In this day and age, people have come up with a lot of ways to either lose weight or gain muscle mass. Fad diets have come and gone, all promising to give you a healthy body. Some even get into these diet plans without extensive research, all with the hopes to achieve their ideal body weight. Others go overboard and mess up, ending in weight gain more than muscle gain. Luckily, there are tools you can use to identify your body weight and determine if it’s healthy or not. These tools, BMI and Body Composition testing could also help you identify if you are at risk of diseases such as stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. Despite them being used in the world of health and fitness, one could be better than the other. Which is it? What are their differences? Let’s understand each one of them starting with BMI.
Body mass index, or BMI, is a standard measurement to estimate body fat based on your height and weight. It is developed by Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian scientist from the early- to mid- 1800s. It came from his vision of a simple way to determine a person’s body fat content and whether he or she was overweight or not. Medical professionals have been turning to BMI for almost 200 years when it comes to researches in regards to obesity.
BMI is calculated using an equation instead of measuring your body fat directly. The score you get from that equation is an approximation of your overall body fat content, which helps you determine if you are underweight, of normal weight, overweight or obese. Basically, BMI helps you know if a person is healthy or unhealthy in relation to their body weight. The level of a person’s BMI is a sign of the amount of fat that person has on his or her body. Meaning, if your BMI is high, it could be an indication that you have too much fat on your body, and if your BMI is low, then that could possibly mean that you have a very small amount of fat on your body. If not maintained in normal, a BMI of both high or low levels could pose several threats to your body. A low BMI can cause health problems such as anemia, bone loss, and decreased immune function. A high BMI, on the other hand, can cause several serious health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Despite its usefulness for screening bodyweight problems in both children and adults, BMI gets limited to just that. The simplicity of the formula in order to get it doesn’t even account for many other important factors, only giving us a range of normal weight in relation to our height. Criticized for its inaccuracy due to it being too broad and not actually providing anything at all about our body composition, BMI is being rigorously shot at for not being elaborate and thorough.
A person’s BMI is determined by dividing his or her weight by the square of his or her height. A normal BMI level is between 18.5 and 24.9. And even though BMI is calculated in the same way for everyone of all ages, the results are interpreted differently for children and adults.
The following weight status categories are the standard interpretation for the BMI of adults of age 20 and older (same for men and women, all ages and body types) :
BMI Weight Status
Below 15.0 Very severely underweight
15.0 to 16.0 Severely underweight
16.0 to 18.5 Underweight
18.5 to 24.9 Normal
25.0 to 29.9 Overweight
30.0 to 34.9 Obese Class I (Moderate obesity)
35.0 to 39.9 Obese Class II (Severe obesity)
40.0 and above Obese Class III (Very severe obesity)
As aforementioned, the BMI of children (people below 20) is interpreted differently from that of adults. While the formula to determine the BMI for all age groups is the same, the interpretations are based on age and gender differences for children and adults. This is due to the fact that the body fat content of a person changes with age. Also note that while it is different for young boys and girls, the latter usually develop early a higher amount of body fat than boys.
While it is still being used as a standard measurement for the overall health of a collective group, such as a city or a nation, and is proven useful for recording statistics on obesity, one can’t just simply use BMI to assess a single person’s health because it has too many flaws to be used at an individual level. It could potentially overestimate the number of fat athletes and even people with muscular bodies. BMI could also underestimate the body fat content of people who have lost muscle mass and even in older people.
Now, let’s talk about Body Composition and how it is different from Body Mass Index.
