Here is an article about how you can learn to enjoy exercise. So take the first step by getting active and watch how all these things work together to improve your overall health.