The numbers on the scale don't tell the whole story for your health -- good news for those who dread weigh-ins. That's why your body mass index, or BMI, is a more reliable predictor of your health through your weight. A too-high BMI doesn't just suggest that you might be packing a few extra pounds, it also predicts your risk for things like heart disease and diabetes. If you need to lower your BMI, it's all about old-fashioned methods to save your health and improve your relationship with the scale.
See your doctor to talk about your diet and exercise plans. Your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight by your height, squared. The higher your weight is in proportion to your height, the higher your BMI number will be. Since you can't exactly work on growing taller, you'll need to work on losing weight to see that number drop. Aim for a value between 18.5 and 24.9. Armed with a plan from your doc, you'll be ready to take action.
Decrease the amount of calories you eat each day. Sure, it sounds simple, but you'll have to work hard to make better menu choices to achieve your goal. That means swapping vending machine fare for a salad or opting for the low-cal version of your favorite snack. Consuming fewer calories means it'll be easier to shed pounds -- the key to lowering your BMI.
Exercise for 30 minutes at least five times per week. Exercising burns extra calories. When you burn more calories than you consume, that's when you drop weight and lower your BMI. If exercise and physical activity don't come naturally to you, choose methods that keep you engaged. You don't have to hit the gym to get in your 30 minutes. A hike, swim at the local pool or dance class can all suffice and keep you more motivated to get moving.
Keep a diet and weight-loss journal to help your efforts. A study published in a 2008 issue of "The American Journal of Preventive Medicine" found that keeping a diet log was one of the most effective ways to see a change on the scale. It can help you stay accountable so you don't overeat and you're better able to record your physical activity and make sure it gets done on a regular basis.
Aim for a loss of 10 pounds to start. Don't stress out over unrealistic diet goals -- you're not going to wake up in a week and suddenly look like Cindy Crawford. Instead, realize that your BMI isn't about how you look in a swimsuit, but a way of assessing your overall health. Even a modest 10-pound loss can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. When you set and meet small, manageable goals, you'll be more inspired to turn your healthy efforts into healthy habits for life.
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk
- American Heart Association: Body Mass Index (BMI Calculator)
- CDC: About BMI for Adults
- American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Weight Loss During the Intensive Intervention Phase of the Weight-Loss Maintenance Trial; Jack F. Hollis; August 2008
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.