The fixation with weight that’s deeply ingrained in society has created a one-dimensional view of health focused around size and appearance. Here’s why it’s not everything.
“How to lose weight” is a search query yielding over 137 million results. Unfortunately for most people, most of these 137 million results create more noise and confusion.
In fact, there’s no such easy answer.
If health is what they’re searching for, “how to lose weight” misses the mark and isn’t the question most of us need to be asking. After all, there is never one single answer or a one-size-fits-all solution, and in some cases – a concrete answer at all.
Nutrition is highly individualized, and is an ever-evolving field. With this individualized nature, there can be an element of trial and error. Everything from our taste buds to the ways our bodies respond to different foods will differ person to person. That means we all need to keep checking in with ourselves to see what’s working to help us feel and live our personal best.
Tangential to that is the fact that weight is also highly individualized.
Weight is not an end-all, be-all measure of health; there are literally hundreds of ways to measure health and our health progress in our bodies. But somewhere along the way, weight and BMI have become seen as the go-to primary indicators of health.
Let’s take a closer look at why weight is not an absolute representation of our health.
1. BMI is not a diagnostic tool.
Unfortunately the Body Mass Index (BMI) is not comprehensive enough to be an accurate diagnostic. It only looks at weight, and doesn’t take into account body composition and the differences in fat, muscle, water, or any biological determinants of health. It’s not a comprehensive health measure – you can have dozens of different individuals with the exact same BMI but of different sex, body compositions, and age. Even then, the association of their physical appearance and health status will be different.
Even the CDC states that, “At an individual level, BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or the health of an individual. A trained healthcare provider should perform appropriate health assessments in order to evaluate an individual’s health status and risks.”
2. Correlation does not equal causation.
BMI and weight are not diagnostic of health. Yes, there can be correlations between BMI and health status, but correlation does not equal causation. While correlations can (and should) be investigated for causal relationships, it does not mean there is causation.
With everyone having individualized needs, it’s important to remember that we all have different bodies and healthy is going to look different for each of us. Even within our individual selves, weight is fluid. There’s a set point theory that suggests an individual’s “normal” weight is actually a weight range, in which some experts suggest is up to a 20 pound range.
3. Health is more than your weight.
Improving your health and preventing chronic disease goes beyond just the number on the scale. Depending on the individual, some may lose weight, some may gain weight, and some may have zero weight changes at all. However, the inability to lose weight does not mean you did not work “hard enough”. Let’s not only look at the food on your plate, but also your total health. This means not only looking at the foods you’re consuming, but also your sleep quality and quantity, stress load and stress management techniques, physical activity, social interactions, and other more accurate determinants of your health risks.
Most importantly, reflect on your health and happiness – the coexistence of the two will always be greater than any number on the scale.
Adapted from the original article.
Lindsey Janeiro RDN, CLT is a virtual private practice dietitian and nutrition expert based in Florida. She specializes in helping individuals feel their best through mindfully managing food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. Connect with Lindsey by visiting Nutrition to Fit.