As we all know by now, BMI provides a vague idea of a person’s health. And that’s where Body Composition comes in, it gives you the detailed result. To measure body leanness, it isn’t just height and weight, there are also other important factors that have to be accounted for, namely: fat, Lean Body Mass, and the amount of water in your body. This basically tells you that body composition is your way of knowing how much fat, water, lean mass, and other things your body is made up of. It tells you how much of your weight is contributed by your lean mass (water, connective tissues, muscle, and bones) and how much of it is coming from fat. With a clearer insight into your health opened up by body composition, access to the exact percentage of your body fat might be able to save you from all disease risks you could be facing. Which you wouldn’t be able to know from BMI alone. Body composition is determined using BIA, or bioelectrical impedance analysis. This sends an electrical signal throughout your body, and this signal’s interaction with all the elements of your body including fat and muscle, helps the device separate your weight into, at least, Lean Body Mass and Fat Mass. Access to body composition testing could be challenging to most people, often requiring expensive equipment and through a series of test methods, but this test gives you a deeper perception of your overall body health. It would also be able to cater to a wide range of body types, including people whose BMI is healthy but have a high-fat content in their bodies and those individuals with a healthy body fat percentage but yields unhealthy BMI result.
With all that, we can deduce that although BMI has been used for a long time to evaluate our body weight, it is time to ditch its ways and we should start looking into the bigger and clearer picture of what’s really happening inside our bodies. And to achieve that, Body Composition testing would be a tremendous help, not only to fully understand our body weight and what contributes to it, whether it be Fat Mass or Lean Body Mass but also to avoid great risks of serious diseases.
Body composition is not a gimmick or a fad, that could eventually go as soon as it arrives. It is a test to determine our body fat percentage and lean body mass, studied by medical professionals and scientists for decades to get a better understanding of our overall health. Find out what your body composition is now to further your healthy lifestyle journey.
Even a few years ago models found themselves out of jobs if they packed on a few pounds after a rewarding vacation in the Caribbean. Such incidents were not only extremely discriminatory they also sent a powerful yet wrong message to the common people. At the same time when health aid officials were trying to supply enough food to sustain people in troubled areas, there were gorgeous women purging their guts out in porcelain toilet bowls of 5-star restaurants.
What marked the beginning of the plus-sized era?
The cost of weight loss surgery is high. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, people’s typical costs range from $20,000 to $25,000 for procedures to augment their physique. However, with the advent of a new century came a much-needed change in prevailing fashion trends. Elle was one of the first magazines to break the “plus-size” taboo by featuring plus-size models on its covers. The editors made it a point to throw in a nude pic of the plus-size model just to mix things up and little and it surely had an impact that shook the fashion world. This issue of Elle saw a lot of niche followers and support from human rights groups and other contemporary models. Elle opened the gates of the fashion world for the plus-sized models who had forgotten to dream about a successful career. The magazine had sent out an important message to the world, fashion was evolving and maturing to suit the needs of real women who are not ready to spend their lives munching on Graham crackers only.
To bring the “plus” theme to the mainstream, even Vogue launched an online section, especially for plus-sized women. This website features blogs, interviews, and fashion statements by real-life curvy women who serve as a source of encouragement to all the other plus-sized women from around the world.
What impact did the embracing of plus size have on people?
Most real women know the plight of entering an over-priced fashion boutique. Not only are they met with utter disappointment, but the “experts” also do not deter from giving a few very necessary jibes and pieces of advice regarding the better places where these real women can shop. All in all, even a few years ago, one needed skin as thick as their waists to shop at one of the big labels.
Gladly, the gradual acceptance of plus-sized models into the fashion world changed the way most common people perceive fashion labels. Not only has it become less intimidating for larger women to walk into reputed stores, this move actually given fashion a humane persona. More than mannequins and hangers supporting ridiculously small hot couture dresses, fashion gradually became about luxury clothing, comfortable woolens, flattering shrugs, and super skinny but accommodating bottoms, once again.
The plus-sized controversy
The controversy is the lifeblood of fashion. The fashion industry and its veterans cannot thrive without controversy and gossip. However, the advent of the “plus-size” movement saw a number of changes that were both welcomed and frowned upon. To begin with, a reputed stylist walked out at the London Fashion Week 2009 when designer Mark Fast announced his decision to use plus-sized models for this show.
A more recent controversy has evolved around the denomination of the true body sizes. While most models who wear a size 10 or 12 are deemed to be plus-sized by the industry, the average size worn by women around the world is 14. This has caused a furor among feminists and women rights activists as the world of fashion is still shying away from showing the real bodies of women on the ramps and glamour shoots.
