3 Measures of Progress that are Better than BMI

A lot of people are working on their health and well-being. Whether you are trying to lose weight, build muscle, feel more energetic, or become more confident in yourself, one of the best things you can do is track progress. However, one of the most commonly used metrics, Body Mass Index (BMI), is problematic at best and fails to recognize the entire picture.

The BMI measure was developed in the 1830’s by a statistician named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. It was originally created to assess an individual’s health and obesity levels quickly in order to decide where medical resources should be allocated. It was later adopted in the 1970s by physicians and in 1985 the National Institute of Health declared BMI as the official measurement to define obesity in the United States.

In my honest opinion, BMI is an antiquated and inaccurate measure of health. It does not take into account muscle mass, cardiovascular health, water weight, or lean body mass. It is simply someone’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared - that’s it. If BMI was accurate, essentially every player in the NFL would be considered overweight or obese. In fact, I am obese according to BMI. At 5’11” and 230 pounds, my BMI is 32.1. With that, my blood pressure is 115/60, my resting heart rate is 40, my cholesterol is 135, I can squat and deadlift over 400 pounds, I go on at least one 7-mile hike each week and frequent 30+ mile bike rides. To top it all off, my body fat percent is 19.5, which is in the healthy range.

It’s time to get rid of BMI as a measure of health, and here are three better options you can start using today.

1. Body Fat Percentage.

This is one of the best ways to measure metabolic health in humans. It is exactly what it sounds like - the percent of your body mas that is fat versus lean. As a general rule of optimal metabolic health, men should have a body fat percent between 10 and 20 while women should be between 20 and 32.

There are several ways to measure body fat percent. The most accurate way to measure body fat percent is through hydrostatic weighing. This is when you weigh yourself underwater. Since fat is less dense than water, and muscle more dense, it gives you the most accurate depiction of body fat percent. Although this may be the most accurate way, it is not the most realistic, as only specialty facilities have hydrostatic weighing scales.

The most realistic way to measure your body fat percent is through a bioimpedance scale. This type of scale sends electricity through the body to measure how much body fat an individual has. It is painless and for the most part very accurate. Many gyms have bioimpedance scales, and you can also purchase them for yourself for a reasonable price.

2. Body Measurements

Taking physical measurements of different areas of you body is a great way to recognize progress even if the scale is being stubborn. I work with a lot of folks whose clothes start to fit differently, they get compliments, and they feel better in their body - but the scale doesn’t move at all. That is because muscle is far more dense than fat, so it changes our aesthetic (i.e. your waist slims down, your arms get bigger, etc.) without the scale changing much. It takes consistency to see the scale change, so focusing on measurements and body fat percent at the beginning can re-motivate you to keep going.

3. How You Feel

I understand this one is subjective, but at the end of the day we practice fitness and healthy living in order to feel energized, confident, and good in our own skin. There is no number in any form, whether it be on a scale, at the doctor’s office, or anywhere in between that is as important as feeling alive and vital each day.

By committing to healthy eating, daily physical activity, stress relief and proper sleep, anyone can experience radiant and vibrant health.

If you desire to build strength and lose weight while increasing your energy and confidence, you may be a good fit for my Inspired Men’s Well-being Program. Schedule a free discovery call to see if you are the right fit and let’s get to work on your health and fitness goals.