For many people who are aspiring to make changes to their lifestyle, the root of this desire is to reach what they would consider as a healthy weight; but how exactly is a healthy weight determined? From various biological to genetic factors, surely a healthy weight is different for every person. Medically speaking, a healthy weight is one that will minimize the occurrence of health risks, and is not determined by a set-in-stone number. A person who maintains a nutritious diet and is physically active can be considered healthy at a wide range of numbers on the scale.
Along with the draw to associate health with the number on the scale comes the worry over the amount of body fat that is considered healthy. While a certain amount of fat is necessary for proper bodily function, an excess amount can put the body at risk; however, lean body mass does not. An important consideration is that women store more body fat than men, and as a result the expected amount of body fat that is considered healthy is slightly higher.
When it comes to measuring body fat, calculating Body Mass Index (BMI) can be a daunting task. However, this measurement compares height to body weight and does not give an accurate depiction of health for those who have more muscle or a larger frame. BMI cannot distinguish between what tissues are lean or fatty or where the weight is carried.
A certain degree of fat is necessary to protect the body and does not pose a risk to health. Visceral fat on the other hand is located around organs in the abdomen and can release dozens of active substance which can contribute to an increased risk of disease. Measuring the circumference of the waist is a tool that can determine where fat is being stored and whether the amounts merit concern.
In order to maintain healthy levels of fat, it is important to understand how it is accumulated in the first place.
A major contributor to the increasingly poor health of North Americans is an improper weight and energy balance, which occurs when the amount of energy consumed is unequal to the amount of energy that is expended by the body. Now there are obviously more complex parts at play that determine whether you will gain or lose weight, but this formula can create some insight into the factors that contribute to weight loss or gain.
You may have heard the phrase kicking around that “abs are made in the kitchen and not in the gym.” This to brings to light the importance of a healthy diet as well as the proper amount of physical activity; doing one without the other will make your goals much more difficult to achieve.
This trend of weight and energy imbalance can be attributed greatly to changing environmental factors. More families have two working parents with hectic schedules to maintain for themselves and their kids. As a result, the amount of pre-made, packaged, and processed foods being eaten has increased greatly. These types of foods typically contain higher amounts of energy than a fresh, homemade meal.
Additionally, there has been a decline in the amount of energy that Canadians are expending and it has been estimated that only 15% are getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity. Long commutes to work that are travelled by car rather than walking or biking and less activity during downtime have all contributed to the increase in health risks.
Weight and energy balance is an important part of weight management and overall health. By measuring the amount of energy that you are intaking compared to the amount you are expelling, you can pinpoint which areas of your life would benefit from changes. Maybe you always make time for a workout, but you don’t follow up with a healthy meal, or maybe you pride yourself on maintaining a nutritious diet, but exercise often falls by the wayside. A healthy balance of both can result in noticeable changes and significant improvements to your health.