As we head into the New Year, above and beyond our thoughts of all those holiday parties, holiday foods and time with family we just experienced, many of us are also thinking forward about our weight and getting healthy for the New Year…more specifically, how to keep our weight in a good range while dealing with all the upcoming events/goals of the year.

In the next few months, my articles will be addressing the science behind how various nutrients can help us in our weight loss goals, while still maintaining muscle mass and keeping appetite controlled and feeling energetic.

I will also be using my time with you discussing complementary topics that help to tie it all together.

This month, I’d like to address a common question I hear a lot about in my clinic. Many of my patients want to know what Body Mass Index (BMI) range they are in, and they also want to know what that means.

 A common question is whether BMI still matters if someone is muscular.  More interestingly, some of my thinner patients want to know that if they are in an ideal BMI range, whether they are automatically considered healthy.

These are great questions that I want to clarify for you as well. Based on the frequency that I receive these types of questions, I’m guessing you might have similar questions…so, here goes!

First of all, what is BMI?

BMI is body mass index of a person and the way you calculate it is by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing that by your height in meters squared. If using pounds and inches, you can take your weight in pounds and divide that by your inches squared then you multiply by 703 to convert from lbs/inches squared to kg/meters squared.

Typically, BMI of 25 and above is considered overweight and healthy range is 18.5 to 24.9. This is for those 18-65 years old.

BMI was originally created to measure excess body weight. But nowadays, we know that excess body weight doesn’t necessarily equate to excess body fat. Factors such as age, sex, ethnicity and muscle mass can influence implications of that number.

Even though those with higher BMI were seen to have possible higher risks of certain diseases like heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, and breathing problems like sleep apnea, etc, there are other factors that influence overall outcome. For example, even waist circumference plays a role. It appears that those with waist circumference greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men are at possible higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

 So…if a person has a higher BMI and is a body builder/athlete, but his/her waist circumference is less than 35 for women or 40 for men, then where is his/her disease risk at then?

As you can see, this area of topic isn’t as straight forward as we all think. There are people who range in healthy range of BMI with smaller waist circumference who still have diabetes and heart disease. There are also those who range higher on BMI and are athletes who test great in labs and functional testing that show none of the metabolic or cardiovascular disease issues.

So, you’re probably now asking what is the takeaway point?

It’s this…

Doctors have all these measurement tools to help us assess your overall risk. But doctors do not take these numbers as a one and done version of diagnosis. It still depends on your diet, lifestyle, functional level, exercise endurance, labs, lifestyle habits, family history, etc.

So, the next time you see your doctor, ask him or her to assess you fully with labs, functional testing if needed, and discussions about family history, social lifestyle habits, and genetics. All of these factors help doctors determine your exact health status.

If you do fall into the higher BMI or waist circumference areas, you do need to see your doctor to make sure that you are not one of those in the higher risk group. Just know that if you are in those higher ranges, it’s not too late to make healthy diet and lifestyle changes.

If you are fine after testing and assessment, then you can commend yourself for all your hard work and effort and continue in your healthy lifestyle choices. I would want to commend you as well!

For those of you who are thin, please don’t assume all is fine. There is still the need for a full picture evaluation to make sure you’re ok.

Just remember, you are a 3-D person. Not one dimensional. There are so many more facets to your health and factors that impact the status of your health…way more than just one or two numbers. The best way to know if you’re ok or not is to see your doctor for a full evaluation and make sure your doctor looks at all the facets of your life, labs, and family history/genetics. This way you’ll know, not just guess, as to what your health status is…and you can walk away truly assured of your overall health.