Plus size vs. encouragement of unhealthy lifestyle:
There are popular views like that of Jamelia, a singer and Lose Women panelist who states that being overweight is simply unhealthy and should not be endorsed by reputed lifestyle brands and magazines. In fact, a group of scientists from Canada state that featuring obese women in magazine cover encourages people to lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Such hypotheses are being regularly challenged by the predominant cases of anorexia and bulimia which have been plaguing the modeling world for years. Years of advertising have taught us that skinny is perfect, but this comes at a cost of a healthy lifestyle and well-balanced meals. So while showing a proverbial middle-finger to the preconceived notions of fashion the voices of the real women are being heard again and many designers are dedicating new lines of clothing for the curvy hot women. Women are regaining their confidence for stepping into the smug stores which earlier only catered to the whims of the young and the skinny.
Most agencies and labels are hiring models who represent the face of the USA. These models sport an average American look. The concept of exotic beauty with translucent skin and ridiculously angled faces are beyond passé. In addition to that, the use of plus-sized models has boosted the morale of many women in the fashion industry and has helped to build their confidence. A very interesting study shows that models with popular agencies like Ford are currently earning a whopping $15000 per day instead of the meager $125 per hour they were making earlier as a result of a wider acceptance range among the veteran designers and fashion labels.
Who are these plus sized models?
Most common women who wear sizes 10 and higher find the plus-sized models more realistic than their anorexic counterparts. The more popular image of supermodels puts forth impractical body standards which are simply impossible to attain for maximum women. This pushes them into the world of depression, bulimia, binge eating, and forceful self-starvation. However, women like Jennie Runk, Crystal Renn, Saffi Karina, Justine LeGault, and Tara Lynn are breaths of fresh air. They are the faces of new hope for thousands of women around the world who feel ridiculed every day for their body weight, thanks to these women, even designers like Ralph Lauren, Marina Rinaldi, Michael Simon, Betsy Johnson, Armani, and Jean-Paul Gaultier have started designing gorgeous clothes for the curvier women.
Few people realize that your body image plays a significant role in weight management.
What is Body Image?
Your body image is related to your cognitive perception of your body. In other words, the way you feel and think about your body. It also involves the emotions and perceptions you have about your body. More often than not, the majority of people see something that does not reflect in the mirror or how other people see them.
A Negative Body Image
A negative body image plays an unfortunate negative role in weight loss. Because of the negative body image some individuals have of their bodies, they resort to unhealthy and often abusive practices to achieve a physical weight loss goal that is often unrealistic and not achievable.
Due to this negative body image perception, people indulge in quick-fix weight loss diets. As mentioned, these methods of weight loss can range from unhealthy diets excluding vital food categories, yo-yo diets, and abusive methods such as starvation.
Poor body image often leads to people making wrong assumptions about life, for example, that a slim body will attract more wealth, or better happiness or the “lived happily ever after” romance. In the end, it all results in a vicious circle of disappointment, weight gain, and further negative perceptions of their bodies.
The Common Root for Eating Disorders
Negative body image is more often than not the root cause for serious eating disorders such as binge eating disorder, anorexia, and bulimia. With the majority of patients receiving treatment for eating disorders, other mental health problems are also observed such as depression, anxiety, and low self image.
There are many cases where so-called moderate weight loss programs or constraining eating behaviors resulted in serious eating disorders with an obsessive pre-occupancy with food.
Weight Loss for the Right Reasons
Very few people follow a diet because they want to eat a wholesome well-balanced diet and ensure that they revert back into a healthy weight range for their body type. The majority of people want to lose weight because they do not feel good about themselves.
Although it is important to maintain good eating behaviors, it is important to note that wanting to lose weight for the wrong reasons can lead to depression, and physical ailments, especially when your weight is fluctuating constantly.
