CAN YOUR WEIGHT PREDICT YOUR HEALTH?
It’s insane how people are going crazy about the weight loss programmes consisting of high protein diets, liver detox, very-low-calorie diets, intermittent fasting, keto diet and even diet pills that promise to get down your weight instantly. But does your weight define your overall health or are we missing the bigger fact?
Two people who are equally overweight, with the same percentage of body fat, can have different risk profiles for diseases if their body fat distribution patterns are different.
Why you should ditch the scale?
Weight is relative. A male who is six feet tall and a female who is five feet tall may both weigh 80 kgs, but the appearance will differ.
Research confirms that body weight isn’t an accurate indicator of certain health risks. Almost one-quarter of adults who were classified as “normal” weight, nationwide, have indicators for one or more of the risks usually associated with being overweight — such as elevated blood pressure or higher levels of triglycerides, blood sugar, and cholesterol. And slightly more than half of the overweight adults, and almost one-third of obese adults were deemed metabolically healthy (meaning that you have normal blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels). In both “normal weight” and “overweight” or “obese” grouping, older adults, people who smoked, and those with greater waist circumferences were more likely to have health risks. Physical activity levels were also a factor. Further complicating the issue of weight and health, it is possible to carry around extra weight and still be "metabolically healthy,". So the short answer is - weight alone is not a good indicator of health; it must be combined with other measures to truly get a feel for your wellbeing.
How about BMI measure then?
A calculation of weight in relation to height called body mass index, or BMI. It's one way to see if you're at a healthy weight -
Underweight: Your BMI is less than 18.5
Healthy weight: Your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9
Overweight: Your BMI is 25 to 29.9
Obese: Your BMI is 30 or higher
The trouble with BMI is it doesn’t take into account what makes up your weight.
Individuals with more muscle mass, even if they have less fat such as athletes may fall into the overweight or obese category. And people with very little muscle mass who are skinny may have a normal weight-to-height ratio but also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and an increased risk of chronic diseases. Hence BMI only indicates if you are at a healthy weight in relation to the height but does not indicate health status in any way.
Ok, so how can I predict my health precisely?
There are two ways to measure your overall health status which are both interlinked with each other.
Waist to Hip ratio (WHR)
The WHR is a quick measure of fat distribution that may help indicate a person's overall health. People who carry more weight around their middle than their hips may be at a higher risk of developing certain health conditions. To find out WHR, a person needs to measure both the circumference (the distance around) of their waist (just above the belly button) and their hips (widest part of the hips). To calculate the WHR, divide the first measurement (waist circumference) by the second measurement (hip circumference). Measurements can be recorded in either centimetres (cm) or inches (in) without affecting the ratio. If it is between 0.7-0.8, you are healthy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), having a WHR of over 1.0 may increase the risk of developing conditions that relate to being overweight, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This may be the case even if other measures of being overweight, such as body mass index (BMI) are in the normal range.
The WHO advises that a healthy WHR is:
0.85 or less for women
0.9 or less for men
Any number over this indicates that the person is obese. It doesn’t matter if your built is slim or large, as long as you have the ideal ratio i.e. 0.7, you fall in the healthy category. To maintain this ratio, you need to have optimum body fat levels. If you have more visceral fat (fat around the abdomen), you are less likely to maintain this ratio and this, in turn, can be a cause of other health issues such as PCOS, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc. On the other hand, individuals who maintain this proportion are likely to have better fitness and immunity levels, a healthy metabolic rate, hormonal harmony, and good skin, hair and nails too. It’s hard to judge how much visceral fat you have via this measure. However, a protruding belly and large waists are two signs that you have too much of it. But this can be measured via a body composition analysis.
Body composition analysis
Body-fat percentage, measured by special scales such as DEXA or BIA, is a helpful health indicator; it helps describe what the body is made up of by analyzing the percentage of body fat, muscle mass along its distribution in the body. It also measures mineral content, body water, visceral and subcutaneous fat, Basal metabolic rate and total daily energy expenditure which gives much detailed insight into overall health and fitness. For example, the more visceral fat one has, the harder it becomes for the body to perform basic functions like convert glucose to fuel and pump blood through your veins and so on. Visceral fat sits deep in your abdominal cavity around your internal organs. In small amounts visceral fat is good. It pads and cushions your organs to protect them from any damage. But too much visceral fat has been linked to things like systemic inflammation, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
A word of caution –
To get the ideal waist-to-hip ratio, and optimum body fat levels do not rely on crash diets or quick weight loss methods as these do more harm than good. Incorporate exercise and a healthy diet in your daily routine to lose weight (or rather fat) the right way and flaunt a body that is beautiful from the outside and the inside.
- Eat low GI carbs such as whole grains, millets, legumes and beans.
- Limit sugar intake from packaged foods
- Limit processed foods in your diet
- Include fibre in natural form from fruits and vegetables
- Eat wholesome meals by including a variety of foods on the plate
- Do not delete any nutrient in particular from your diet
- Complete 7-8-hour sleep cycle
- Exercise 150 minutes per week, include a combination of cardio and weight training
- Eat small and frequent meals every 3 hrs to improve nutrient absorption
- Limit alcohol intake
- Opt for home-cooked food over restaurant food
- Have early dinner-3 hours before sleeping
- Hydrate well, if you are thirsty you are already dehydrated
- Include omega 3 in your diet in the form of fish, flaxseeds or a supplement
- Add protein in each meal to accelerate metabolic rate
- Add dairy products - it naturally contains CLA, conjugated linoleic acid that burns the stored fat for energy generation.
Extra weight is a reflection of unhealthy food and lifestyle habits and a warning sign of potential future health complications. The addition of a few pounds on the weight will only doom you to a life of chronic disease if the gained weight is fat rather than muscle. Your health internally, how you feel, how you eat, how you move will always be more important than the number on the scale.