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Is Your Scale Lying to You?

May 13, 2014 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Maintaining a healthy weight is a proven way to minimize your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many cancers.

But if you’re still relying on the bathroom scale, you could be making a big mistake!

Believe it or not, the numbers on your scale have very little to do with your overall health.

Fortunately, there’s a more accurate “scale.” It’s called the BMI, or Body Mass Index. It uses your height and weight to determine your body fat percentage. And best of all, it takes less than 60 seconds to use.

There are plenty of free, online calculators to choose from, like this women’s BMI calculator and this men’s BMI calculator.

(The average woman has a higher body-fat percentage than the average man, and the average man tends towards more muscle. Because muscle weighs more than fat, health experts recommend gender-appropriate BMI calculators.)

Just plug in your height, weight, and see where you stand…

BMI Weight Status
Up to 18.4 Underweight
18.5 to 24.9 Normal Weight
25 to 29.9 Overweight
30 or higher Obese

But the BMI has its own set of flaws. It underestimates body fat in seniors and overestimates body fat in athletes.

Muscle weighs far more than fat. So a muscular bodybuilder without a shred of fat, would still score obese on the BMI…even though they’re clearly fit and trim.

Obviously the BMI alone is not enough to gauge your overall health. It simply helps gauge body fat.

But knowing where fat in your body is located can make a big difference. That’s why I combine the BMI with a waist circumference measurement.

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Fat around your waist, sometimes called abdominal, visceral, or torso fat, is different than the fat beneath your skin (subcutaneous) or in your muscles (intramuscular).

Abdominal fat secretes hormones and proteins that not only cause damaging inflammation but that can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.

In other words, if you’re mostly fat around the waist (rather than your hips and bottom), you have an increased risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

And the bigger your waist, the higher your risk.

To get an accurate waist circumference reading, place a measuring tape around your middle just above the upper hip bone. The tape should be flat against your skin, but not so tight that it causes indentations.

And no cheating — exhale normally and record the measurement.

When the measuring tape goes past the 35-inch mark on a woman or 40 inches on a man, it’s time to make some serious changes.

Ready to take control of your BMI? Taking the time to calculate your BMI and your waist circumference can have a big payoff down the road.

But only if you’re willing to take some healthy steps drop those extra pounds. Don’t worry, although losing weight does take some work, you can find plenty of safe, simple weight-loss solutions archived on my website…along with dozens of simple, healthy and delicious recipes!

And remember, healthy lifestyle changes go far beyond diet and exercise. Stress and its companion hormone, cortisol, can lead to weight gain, too.

Sometimes neutralizing your stress can be just as effective diet and exercise!

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