Body Mass Index, also known as BMI, is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters.
Your BMI is basically an estimate of your average body weight based on your height and weight.
Once you know your BMI, you can determine where your measurement falls under the standard weight categories provided by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
BMI is an expedient tool for understanding where your weight falls on the scale, ranging from underweight to obese.
It can also help you maintain moderate body weight, reducing the risk for chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease.
You can easily calculate your BMI using a BMI calculator which is readily available online.
According to the weight categories in the BMI chart, healthy weight is denoted by a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI that falls below 18.5 denotes that you are underweight while one that ranges between 25 and 29.9 denotes that you are overweight.
A BMI of 30 and over shows that you are obese. Generally, if your BMI is over 25, you may be at risk of developing weight-related chronic illnesses.
In this article, we discuss how to lower your BMI to avoid being at risk of these illnesses.
WHY IS YOUR BMI SO HIGH
Some of the factors that can put you at risk of having a high Body Mass Index are;
Everyone is born different. Some people are naturally lean while some are plump.
If you have overweight parents, you may be genetically predisposed to being overweight, no matter how much you try to live a healthy lifestyle.
In most cases, people who are overweight have a slower metabolism than lean people. When you have a slow metabolism rate, your body is likely to accumulate fat, increasing your body weight and putting you at risk of having a high Body Mass Index.
Some drugs, such as those used in the management of psychiatric conditions, can make you constantly lethargic hence decreasing your level of activity and consequently increasing the risk of having a high BMI.
According to past research, medical conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Hypothyroidism cause weight gain and make it hard to lose weight.
This can put you at risk of being overweight and having a high Body Mass Index.
WHY YOUR BMI IS HIGH YET YOU ARE NOT FAT
Using BMI to determine healthy body weight is controversial. Many people believe it is not an accurate way of gauging a person’s health since it considers other factors aside from height and weight that can create variations in measurements such as muscle mass, race and age.
Due to such factors, your Body Mass Index may indicate that you are overweight or obese when in actual sense you are as healthy as can be.
There are a couple of reasons why your Body Mass Index may be high even though you are in perfect health, such as;
HIGH MUSCLE MASS
Bodyweight may be contributed to by muscle mass rather than fat.
Muscles are generally heavier and denser than body fat. Hence, if you have a high muscle mass, your BMI may indicate that you are overweight or obese.
Unfortunately, BMI fails to take muscle mass into account. It treats your weight as one entity instead of accounting for muscles, fat and bone density, which all make up your body weight, independently.
Height plays a significant role in measuring the Body Mass Index. It is one of the measurements used to calculate it.
BMI normally underexaggerates weight in shorter people and exaggerates weight in taller people.
Since the calculation squares height, it may make short people seem thinner and tall people fatter.
There are anatomical features inherent to people of individual races that can influence their Body Mass Index.
Research shows that African Americans are less likely to have fat accumulating in their abdominal cavity (which is an indicator of health risks) and higher muscle mass.
Such people may have a high Body Mass Index that is typically associated with low quality of health even if they are healthy.
It is normal to put on some weight as you grow older.
Such weight can significantly raise your BMI, but it does not necessarily mean that you are unhealthy.
WHAT IS THE IDEAL BMI FOR A WOMAN
Doctors generally consider the ideal BMI of a woman to be 18.5-24.9.
BEST EXERCISE TO REDUCE BMI
Exercising is one of the most effective ways on how to lower your BMI. Staying fit helps you maintain a healthy weight, reducing your BMI hence eliminating the risk of chronic weight-related illnesses.
Exercises that can help you achieve this are;
Aerobic exercises are popular among weight watchers and people who are looking to lose weight.
Common examples of these exercises are swimming, jogging, walking and cycling. They burn a lot of calories within a very short period of time.
The most significant advantage of using some of these exercises (e.g. walking) to burn calories is that you do not require any exercise equipment to do them.
HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING
Also known as HIIT, the idea of High-Intensity Interval Training is to perform an exercise at a high intensity for a certain period of time followed by a brief resting period or a decrease in intensity then back to high intensity.
An example of such an exercise is running very fast for a whole minute then walking for two minutes.
This high intensity-low intensity combination puts the body in an anaerobic state which prompts it to use up all the glucose available in your bloodstream. The anaerobic state puts the body in a fat-burning mode throughout the rest of the day.
This fat-burning mode is sometimes referred to as the “afterburn effect.”
HIIT exercises and aerobic exercises are favourites of most weight loss enthusiasts due to their ability to burn many calories within a short period of time and without any specialized exercise equipment.
Strength training also helps in weight loss by reducing body fat and building muscle mass.
The problem with using strength training to reduce your Body Mass Index is that it builds muscle mass which may actually increase your Body Mass Index rather than reduce it due to the dense nature of muscles.
However, if you don’t mind your Body Mass Index increasing as long as you stay healthy, then you have yourself an excellent weight loss tip.
