Is BMI the Only Important Metric to Measure How Healthy You Are?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index, it gives you an indication if your weight is healthy compared to your height. It’s really easy to calculate as it only uses your body mass (in kilograms), divided by your height (in metres squared). It doesn’t take into account age and gender, except for young people under 18. If maths is not your thing and you want to know what your BMI is, just type “BMI Calculator” on your search bar and you’ll be spoilt for choice. An adult is considered healthy if their BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, underweight if it’s under 18.5, overweight above 24.9 and in the obese range above 30. Now, I’m sure most of you already know this, but I would like to have a closer look at why you shouldn’t rely on it by itself.

Update on my own weight loss journey

I started to write about my weight loss journey in one of my very first posts on this blog. By then I was at 78 kg and had already lost 7 kg. Since this post, I’ve carried on with my new healthy lifestyle and I am today near 68 kg, which means I lost another 10 kg. In terms of BMI, I went down from the obese range to just overweight and I’m now on the verge on being back to healthy. Hallelujah. I’m 165 cm tall so a healthy range for me means between 50 kg and 68 kg. I was aiming at 60 kg (in the middle) to have some sort of exact number in mind but I know by experience I’m starting to look very skinny under 60 kg, so that would actually be my absolute minimum! What would still be considered “healthy” for me (between 50 kg and 60 kg) would probably look underweight as I would start worrying people around me. That’s why I say BMI is a great tool to give some sort of indication but no one knows your body better than you.

BMI by itself has its limits

If BMI only uses people’s height and weight to indicate their healthy range, you can see why it would have its limits. It cannot tell the difference between excess fat, muscle or bone. Even though the range is quite big to take into account natural variations in body shape, some athletes with a high muscle mass could easily be within an overweight or obese category while they’re actually very healthy. Ethnicity also matters: according to the NHS, Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups have a higher risk of developing some long-term conditions (such as type 2 diabetes) with a BMI above 23, so even if they’re within the healthy range (which is between 18.5 and 24.9). Pregnant women should obviously not use BMI as an indicator as it wouldn’t be accurate either.

What other metrics should you watch out for?

If BMI is pretty straight forward to tell you if you weight too much (or not enough), it won’t tell you if you have too much fat. Ultimately, that’s what you want to focus on because that’s what puts you at greater risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke or even cancer. Basically, you can have a healthy BMI and still carry too much fat around your stomach. One way of finding out would be to invest in a smart scale that will give you more detailed information about your body composition. Another one is to take measurements of your waist size to check if you need to lose dangerous fat. Regardless of your BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waist size is more than 80 cm (for women) or 94 cm (for men). This is not easy but necessary, my waist size was 92 cm for a weight at 85 kg back in August. More than 4 months later, I lost 17 kg and 13 cm around the waist. I am now only starting to be healthy in that area too with a waist size at 79 cm, which translates into significantly less risk of developing a long-term disease.

The bottom line

In conclusion, I would say BMI gives a good indication about how healthy you are, but only if it is used in combination with other factors. If you’re way above or under the healthy BMI range, you should definitely act. But don’t necessarily aim to be right in the middle to have the perfect body, as everyone has a different body shape that doesn’t always reflect their weight. If I’m aiming at 60 kg now, I know my weight will increase again when I focus on toning up because my muscle mass will increase, which is heavier than fat. By then, I’ll replace my objective with a more appropriate one! I can tell you I already feel the positive impact this journey is having on me. I hope January will see more people making good (and lasting) healthy resolutions.

Do you consider being the best version of yourself already or do you need to make a change?

Big Girl x

Weight Loss Journey: How I Overcame the Dreaded Plateau

weight loss plateau

My weight loss journey started in August this year, I was at 85 kg which was unhealthy for my 165 cm height. My BMI was over 31 which is in the “obese” category (BMI above 30). That term is quite scary because even if I didn’t look obese, it was telling me that my body really needed to lose some fat if I didn’t want to run the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So I started to reduce my calorie intake in order to lose weight, aiming to be at a much healthier range within months.

