Monday, March 30, 2009

What does Healthy Look Like?

What does healthy look like to you?
Should Black women measure their fitness the same way White women measure fitness?
Is the BMI an accurate measure of Health?

As I get closer and closer to reaching the my weight loss goal, I have to wonder what does it mean to be healthy. Should I measure my fitness by the BMI, should I calculate my ideal body weight, should I measure it by how I look and feel, should I measure it by risk for diseases like diabetes?

First of all, there are several problems with using the BMI as measure.
Kate Harding at created the BMI project. The BMI project is a slide show of women with varied BMI's. Take some time to check it out, you may be surprised by what "overweight", "obese", and "morbidly obese" look like. In Kate's BMI project the pictures are mostly of white women. Imagine if this project was recreated with pictures of women of color. In our culture it has always been acceptable to have a little extra meat, "in the right places."

I wish I could do a BMI project with Black Women (maybe I will in the future). But for now here are some pictures of me and my health status according the BMI.

"Overweight" (click to enlarge image) "Obese"

So again, How do you measure your Health?

I have always questioned the validity of the BMI. About a year ago I was Obese, well at least according to the BMI. I did not think I fit into the category of Obesity but I did believe that my weight was putting me at high risk for certain dieases. I wanted to decrease my risk for diabetes specifically which is common in my family.

After working out for a year and getting down to 162 lbs (I am 5'7), I am still technically overweight, my BMI is 25.37. A healthy range is from 18.5 to 24.99. Right now I feel that I am at pretty healthy. I know I have some toning to do and a few more pounds to lose.
So, at this point I am choosing to ignore the BMI. Clearly it is not perfect because it does not take in account muscle. But I do think it is helpful to use as a starting point. I recommend consulting your physician to determine your risk for disease and health status.

I would also like to mention that a colleague of mine is currently looking at AA women's perception of shape in a formal research project. So I am sure she will have results to share with the public soon.

I'll search online and find some alternative ways to measure your health, I'll let you know I find!


What are thoughts?

What do you think about the BMI?

Do you think the BMI applies to black women?


Anonymous said...

I prefer to use the waistline rule of 35" inches or smaller as a guideline. The more fat around your midsection increases your chances of disease.

The District's Buppie said...

Fitness Goddess,
I totally Agree. I ignore BMI. Midsection being the toughest, but I too was Obese(FREAKIN COLLEGE!!!!), and Overweight. Plus I believe in being healthy and not Hungry!

ayankha said...

As you know from our conversation recently, this is exactly what I'm currently reviewing in my research (using the scientific method-sigh). So, hopefully, I will be able to officially report something soon.

Anonymous said...

My gym has a machine that you hold (looks like a big video game controler i forget what it is called) that will tell you exactly what percentage body fat and body muscle your body is composed of. It also has a metabolism reader too (a machine you breath in for about 10 mins to determine your metabolism). I think those two things along with the bmi give an accurate picture. There are also some scales that tell percentage body fat and muscle. I'm thinking about buying one.

luvlylayd said...

i think the BMI stuff is crap. i know most professionals & others swear by it, but i don't think it's accurate. it needs to be adjusted or updated. somehow changed.

i guess it's ok to use to measure progress, but definitely should not be the main measure. there is just way too much to take into account to put emphasis on one measure, such as this.

Ms. Williams said...

I agree. BMI is not always the most correct measure but I am going to have to get over myself and use it. My goal is to apply (and get into) the FBI Academy and among many other things, they certify your physical health with BMI as one of the measures.

Anonymous said...

When white people start counting numbers, Black people always seem to get counted out. Think IQ, census, SAT, you name it. Your blog is important b/c there is always a political component to how Black people are portrayed. Numbers matter, but the ones that matter most come out of the doctor's office: BP, cholesterol, blood glucose, etc.

Kjen said...

I think the bmi to be useless. Like the height/weight chart created by insurance companies, the numbers are arbitrary and not a reliable way to test "health." I
Forget the scales and bmi index.
My favorite test? The can-I-fit-into-these-pants-that-I-bought-a-year-ago? If I can, my diet and exercise routine is fine. If I can't, then something needs to be tweaked.

Dana said...

I value the BMI and do use it in my fitness training. One of the common misconceptions here is the assumption that the "extra meat" that you speak of must be fat tissue. This is incorrect. Typically, people of African descent usually have more muscle tissue, per kilo, than other groups...more specifically, than those of Caucasian descent. As a result, we tend to look more voluptuous, even when we are at the healthiest of weights (take a look at any Black bodybuilder in Oxygen Magazine for an illustration of this...).

I work toward certain lean body mass goals and I do watch my fat content - after all, just because I'm a Black woman, this doesn't mean that I need to carry excess fat tissue. My body will always be more fit and voluptuous than my White "counterparts" and that's okay. But my fat mass is in check. Being Black is not an excuse for carrying more fat tissue.