January 2024 Health & Wellness
Health Beyond BMI
Weight is often overemphasized as a benchmark for wellbeing, but it isn’t the only metric that matters. Thinness isn’t always synonymous with good health, and higher weights aren’t always associated with poor health. When it comes to setting healthy intentions, it’s good to measure your health in a variety of ways.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a controversial weight-related metric that has been used since the 1800s as a proxy for body fatness.
However, because it cannot distinguish the difference between fat mass and non-fat mass (muscle, water, bone, and organs), it has limited utility.
It is well-known that BMI doesn’t accurately estimate body fat in certain groups, such as those who have lower muscle mass (older adults) or higher muscle mass (athletes). It also doesn’t account for individual differences in race, gender, age, and ethnicity.
Despite these limitations, healthcare providers have used BMI as a screening tool for years. Fortunately, that may be changing. The American Medical Association recently issued a new policy encouraging providers to use BMI only when used alongside other metrics.
While there are many others, here are some alternative health metrics to consider when monitoring your wellbeing:
• Blood pressure
• Body temperature
• Resting heart rate
• Blood/Lab work
• Sleep patterns or quality
• Severity of symptoms
• Waist Circumference
• Body composition
• Energy levels
• Quality of life
It is also important to pay attention to changes in your metrics over time. This can help you identify patterns in your health. For example, if your cholesterol levels have been slowly rising over the past couple of years, it may indicate that it is time to make some lifestyle adjustments.
Ask your healthcare provider for guidance on which metrics are most relevant for your unique health needs and speak up if you feel your weight is being overemphasized as a marker of your wellbeing.
Using a single reference point to measure anything is generally not advisable. It is not a good idea for measuring your health either.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
If improving your eating habits is one of your healthy intentions, intermittent fasting (IF) may be worth considering.
Throughout history, people around the globe have used fasting for spiritual and health reasons. Intermittent fasting involves switching between periods of eating and not eating on a regular schedule.
Taking regular breaks from eating has several proposed health benefits. First, fasting reduces circulating insulin levels, which helps to promote fat breakdown. Additionally, when insulin levels are lower, your body doesn’t convert as much glucose to fat.
Intermittent fasting can also promote weight loss. One study found that IF resulted in a 2.5–9.9% weight loss over 42 weeks. This makes sense because as fat stores decline, weight loss occurs naturally.
Fasting also produces health improvements similar to low-carbohydrate diets, such as the ketogenic diet. In addition, studies have shown that these eating styles may improve insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, and inflammation markers.
Typically, Intermittent fasting schedules have narrower eating windows. During fasting times, only water or zero-calorie drinks are allowed.
Intermittent fasting does pose some challenges. The narrower eating windows can make it difficult to consume enough essential nutrients each day to support and maintain good health. People who choose the more restrictive fasting schedules, such as the 20/4, may require medical supervision to ensure adequate nutrients are consumed.
Another challenge is sticking to IF long term. Clinical studies have seen subject dropout rates near 40%.
Additionally, IF is not appropriate for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a history of disordered eating. It’s always best to talk with your healthcare provider before making significant changes to your diet.
Whichever eating style you choose, make sure you’re getting enough nutrients to support your body’s needs.
SPICED ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
• 1 large butternut squash (2.5 lbs), halved vertically and seeded
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
• salt and pepper
• 1 yellow onion, diced
• 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
• 3/4 teaspoon cardamom
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
• up to 3 cups vegetable broth (will depend on size of your squash – I used 2.5 cups)
• 2/3 cup canned coconut milk
• optional garnish: pepitas
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Brush squash with 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn squash cut side down and bake until tender, about 45-55 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer to high-speed blender if using it.
4. Once butternut squash is cooled, scoop out flesh and transfer to high-speed blender (or pot on stovetop if you don’t have one).
5. Add pumpkin pie spice, cardamom, salt, white pepper, and up to 3 cups vegetable broth.
6. Set high-speed blender to soup setting or let blend at highest speed for 6 minutes. If using the stove top, bring to a boil and remove from heat. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth and creamy.
7. Stir or blend in coconut milk. Season with additional salt, to taste.
8. Garnish with pepitas and a drizzle of coconut milk.
Total Fat: 10g
Dietary Fiber: 5g