The article discusses how the traditional measure of obesity, Body Mass Index (BMI), may not accurately reflect an individual's level of obesity due to its inability to distinguish between fat and muscle, or reflect the distribution of body fat. The article explains that waist circumference is a more meaningful measure of obesity compared to BMI and body fat percentage since excessive waist circumference, also known as central obesity, increases the health risks associated with obesity. The article also notes that monitoring waist circumference during weight loss is more meaningful than solely controlling body weight since reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass can have a significant impact on body shape, such as waist circumference, hip circumference, and arm circumference. Overall, the article highlights the importance of using waist circumference in conjunction with other measures to assess obesity and track weight loss progress.
Table of Contents
1. The Limitations of BMI
When it comes to obesity, most people tend to think of being overweight in terms of body weight. In general, people tend to use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a measure to evaluate whether an individual's weight is within a normal range. However, BMI cannot distinguish between fat and muscle, nor can it reflect the distribution of body fat. Thus, it can only reflect the proportional relationship between height and weight and cannot accurately reflect an individual's level of obesity.
2. Body Fat Percentage and Waist Circumference
In addition to body weight, some individuals also use body fat percentage and waist circumference to assess their level of obesity. While body fat percentage can reflect the amount of body fat, its measurement method is relatively complex. To facilitate testing, many scales on the market combine weight measurement with body fat percentage measurement by utilizing the bioelectrical impedance method to determine body fat and muscle mass. However, since the limited contact points of the electrodes on the scale or body fat analyzer, the resulting body fat percentage may have a certain degree of error. Additionally, factors such as drinking water, sweating on the soles of the feet, eating, and exercising before or after measurement, as well as changes in standing posture can all cause measurement bias. Therefore, the measurement results of these scales should only be used as a reference, and each measurement should be taken at the same time each day while avoiding measuring after intense exercise, heavy eating or drinking.
Furthermore, waist circumference can also be used to assess obesity, and it is more meaningful in terms of pathology compared to BMI and body fat percentage. Research has indicated that an excessive waist circumference (more than 90 cm for men and 80 cm for women), also known as central obesity, increases the health risks associated with obesity, such as metabolic syndrome and other chronic diseases. This is because central obesity mainly reflects the accumulation of visceral fat in the abdomen, which may lead to insulin resistance, disrupt metabolism, and cause diseases such as diabetes.
3. The Importance of Body Composition in Weight Loss
When it comes to weight loss, most individuals often only focus on the decrease in body weight and choose rapid weight loss methods. However, these methods often lead to a loss of muscle and water, and may also cause rebound weight gain. As previously mentioned, body weight is not the most accurate measure of obesity, and thus, we should not use it as the only indicator to measure weight loss results. During weight loss, it is not uncommon for individuals to experience situations where their weight does not decrease despite regular exercise and dietary control. This could be due to a reduction in body fat percentage and an increase in muscle mass.
In addition, muscle tissue contains more water than fat tissue, so muscle weighs more than fat of the same volume. Therefore, there may not be a noticeable difference in body weight. However, reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass can have a significant impact on body shape (waist circumference, hip circumference, arm circumference). Hence, monitoring waist circumference is more meaningful than solely controlling body weight. During weight loss, it is important to focus on body composition changes rather than simply the decrease in body weight.
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