Body Fat Percentage

The next “improvement” in health estimating came from body fat percentage. Only no one could ever really use calipers in a replicable manner and there was no way to account for internally stored fat. Bio-impedence scales, submersion tanks, and a host of other tools attempted to improve the accuracy of body fat analysis, but ultimately none have been proven consistently.

Body Mass Index

Enter BMI! The body mass index was the brain child of the 1990s when the old archaic system was dismissed as unrealistic. This standard used a basic height and weight table to estimate body fat. Some models even insert waist measurement. Though still flawed, this system has been more accurate than merely pounds per inch. Unfortunately, it is still oversimplified and can be terribly inaccurate. Athletes, in particular, are often mislabeled obese due to hypertrophy.

Cultural Influence

To further complicate the issue, there is a huge disconnect between the sizes of actresses and models and the average American. Most female models are nearly six feet tall, weigh less than 125 pounds and wear a size four or smaller. The average American woman is 5’5” tall, weighs 160 pounds and wears a size 10-14. Realism is being challenged by our definitions of what is attractive, appropriate, and acceptable. These psychological factors create anxiety for the health conscious today. Again, does size matter?
The answer is: yes and no. Size matters most “in the middle”. Statistically speaking no other single number speaks to wellness better than the measure of you waist. Women with a waist measurement greater than 35 inches and men who measure greater than 40”, regardless of height, are at a significantly greater risk of the five most common causes of premature death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, and diabetes. All of these have been proven less common in active persons. Does this mean having a flat stomach will help you live longer? No, actually. Individuals who are too thin, have a higher risk of osteoporosis, arthritis, and a host of diseases of an entirely different nature. Also, naturally thin people also tend to be less aerobically active. So who lives healthier longer?Athletes!
There is no need to diet down to a size zero if you are 5’9” tall. There is also no reason to allow your 5’1” frame to fill out a size 12. The athletic body is typically a little larger in the shoulders and the thighs with a nice trim waist. Flat stomach? Less relevant. The omentum, the organ that stores belly fat, is less about the shape of your stomach than the width of your waist…and that is what matters most. Get off the scale, stop fussing about your size and pay attention to the way your pants fit. Get your waist under 35” (female) or 40” (male) and then gauge your health by the way you feel. Judging the beauty, health, or fitness of a person simply by the number on a scale or on the tag of a dress is absurd. Everyone is different and “healthy” is a state of being best signified by one additional measure: blood pressure. Throw out your scale and buy a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff). This may lower your stress resulting in even better health. Size matters, but mostly at the waist.