When we talk about weight and health - whether we are discussing pounds, kilos, or Body Mass Index, we are trying to assess the body's composition of fat and muscle deposits. The degree to which muscle and fat are present or absent in the body can have implications for overall physiological functioning and the risk of developing certain medical conditions. And that's the problem with the indices above: at best, they are an estimation of body composition, yet they are treated as gospel. We need to have additional ways to talk about body composition and health beyond "the numbers."
So what else can we look at to determine whether someone's body composition is healthy and normal for them? Here are some questions; the more often you answer "Yes," the more likely it is that your body is reflecting what is right for YOU:
- Do you get feedback from your doctor that suggests that your pulse, blood pressure, and labwork results are healthy for someone of your age and gender?
- If you have finished growing (and remember, many people will not finish growing until their early 20s), does your weight tend to stay in the same range, without a lot of significant ups and downs, and without any strenuous efforts on your part?
- Do you find that you have plenty of energy throughout the day, and that you are not more likely to catch colds, flus, etc. than your peers?
- Are you getting 30-60 minutes of enjoyable physical activity on most days of the week?
- Do you generally eat only when you are hungry and stop when you are comfortably full?
- Do you eat a wide variety of foods (covering all the food groups or food group substitutes)? Would you say that most (not all!) of your choices are high in nutrients and moderate in calories? Do you include lots of high-fiber choices?
- Do you have a minimum of five servings a day of fruits/vegetables? If you drink alcohol, do you use it in moderation?
- Does your body resemble the size and shape of other healthy members of your family?
- If you are a woman, do you get your periods regularly, and is the flow pretty normal?
- If you are an athlete, do you make it through training, games, or events with only a normal amount of fatigue? Are you able to recover fairly quickly?