“It was not too long ago, in our country, that the main difference between the affluent and the impoverished was the style of clothing. Today, it seems to have shifted to food”, said my professor in college at the University of Delhi. India ranks 3rd in Global Obesity Index. We also rank amongst the highest in Global Hunger Index, just behind Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. This lethal combination of obesity and hunger is described as the double burden of malnourishment by the WHO. It is, however, a global phenomenon today. The number of underweight people is going up as we also continue to get fatter.
While the above is all statistical data, we as a population are nonetheless more and more worried about our weight out of fear of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart health, hypertension, non-alcoholic fatty liver, PCOS and obesity among a few others. We are conscious of our health now, more than ever. But as the weight-loss industry expands and grows, so does the morbidity rate. We ought to be making a mistake. Dieting and weight loss are seen as two sides of the same coin. To read about the former you can check my blog – Food Fads and Diet Trends. Through this article, I aim to throw some light on the latter.
Weight – a futile measure
“You know my brother-in-law, he always looked so slim and fit. Never smoked and all also. It was such a shock when we heard he went through a coronary bypass.” Have you, too, heard something like this before? Ah! it is no surprise. We do not bat an eyelid before jumping on the weight-loss bandwagon when the doctor says it is the only way to ‘fix’ that bad knee or back or PCOD, diabetes, thyroid and so on.
Well, I got news ladies & gentlemen, our body weight has nothing to do with our health, fitness and well-being. The “ideal body weight” or “BMI” (body mass index) is only misleading and widely considered to be a flawed metric, scientifically. It fails to distinguish between fat, muscle mass and bone density. Moreover, it doesn’t consider vital influencing factors such as body type, gender, water and electrolyte balance, sleep, stress or exercise. Why, then, is it still so popular? It is because weighing scales are cheap and non-invasive even though they score poorly on both validity and reliability.
If your goal is to lose fat and to get healthier and you need a measure to track progress, a much more accurate way to do so is the “waist to hip ratio”. Studies show that the WHR is a far better indicator of health than BMI or weight. A high waist to hip ratio is more likely to be related to morbidity and mortality than BMI. In other words, it is “location” or the fat distribution in the body that is most important – not how much you weigh. Signs of lower body fat levels include – feeling lighter and more energetic, regular menstrual cycle, good quality sleep, improved skin and hair growth, and most importantly, better exercise performance and compliance. These are more often than not, lost in our constant battle of losing weight.
So, as we bid adieu to 2021, let’s promise ourselves to work at improving the above mentioned metabolic health parameters; to get fitter and leaner but not at the cost of risking our health. And most importantly, to not reduce our worth to a futile number on the scale !
Global Obesity Index | Global Hunger Index | Weight a flawed measure | Waist to hip ratio | BMI & health
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