Social Media and Society
When we compare our bodies to what social media platforms and other media along with society portray as the ideal body shape and size, it is highly likely that we will start to suffer from a poor body image. Taking into account how the perceived ideal body image has changed over just the past ten years, it is evident that it is certainly a bad example to rely on how your body should look.
Poor Body Image = Weight Problem
The most simple way to fight the weight gain you experience as a result of a poor body image is to consult with your doctor or a trusted friend who is able to be upfront with you and able to help you to align your body image with reality.
More often than not, being overweight or ashamed is not such a major issue as many people would like to make it out to be. With only a few kilograms/pounds overweight it does not mean you are a failure or are worthless or that your life is in danger.
A trusted health practitioner will be able to tell you if your perception of your weight is accurate or not and if you need to make adjustments to your lifestyle in order to lose weight in a healthy manner for the right reasons.
What and how we think about our bodies have a tremendous effect on our weight loss or weight gain abilities. In the event where you know, you are not positive or realistic about your body image, talking to a counselor or support group would be highly recommended. Once you learn to embrace the positive attributes of yourself, you can start to work on a realistic perception of what your body can be.
A poor body image results in weight gain. When you convinced yourself that you will always be overweight it is likely that you will convince yourself there is no point in trying a healthier lifestyle. This becomes a spiraling pool of negative actions such as avoiding some exercise, feeling ashamed of your appearance, starting to avoid people and avoiding going out in public, and having contact with other people who can motivate you to reach your health goals.
It is Not Only A Women’s Thing
Poor body image and weight loss is not only a matter that affects women. In the past year, up to 11% of men older than 15 years followed some kind of diet. More and more men resort to dieting to obtain the “perfect” physique along with bodybuilding, protein supplements, or other image and muscle enhancing drugs such as steroids.
Weight Loss and Happiness
Too many people who try to reach a healthy weight range, assume that they will be happier after losing a certain amount of kilograms. It is highly likely that you will feel healthier for sure, but happier?
Regardless of what the scale says, if you are not happy now, it is unlikely that you will be happy after weight loss. Your body will change, but you will remain the person deep inside your mind.
It is possible that you might have a hard time to cope with the sudden compliments and people discussing your weight loss. There is no guarantee that weight loss will make you happy.
A positive body image will curb the harmful negative symptoms of attempted weight loss. Healthy and long term weight loss certainly does not start at the dinner table or gym. It starts with a positive, realistic mind. First, you have to start accepting yourself in a positive way instead of self-hatred, to ensure weight loss that is lasting in order to make the real changes that lead to a healthy body and mind.
Cheryl Tiegs recently gave her take on the latest fashion controversy of plus size models. In a pre-Oscars party on Wednesday, the former supermodel said that she was not happy with all the talk surrounding full-figured women because it was bringing them into prominence and giving them a glamor that she felt they did not deserve. She was answering a question as to whether Cheryl was enjoying the fact that women were stepping forward to break the stereotypical mindset of looking lovely only in a model figure. A former swimsuit model for Sports Illustrated, Cheryl Tiegs was referring to the fresh controversy that was stirred after Ashley Graham was featured on the latest Sports Illustrated cover. Ashley Graham created history last month by being the first model in the plus-size category to find a place on the cover of Sports Illustrated. “Her face is beautiful, beautiful,” added Cheryl as a measure of appreciation and then went on to say “But, I don’t think it’s healthy in the long run.”
The former supermodel – now at the ripe old age of sixty-eight – isn’t the first to speak out against the acceptance of plus-size models in the fashion industry. Plus-size models, as the name suggests, is an expression used for individuals that have a larger stature who is engaged mostly in modeling plus-size clothing. The plus-size modeling industry or models have generally garnered criticism from consumers as well as former models on the premise that acceptance of such “full figure” bodies sets a poor example of health management. There is constant consumer-based criticism of the plus-size models. There is a barrage of negative comments being made about plus-sized female models especially which is becoming commonplace and widespread. The statistics, however, point to a glaring problem with American psychology.
