Body Mass Index

10 Sep

Let’s talk BMI.  I have had various discussions with health and fitness professionals about the virtue of using this as a tool to motivate. I am still classed as overweight according to my BMI, strictly speaking I could lose another 2 stone. Yet I am fitter and healthier than at any other point in my life. When I was classed as ‘normal’ I was smoking ( a bit!) , eating a stupid ‘student’ diet and did no exercise whatsoever and looking at photographs I think I look far too thin.

BMI doesn’t take into account, age or fitness levels, people who have a large muscle content e.g. rugby players will be classified as overweight and long distance runners may be underweight.  And very importantly you can be classified as ‘normal’  but be completely unfit, as you smoke, drink and eat all the wrong things. I think you get my point?  Even the professionals admit it has limitations.

Let’s be realistic too, I’m 43, I have spent almost half my life very overweight, biology has declared that my skin will not contract back to the place it was in when I was 25. In fact the more I have lost and toned, the more loose skin there is, so for me to lose the recommended weight to be totally ‘normal’ would result in me looking ridiculous, it has though been something I have had to come to terms with, me and my naked body have had to develop a new love for each other!

I thought I’d share what I think has happened.  I have toned the muscle and lost the fat, when I was bigger the muscle was covered by a layer of fat, this levelled under my skin and sort of held everything together, padding it out.  Now that layer doesn’t exist, the skin hasn’t contracted back in certain areas – tummy, thighs, upper arms (all the areas where there was excessive stretching) so there ends up with a ‘loose’ effect.  It won’t happen to everyone, some people have stretchier skin than others and the length of time you are overweight will also have an effect, as will age. It wasn’t really something I had even thought about when I was big, but for some of us it is a reality. I do remember though that when I was a teenager I did get quite a lot of stretch marks as I grew and this also happened when I got bigger in my 20s, this is an indication that the collagen in my skin isn’t amazing so it’s not too much of a surprise.

While we’re discussing the loose skin,  I have friends who have ‘tummies’ after having babies, unfortunately it is unlikely that in their 40s that this will go away no matter how much exercise they do but hey it’s amazing what support underwear can do!   It needs a degree of acceptance and that this is also probably those extra few pounds they are striving to lose.  I’m pretty sure if all my loose skin was removed I’d lose quite a bit more weight, but that’s not going to happen but it doesn’t mean that I am unhealthy or unfit.

If you are over 40, it’s worth thinking about what you think you will look like when you’re smaller, if you think you will look like you did when you were 20, think again, it’s not going to happen, Mother Nature has other ideas I’m afraid.

Now I’ve reached what I feel is a sensible, healthy weight, I have no intention of losing any more on a significant level, I don’t want to get to a stage where I am more self-conscious about my body than when I was bigger, this would be a sorry state of affairs.

I think about it this way, even if I had not put on all the weight and remained a smaller person for the last 20 years, I might still have a tummy and bingo wings – that’s just aging?   Men in particular seem a little obsessed with regaining their youth, it’s just not going to happen and they are starting out with an impossible goal!  So my affirmation here is look to become a fit and healthy ‘whatever you are’, don’t hanker after what has gone before!  You will still probably look better and be fitter than the majority of today’s 20 year olds anyway!

BMI should therefore be taken as a guide, especially when you are starting out. If you feel you need an official ‘you’re way too big’ label then it may help and give you a quick kick up the bottom, please don’t make it the objective, it’s only one possible motivator you can use and for me it hasn’t been that helpful.

Personal trainer monitoring a client's movemen...

Image via Wikipedia

My gym won’t even weigh people anymore when doing inductions, they measure instead.  My instructor told me it was very depressing to have women who complained after their first 3 months of training that they hadn’t lost much weight, they had though changed shape and in some cases lost a couple of dress sizes, remember muscle does weigh more than fat.  Getting fit will change your shape and you will shrink!

One thing I do once in a while is to do a bit of people watching in a shopping centre to get your head around what the majority of the population actually look like.  Focusing only on the fit bunnies in the gym isn’t going to help you as much here in reminding yourself how well you’ve done. I promise you once you’ve done this you’ll feel much better about yourself and as you shrink it just gets better and better.

BMI is an indicator, it should just be one thing you take into consideration but for me it’s a bit like the scales, a bit unnecessary on a regular basis to focus on now.   Be realistic about what your shrinking 40 something body may look like, love it, you’ve achieved something pretty special by getting smaller and your life will be so much better, wobbly bits and all.

A final thought, is your weight loss target too big, could you be fit and healthy but not have to lose it all?

The top photo is me on my 21st birthday, according to the BMI scale I was ‘normal’ . Bizarre.

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2 Responses to “Body Mass Index”

  1. Tickateeboo September 11, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    I know what you mean about BMI – my OH is half a stone underweight and has been for years and yet smokes, drinks and I don’t think I’ve seen him do any strenuous exercise for 20 years…

    • trudykelly September 11, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      Thanks Diana – I had a long discussion on the subject with my surgeon prior to my knee surgery, he’s amazed that the NHS still use it, he felt that at the upper limits it was a great ‘kick up the bum’ to be labelled at obese or more but at the middle point there was a big grey area which didn’t take into account fitness levels. There are other indicators now which are more helpful, Michele has posted a link to one on the FB page.

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