Our weight. It’s a topic that’s become taboo to discuss but we have to pay attention. Body weight is an ever-increasing problem for Americans, with over 71% of Americans being classified as either overweight or obese (1). In a previous article regarding the seven keys to longevity, we introduced the seven keys to a long and healthy life, as found by the Alameda County Health study.
- Sleeping seven to eight hours a night
- No eating between meals
- Eating breakfast regularly
- Maintaining proper weight
- Exercising regularly
- Moderate or no drinking of alcohol
- Not smoking
Let’s take a look at how maintaining a proper weight can not only add years to your life but more importantly, add life to your years.
Being overweight increases risk for disease
Being overweight is arguably the most outstanding indicator for risk of disease. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that having excess weight may be a contributing factor in diseases such as:
- Type 2 diabetes – In fact, 90% of those that are diagnosed with diabetes are overweight or obese (3).
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Sleep apnea
- Fatty liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Pregnancy problems, such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and increased risk of cesarean delivery.
How can you know if you weigh too much?
Gaining a few pounds as the years go by may not seem like a big deal, but losing control of your weight can put you in a dangerous place. BMI (Body Mass Index) is the standard way to assess weight and health. BMI is based on weight and height. This measure is not perfect especially for those that have very little fat and have above average muscle mass (because muscle is heavier than fat), but BMI is an appropriate measure for the majority of individuals. For adults, a BMI over 30 is considered obese. Between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered the “ideal weight.”
How to calculate your BMI
The easiest way to find your BMI is to find a BMI calculator online, but there is a manual way as well.
- Take a calculator and multiply your weight in pounds by 703.
- Then, divide that twice by your height in inches.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and you’re 65 inches tall (5 feet and 5 inches), that would be (200 x 703) ÷ 65 ÷ 65 = 24.9. This would give you a BMI of 24.9, which is on the border of normal and overweight.
How to reduce your BMI
Diets fads are a dime a dozen. There always seems to be some new way to lose weight quickly and “easily”. In reality, the best way to maintain a proper weight is to change your lifestyle.
In a recent study, individuals were assessed based on their nutritional lifestyle. This was the largest study that compared obesity rates of those eating a plant-based diet. Those that were meat eaters topped the list with an average BMI of 28.8 – very close to being obese.
Flexitarians (people that eat meat on a weekly basis, rather than daily) did better with an average BMI of 27.3 but were still overweight. Pesco-vegetarians (people who avoid meat except for fish) were better still with a BMI average of 26.3. So far none of the groups have an average BMI in the normal range.
What about vegetarians? Even vegetarians had an average BMI of 25.7, which is close to being overweight but not quite in the normal range. The only group that was found to have an average BMI in the normal range was the vegan group (people eating exclusively plant-derived foods) with an average BMI of 23.6.4
The closer you get to a plant-based lifestyle the better your chances are of reducing your BMI and getting closer to a healthy and lower risk weight.
1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity and Overweight. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm
2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Health Risk of Being Overweight. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/health-risks-overweight
3. Ginter E, Simko V. Type 2 diabetes mellitus, pandemic in 21st Century. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2012;771:42-50.
4. Tonstad S, Butler T, Yan R, Fraser GE. Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2009;32(5):791-6.