What is a Healthy Weight? Thinking Beyond Body Mass Index (BMI)
Our bodies naturally change as we move through life, have children, and get older. Most of us don't weigh the same at age 40 as we did when we were 20 years old. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
Metabolism slows down over time as we age, and women especially tend to have weight gain over time as a result of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. Although Body Mass Index (BMI) is commonly used to assess whether a person is at a healthy weight, it is actually much too simplistic.
BMI does not take into account age and gender. Yet, those two factors are actually really important in assessing the relationship between weight and increased risk of disease or early death. In looking at long-term health, both age and gender need to be accounted for when determining what weight is actually healthy for a person.
My Own Mothering Weight
I never had problems with my weight as a child or in early adulthood. Then, after 6 years of pregnancies and extended breastfeeding, my body was holding onto about ten extra pounds.
I was concerned about dropping the extra ten pounds of mothering-weight. I was already eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise, but I didn't look like I had before pregnancy and my old clothes didn't fit. I found that, although I could implement strict dieting measures to drop the mothering weight, the weight would quickly come back as soon as I stopped rigorously paying attention to it.
Did I want to live my life obsessing over those ten pounds? And did they even matter?
Using the Smart BMI Calculator to Really Assess Weight and Health
As I learned more, I found that it is common and healthy for women to maintain a few extra pounds after pregnancy and breastfeeding. Although women may not like the appearance of holding onto a few extra pounds, it is not generally unhealthy insofar as increased risk of disease or early death.
You can see this with the use of the Smart BMI Calculator. This easy-to-use tool provides a more-nuanced perspective on what weight is healthy for a person given their height, weight, age, and gender.
Instead of simplistically measuring a ratio of a person's height and weight, the Smart BMI Calculator includes data on the relationship between weight and risk of disease and early death with regards to age and gender. It is really a valuable tool.
Once I found the Smart BMI Calculator, I realized that those ten extra pounds were not actually unhealthy for me.
So I made a decision over 5 years ago: I wasn't going to live my life stressing over ten pounds. It was a purposeful decision to let go of dissatisfaction with my body and accept myself, knowing that my weight was still healthy even if I didn't fit into those old clothes. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made in caring for myself.
Life is too short to spend it fretting over things that may not actually matter. I hope this post helps you find your own balanced perspective on weight. You can calculate your own Smart BMI here.
This post is the first in a series about healthy weight. In the next post, I will share a couple tips I have found for maintaining healthy weight as I have moved into middle age.