Health is more than a number

August 5, 2009

I was talking to someone recently who was curious to know his BMI (Body Mass Index).  This is a tool that allows you to calculate your weight in relation to your height.  In this way, you can be classified as underweight, normal, overweight, or obese.

We entered his information and learned that he was classified as “normal”, and therefore considered at low risk for diseases that are associated with obesity (diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.).  While this may be true from a numbers perspective, the results were actually quite surprising.  Because he essentially lives on a diet of fast food alone.  He is working on making changes, but no BMI reading of “normal” was going to fool him (or me) into believing that this meant he was at low risk for any of those diseases.

While I do consider the BMI a useful tool, I am concerned that it may just perpetuate the obsession in our society with the number on the scale.  It is actually quite possible to be classified as overweight or obese, and show less indicators for related diseases than someone who is extremely thin.

I am certainly dismayed by the epidemic of obesity in our country, and I think it’s particularly on my mind after watching the documentary “Killer at Large” last night (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the topic).  Yes, weight is an important factor to consider in overall health, and I absolutely adore working with my clients to help them reach their ideal weight.  But any single minded focus only serves to distract us from all of the pieces that work together to create good health.  Stepping onto the scale each day leads to stress, frustration, and feelings of failure.  And this can apply even if you are happy with your weight.  Does that automatically mean you feel as healthy as you want to be?  How about stepping off the scale and into your life?  You are not a failure, and no small piece of equipment on your bathroom floor can make you feel that way unless you allow it.

If you struggle with this, here’s something to try today:

Tape the number WANT to see on your scale.  Then spend a minute or two really allowing yourself to believe it, and to feel all of the emotions associated with that belief.  Feeling more positive and maybe even inspired?  Use that energy to go out for a walk.  Play with your dogs.  Take a yoga class.  Connect with friends, with nature, with yourself.  Take a step towards getting the support you need around making changes to your diet.  Tune into your instincts.  Your body WILL tell you what it wants if you take the time to listen.

Having struggled with my own weight for a long time, I can tell you from experience that it was only after I learned to take the pressure off that I found the weight went away right along with it.  Your life is about so much more than a number on a scale which can never substitute for the purest joy associated with actively pursuing (and acheiving!) the happiness and good health you deserve.


6 Responses to “Health is more than a number”

  1. vikki schermund Says:

    This was an excellent article! I am always struggling with weight, and I hate being asked that question. All I know is that when I eat the right things, and cut back or eliminate on treats, i look different and feel energized! I look forward to reading more articles and blogs you post! Congratulations!

  2. Patti McCabe Says:

    So happy you enjoyed the post, Vikki! Weight can be such a hard topic, and food causes so much fear for people these days. Congrats to you on being so aware of how food affects you. That’s a huge step towards getting to your goals!

  3. Angela Says:

    Fantabulous! Really good Patti.

  4. Amanda Says:

    Geneen Roth once said that “A Scale is for Cattle.” Isn’t it incredible how you can be having a great day, step on the scale and see a number you’re not happy with, and you’re good day goes right out the window?
    As for BMI, you brought up a good point. A muscular person, such as a bodybuilder, will have a BMI showing he/she is overweight, even obese, so you really can’t rely on it all too much. More importantly: How do you FEEL? Are you excercising? And are you HEALTHY?
    I saw that movie too…pretty crazy.
    Great post, keep up the good work!

  5. jessieisskoopy Says:

    Hey Patti, just started reading your blog. Good job, I am enjoying your posts.

    I met a guy on the train who was reading a book you might like. It was called, “Stuffed and Starved” by Raj Patel. It explores the juxtaposition of the 1 billion obese people in the world and the 1 billion starving people.


  6. Patti McCabe Says:

    Hi Jessie!

    Nice to see my posts are crossing international waters! Hope you are doing great out there. Thanks so much for reading. I’ve heard of that book but now I will definitely check it out. Awesome recommendation!


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