According to a USA Today article published in 2014, the average man’s waist is 39.7 Inches, while the average women’s waist size is 37.8 inches. Both of these averages are over size 14 while the models who are engaged in modeling for plus-size clothing are mostly between sizes 6 to 12. Is this because over the years we have been led to believe that only women who are size 4 or lesser, should be allowed to model? Are sizes 0 to 4 models really leading with a great example? There are numerous cases of abuse to the body that have been attributed to modeling both in plus-size as well as among the “normal” models. There have been reports of women fasting for days and ending up harming their own bodies in the process. Even in the case of plus size models, some have been reported to follow unhealthy practices, for example consuming salty foods to keep hold of water weight and inconsistent size to satisfy clients.
It is to be noted that women in the 70s and the fashion industry as a whole felt largely comfortable with the concept of plus size models and only underwent such a huge change in outlook only in the last 30 years or so. Maybe the issue that consumers are objecting to you at least on the face of it is the word “plus-size”. Television presenter Ajay Rochester and Australian model Stefania Ferrario started a campaign with the aim of doing away with the use of the word “plus size” in the modeling industry for describing models who were over the US Dress size of 4. Their campaign got a lot of publicity and people tweeted their opinion using “#droptheplus”. This campaign was heavily discussed and garnered mostly positive reactions in the social industry and within the fashion industry. However, there is no denying that being size 12 or more has a tremendous negative impact on the body of the person. As per general trends, the average waist size of both men and women in the US has been on the incline. More than 35% of the American population is obese and over 6% of them suffer from extreme obesity.
This uptrend of increasing waist size is because of improper choice of food and a generally unhealthy lifestyle. Given the stress and twenty-four-seven nature of everyone’s jobs, the time right now only indicates that it is right now more apt than ever to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Even though it may not be necessary for everyone to go vegan all of a sudden, eating healthy and working out never harmed anyone. Moreover, the pollution in the environment all around us also begs us to consider adopting a more healthy lifestyle. Thirty minutes of working out, some walking, and eating healthy food are very easy-to-follow steps that one can adopt immediately to start living healthy. Some people ask if living healthy is so easy, why not live healthy? Obesity and being overweight is generally attributed to being high in sugar and having heart problems later on. There is no biological upside to having a plus-size body and there is no denying that fact. What can be debated is if having a “plus size” actually means it gives somebody the right to comment on or criticize that person.
How someone lives their lives is up to them and given the mostly positive feedback and popularity that “plus size” models are receiving, it proves that there is even a market for it. The fact that these models are being accepted and given a chance to feature in such a prominent magazine as Sports Illustrated only goes to show how much our society is evolving and how we are constantly challenging the idiosyncrasies associated with the modeling industry. And that is extremely important and pertinent to the development of the human race. Whether the rising popularity of plus-size models is only a fad or if it is here to stay is something that is to be seen, but the fact that it is getting mainstream attention is something that is commendable and to be appreciated.
At the same time, the amount of criticism that they are having to face from a handful of people is extremely distasteful. In an interview with E! News, Ashley Graham, when asked how she felt being someone who represented “real women” said: “I’ve got plenty of friends [of all sizes] and different shapes and everything. And I don’t want any of them to feel like they aren’t ‘real women.” And given the statistics of the general US population, she is absolutely correct and on point. So the modeling industry must ask itself if they want to represent what is “real” or just what is “desirable”.
Perhaps like you, I’ve become more aware of the IMAGES I see in publications.
I publish ezines and websites for myself and others and choose graphics and photographs for these. Marketing fundamentals tell us that “like attracts like” and since as far as I know none of my readers are supermodels, I’ve been looking for more realistic images of people to use for the illustrations….
But what do I see in the stock photos? Supermodels. Perfection. People I’m not like and people I don’t see around me in real life.
The US media may not be particularly at fault, but it’s at fault. On my last cruise out of Miami on the Costa line, the cruise originated in Europe. As I was sitting in the hot tub, an Italian couple joined me, and as the conversation progressed, they looked around the swimming pool deck and said, “We had no idea Americans were fat.”