Counting calories is not always enough

2 months later I lost the first 7 kg, I was at 78 kg, which means a BMI at 28.7 and a downgrade from “obese” to simply “overweight” category. Good effort but still far off the healthy range between 50 kg and 68 kg for me. This is why weight loss is a long journey, it takes time to lose fat and it’s important to enjoy the ride if you want to stay motivated all along! I was enjoying my new routine and ready to keep it up that way but something happened: I plateaued… How do you break a weight loss plateau?

Find a method you can easily turn into a healthy habit

If you search for the solution online, you’ll see a lot of articles telling you to exercise more and eat less, because the only way to keep losing weight is to reduce further your calorie intake or increase even more the calories you spend at the gym. Personally, I found it pretty depressing and not really helping.

Thanks to Huel (a plant-based and completely nutritious meal), I already have only 400 calories for either lunch or dinner with all nutrients I need, and I keep the other meal of the day at 500-600 calories max with fresh food I cook myself. I don’t want to exhaust myself at the gym and I don’t want to eat less. I already know I don’t need breakfast in the morning as my body is not fully awake until noon. The solution for me was obvious: Intermittent Fasting.

intermittent fasting how does it work

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

There are several types of intermittent fasting methods, but the 16/8 method seemed like the obvious choice for breakfast skippers like me. It consists of fasting for 16 hours and eat within a window of 8 hours. I started this way 2 weeks ago and this is how I broke my weight loss plateau. My weight loss of approximately 1 kg a week resumed…

What my day looks like

  • 8.00am: I have a big glass of water to rehydrate my body and then a cup of tea (with no sugar, no honey, no milk)
  • 12.00pm: This is when I start to be hungry so I have a Huel shake for lunch (400 calories)
  • 4.00pm: I have a small snack involving nuts, fruits and/or some dark chocolate (200 calories)
  • 7.00pm: Dinner time, I stick to circa 500-600 calories per meal
  • 7.30pm: If I’m still hungry, I will have some fruit (berries are very low in calories for example)

I consider my 8-hour window being between 12.00pm and 8.00pm but sometimes I actually fast for longer as this is quite easy for me. Needless to say I drink plenty of water during the day. I can totally see this eating habits staying in my routine in the long term, even after I reach my weight goal of 60 kg. It also makes me want to document myself a lot more on the various health benefits attributed to intermittent fasting so it’s very likely I’ll come back with a post about it in the near future!

Did you (or anyone you know) also come across a plateau in your weight loss journey? How did you overcome it?

Big Girl x

My Weight Loss Journey: Past Failures & Current Plan

My weight loss journey

If 2020 will not be the best year of my life, it will be the year I decided to lose my extra kilos and become healthier, for good. To me, it’s a lot more difficult to keep the weight off than losing it. I guess I’m disciplined enough to stick to a diet and motivated enough to not give up until I reach my target. But it’s just not sustainable in the long term, the extra kilos come back easily afterwards. The word “diet” is the word to ban here, I’m now aiming for new healthy habits designed to stay.

Past attempts / Why it failed

I always struggled to maintain a healthy weight. My lowest in my adult life was around 58 kg and my highest around 85, with a lot of variation in between. I’m 165 cm tall so a normal BMI indicates I should be between 50 and 68 kg.

The yo-yo effect

10 years ago, I lost approximately 10 kg with the help of a nutritionist. But it was hard, I had to control my portions and force myself to eat foods I didn’t really like. So a year later, I quickly put them back on. Then I lost them again by practising “mindfulness eating” this time. I had regular telephone appointments with a dietician and I was going to the gym a lot. But again, I didn’t manage to keep the weight off for long. It then took me until 2017 to do something about it. I lost 20 kg in 7 months on my own, simply with a lot of daily exercise (and a fitbit to keep me on track). I didn’t change anything in my eating habits. And as you would suspect, I put them back on again within the following year…

The common mistake

Did you notice a pattern? The reason why I never managed to keep the weight off is that I never really focused on nutrition. I saw weight loss as a frustrating period when I had to restrict myself “temporarily”. I was never trying to change my lifestyle for good. Now I realise I simply needed to adopt better and healthier habits from the start!

