Health and wellness are frequently associated with numbers, but what do all of those numbers even mean? So many people get obsessed over the numbers, yet it's all just a game. The single most important thing to remember is that these numbers are a great reference, but should never be the sole identifiers to being healthy, and that is a huge misinterpretation that too many people tend to make.
We frequently hear people say, "I want to lose 20 pounds," or "I want to be in a size 8." Too many people have this outlook on health, that it is just a numbers game, but there is so much more to it. It's how you look, how you feel and how you act. Health is not about what the scale says, where you fall in comparison to others or the number on the tag of your jeans. Health is about loving yourself and making healthy decisions, no matter what the numbers say.
When it comes to weight, the first thing I will say is throw your scale out the window. Weight is the last thing one needs to gauge their health. Too many people make the mistake of thinking that losing weight is the sole key to good health. The thing is muscle is more dense than fat, so the same amount of weight will take up less space than just body fat alone. So someone who takes up a frequent weightlifting regimen might experience a decrease in weight due to toning, then an increase in weight due to an increase in muscle mass, which should actually be the goal. So many people weigh themselves every day, or even every week, and while losing weight may be a health goal for certain individuals, it should never be an obsession, nor should it be the only thing an individual looks at to evaluate health.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is basically the ratio of weight to height and is a main medical determinant for overweight, obesity and underweight. Along with weight, BMI is not the greatest factor to use in health solely because muscle is denser than fat. A professional athlete, who is typically mostly muscle, will likely have a BMI in the overweight or even obese range even though they are healthy because of muscle density. It's good to know where you fall in comparison to the rest of the population, but never compare yourself to others, especially in terms of BMI and health.
Body fat percentage is probably the most reliable of all of the numbers, but again, it should not be a main factor in determining health. Body fat percentage is literally the percentage of body fat that an individual has. Body fat percentage goals should vary based on sex, age, physical ability and heredity, so consult with a doctor or personal trainer prior to setting a body fat percentage goal and beginning a diet and exercise regimen.
Clothing size varies so much more than many people seem to realize. Size varies by brand, fit, style and more, so honestly, just buy yourself clothes that fit you. No one body is the same exact shape or size as another, so comparing your health to your clothing size just doesn't work. I'll use myself as an example: I was born graced with a butt, which means that I need to wear a higher size in jeans just so I can get them on. Every body is different, so clothing size is no real determinant of health.
At the end of the day, numbers should not play a prominent role in determining your health. Too many people have a tendency to obsess over their weight, body fat percentage, and more, from those who are not in the greatest physical shape to those who are. Look in the mirror and watch for changes in tone. Think about how you feel about yourself and life, in general. Lastly, take action to live a healthier lifestyle not because you hate your body and the numbers, but because you love your body and the numbers shouldn't matter.
Amanda Oppenheim is a senior at Stevenson University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.