Let me stop here and comment on that comment! These super-model images continue to appear while the US is adding more overweight people every day. At the same time, young girls are endangering their health with anorexia and bulimia, depression is epidemic, and teen suicide is rising because they can’t live up to an unrealistic ideal.
The debate continues about what’s “healthy” and what isn’t, while obesity continues to be one of the worst prejudices in the US.
Laura Fraser is a journalist who’s written about obesity for many magazines and is the author of “Losing It,” about the diet industry. She confirms how deep the bias is against fat people in her right-on article entitled, “Fear of Fat.”
IMAGES DICTATE WHAT’S ACCEPTABLE
She points out that the media is more willing to write about weight these days, but they still won’t publish photographs of anyone over size 6. This, she says, “represents society’s deeply held moral and aesthetic prejudice against being heavier than a thin ideal.”
The problem is this not only represents this prejudice, it probably created it, and it definitely fuels it.
The medical debate continues about how much an individual should weigh in order to be healthy, and what factors make a healthy individual, but unless we’re in the field, we hear about it through the media.
The media is willing to produce a well-researched article pointing out that “gaunt” is not healthy and that you can be overweight and still be healthy if, for instance, you exercise, don’t smoke, have some good genes, and don’t drink excessively, but then what’s the cover photo? You guessed it.
I know people myself who are as much as 30-40 lbs. overweight who observe good health rules, are active and exercise, whose blood pressure and vital signs are well within healthy limits, have good mental and physical energy, and appear to be suffering ill health only emotionally because of the prejudice toward “fat people.” But that’s a big “only.”
Health, anyway, is not the focus of this article. Of course, you want to be healthy, and your personal healthcare professional is there to guide you. This is about IMAGE.
WHAT I WANT IS A PHOTO OF THE AVERAGE AMERICAN.
And what is that?
GET THIS: According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the average US woman is 5’3.7” tall and weighs 152 lbs.
The average American male stands 5’9.1” tall and weighs 180 lbs.
Where are the images of these people??
Fraser says in her article, “One senior-level editor at a national women’s magazine told me that no matter how often she tries to raise the issue, it’s absolutely taboo to run photos of women who aren’t slender and attractive—even if they’re the subject of a profile.”
Back to the cruise. I would say it contained a typical cross-section of people worldwide. They come in all ages, shapes, and sizes.
I laughed and said, “What made you think Americans were thin?”
“Television,” they said, and named some shows.
I continued my quest to find realistic images of people among the models. By the way, it’s said that 15 years ago, the ideal model was 7% lower than the average normal weight of a woman, and now she’s 23% lower. And is this the ideal we are holding up to the young women of the nation? A body a woman has little chance of attaining in reality, particularly not without risking her health?
I went to the stock websites and started entering words. I tried obese, fat, overweight, chubby, zaftig. I found 4 images under “fat” and they were all insulting caricatures of women such as a crazy-looking woman with rollers in her hair, in a house dress, waving a rolling pin, and looking like an idiot. This is intolerable to me. If it is to you, I challenge you to start voicing your opinion. I have written the stock photoshop about this.
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
Until the images we are bombarded with change, the Image won’t change. And where does it start? With you and me! Rant on.
If all we see in our media representations is perfect bodies, million-dollar homes, Norman Rockwell family Thanksgivings, and brand-new Subarus, is it any wonder depression is an epidemic?
If we can’t accept the “average” person, what on earth are we doing to ourselves?
The emotionally intelligent thing to do is to focus on what’s possible. Yes, set progressively higher goals for yourself that are attainable and enjoy working toward them, and watch your health. But get rid of the media images of perfection that aren’t attainable and – most importantly – aren’t healthy, and aren’t necessary for happiness.
P.S. Every time you see a website, ezine, magazine, or television show that shows realistic people, write too!
About the Author Susan Dunn, San Antonio, TX, USA Susan Dunn, MA, Clinical Psychology, certified Emotional Intelligence Coach, The EQ Coach™ . Coaching around EQ for relationships, career, resilience, transitions, personal and professional development. I train and certify EQ Coaches, therapists and managers.