TIPS ON HOW TO LOWER YOUR BMI
Apart from exercising, other tips on how to lower your BMI are;
1. REDUCING YOUR CALORIC INTAKE
When it comes to weight loss, the basic rule is that your diet has to be on a caloric deficit to ensure you are burning more calories than you consume.
Once you begin consuming fewer calories than you burn, your body will use up the excess fat accumulated in your body for energy, which will reduce your body fat.
However, if you choose to reduce your caloric intake, make sure you do it gradually. You can start by eating 500 calories each day. Reducing too many calories abruptly may have a counteractive effect by slowing down your metabolism, which also slows down weight loss.
2. CUTTING BACK ON SUGAR
When it comes to weight gain, sugar is one of the worst culprits. It is also a major contributor to a high Body Mass Index.
It is recommended that an average person should not have more than 12 teaspoons of sugar in a day.
You can reduce sugar in your diet by avoiding sweetened beverages, processed fruit juices and canned foods high in added sugar.
3. EATING FRESH, WHOLE FOODS
Rather than eating processed foods, start prepping your own meals at home using fresh foods. Meal prepping prevents you from buying processed foods that most times contain added sugar and salt and unhealthy fats which may increase your body fat.
Fresh foods such as whole grains, fruits and leafy greens are healthier alternatives to processed foods, and they are less likely to cause accumulation of unhealthy fat in your body.
4. EATING MORE PROTEIN
A high protein diet will reduce your hunger levels and appetite.
Proteins reduce the level of the hunger hormone ghrelin and boost the level of peptide YY, a hormone that makes you feel full. This may enable you to consume fewer calories which will promote weight loss.
A high protein diet can also increase your metabolism, which helps the body burn fat faster.
5. WATCHING OUT FOR EMPTY CARBS
Avoid eating foods that contain carbohydrates with no nutritional value. These are foods that have plenty of calories which bear very few to no nutrients.
An example of such is foods with refined or white flour; they are calorie-dense, but they have very little nutritional value such that your body ends up gaining unhealthy fat instead of nutrients.
6. EATING LOW FAT DIARY
When it comes to consuming dairy products, opt for low-fat dairy.
Low-fat dairy products contain very little fat which will not significantly increase your body fat than medium fat and high-fat dairy products.
7. DRINKING MORE WATER
One of the most helpful tips on how to lower your BMI is ensuring you are well hydrated.
Drinking water increases the number of calories you burn, which is known as resting energy expenditure.
By drinking water before a meal, you can effectively reduce your appetite, reducing your caloric consumption.
Low caloric intake means an increase in weight loss and a reduction in your Body Mass Index.
8. STRESS MANAGEMENT
When your body detects that you are under stress, it releases cortisol, a flight/fight hormone.
After cortisol has been released, glucose is also released into your bloodstream to give you the energy to fight or flee from your stressor.
Once the threat has worn off, and your blood sugar has dropped, cortisol levels spike to replenish your energy supply quickly. This is when you begin to crave sugary foods which the body presumes will replenish energy quickly.
The body tends to store excess sugar in fat, especially abdominal fat which is difficult to shed.
If you can effectively manage stress using meditation and deep breathing techniques, this whole process that leads to gradual weight gain can be avoided.
9. GET MORE SLEEP
Poor sleep has been linked severally to weight gain and a higher Body Mass Index.
When you do not get adequate sleep, the level of ghrelin hormone rises, and the level of leptin hormone, which signals you to stop eating, decreases.
This will cause you to overeat hence the weight gain.
10. AVOID SKIPPING MEALS
When you skip meals, your body perceives that you are stressed and releases cortisol, increasing your craving for sugars, contributing to weight gain.
11. SEEK COUNSELLING SERVICES
Weight gain may be connected with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
When you are suffering from mental health issues, your body is generally under stress. As mentioned before, cortisol puts you at risk of weight gain.
To ensure mental health issues do not cause you to gain unwanted weight, you need to take care of mental health and seek a therapist or a counsellor the moment you realize you are not okay mentally.
12. STAY CONSISTENT EVEN IF THE RESULTS ARE NOT IMMEDIATE
It is easy to get discouraged if you are exercising and making the necessary changes in your diet, but you still cannot see results. Be sure to stay on course even if the weight doesn’t seem to be coming off fast enough.
Research suggests that you can only achieve weight loss if you make consistent efforts to eat healthily, work out and maintain other healthy lifestyle habits like getting enough sleep.
BMI is an important tool for determining the risk of developing chronic diseases associated with weight gain.
Watching your BMI will also enable you to maintain a moderate, healthy weight.
However, if you find out that your BMI is higher than the recommended range, don’t beat yourself up about it; it could be due to certain factors that BMI does not account for such as muscle mass.
If you feel that your BMI is too high, there are plenty of helpful tips on how to lower your BMI that have been availed to you by this article. They will help enable you to lower your BMI and achieve a healthier weight.
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