Current plan / Progress so far

I started to stay on top of my calorie intake in August 2020, my weight was 85 kg back then, the heaviest I’ve ever been. 2 months after I started this journey, I lost 7 kg as I am today at 78 kg. There is still a lot to be done, this is why I’m happy to share updates with you to help me feel accountable and maybe even motivate those of you who have a similar journey ahead. I have heard about various weight loss programs and as I’m a fussy eater, I prefer a calorie counting diet. I just need to make sure I stick to my calorie budget: between 500 and 1,000 less calories than what I would need to maintain my weight (around 2,000).

If you’re clueless about how many calories you need each day, use this calculator. Eat 500 calories less every day for a week and you’ll lose 500g. Eat 1,000 calories less every day for a week and you’ll lose 1kg. The latter could be a bit difficult sometimes so I tend to stay in between.

Put yourself first in your to do list

My dos and don’ts

  • I’m doing this on my own but I use an app to help me count calories by logging everything I eat every day. I really like MyNetDiary but there are plenty of apps available for free. It helps you stay on target, gives you some tips and motivates you with a forecast.
  • I don’t drink any alcohol (ever) or any sugary drinks (I only drink diet soda or tea, if not water). This is a personal choice, it’s relatively easy for me as I don’t like beer anyway and wine gives me headaches. It’s probably a quick win for most people to simply avoid sugary drinks as they contain a lot of empty calories. I start the day with a big glass of water.
  • I sleep at least 7 hours a day. A good sleep is very important because you’re less resistant to food temptation when you’re tired. It’s easier to maintain a good sleep balance when you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, whether it’s the weekend or not. I wear an Oura ring to help me analyse my sleep every day, but most fitness watches also offer that feature.
  • I don’t have breakfast. This one is controversial as I heard so many times breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Surely everyone is different because every time I have breakfast I feel hungrier during the day. I just don’t think my body is ready to receive food when I wake up. I don’t even have my voice back when I wake up! Fair to say I’m really not a morning person, it takes me a long time to be ready once I’ve left my bed. Tea with a spoon of honey, that’s all I need and I’m not hungry until 12.30pm.
  • I have Huel for either lunch or dinner. It makes it so easy to count calories and it also tastes great. It’s not a replacement meal as you can have it for as long as you want, it’s designed to give you all nutrients you need in a meal without having to cook anything. For someone like me who doesn’t eat a lot of green naturally, this is helping a lot. You can use it to help you lose fat, or in your day-to-day life, your choice!
  • I avoid processed food and cook fresh food every day. If I had Huel for lunch, I’ll have a nice home-made meal for dinner. I vary between fish, poultry, beef or lamb, with usually potatoes, rice or pasta (I could never do a low-carb diet!).
  • I replace all snacks and/or desserts with fruits, preferably seasonal. I’m such a sweet-tooth, this is probably the hardest part but I fortunately also love fruits.
  • I allow myself a meal out or takeaway once a week. I stay on top on calories (estimated as it’s always harder to calculate it properly when someone else cooks for you) but I try to eat whatever I fancy so I don’t end up frustrated.
  • No unnecessary calories such as sweets. Sugar is addictive and it doesn’t bring your body anything useful. Not to mention it’s bad for your teeth.

And if you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend the 3 episodes of Lose a stone in 21 days (with Michael Mosley) – available on demand on Channel 4 – they’re full of good advice! Do you need to lose weight too? Tell me about the program that works best for you!

Big Girl x