When you’re just getting started, it can feel like you need a physiology degree to understand what’s going on in your body. It’s important to track progress, but some metrics are downright useless – like BMI.
I’ll teach you why you should forget about it, and 4 critical fat loss stats to focus on instead.
What is BMI?
BMI (Body Mass Index) basically tells you how big or small you are for your height.
(And most of the time, that information isn’t news to you.)
It comes from this simple equation comparing your weight to your height.
photo credit: Wikipedia
That number is then compared to a reference chart of many, many, many people, and you’re put into a category (underweight, normal, overweight, obese, etc.)
photo credit: Wikipedia
Why is it used?
1. It’s a quick and easy way to estimate the average person’s body fat.
This is because gaining weight usually means getting fatter. Losing weight usually means losing fat (and some muscle unless you’re following an intelligently designed body recomposition program like this one).
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take into account age, sex, or LITERALLY the most important factor in obesity – how much FAT you actually carry on your body.
2. It saves time and money for research scientists.
Inviting 5,000 people to do anything costs time and mon-ey.
So when you’re conducting large-scale research, why call everyone in individually to do an expensive body-composition analysis when you can just email them asking for their height and weight? Much easier.
Besides, their individual body composition doesn’t matter.
Unless the research is on a unique population like bodybuilders, BMI already does a decent job of estimating the average. If they’re they’re muscular enough to throw off the BMI scale, then they’re not the average. Their data point simply gets washed out as an irrelevant outlier.
3. The medical world doesn’t like change.
That’s why your doctor still uses it when you get your annual check-up. Tell him to get with the tiiiimes, man.
Should I care about it?
Listen, you want to look more toned and defined, right?
That only comes from decreasing body fat, and BMI doesn’t measure body fat.
Another problem is that it’s not measuring YOU. It’s measuring how you compare to the average person in the studies used.
That’s why a muscular individual comes up as OBESE, even though s/he has low body fat and looks incredible.
We don’t care about how you compare to others. Run your own race. Thinking about everyone else won’t help you get ahead.
If you’re always COMPARING to the average, you will be PULLED to the average.
Aim higher – set a NEW standard.
Look to be the best you can be.
Shoot for the stars, reach the moon, as they say.
What can I do instead?
If you’re consistently following a proper training and nutrition program, your body fat will decrease.
Now depending on how much fat you initially have to lose, your TOTAL weight may or may not decrease because of muscle and changing body composition.
So to make sure you’re on the right track, you want to specifically measure body composition.
That doesn’t just mean how much you WEIGH. It means how much of that weight is fat and how much is “lean weight” (like muscles, bones, water).
Here are 4 markers of progress you should be using to make sure you’re moving towards a leaner, more defined body.
1. Weigh yourself!
If you’ve got more than 15-20lbs of weight to lose, it’ll show up on the scale. Less than 15lbs to lose means you’ll need to get more precise on your measurements.
2. Get your Body Fat %
There are many ways to track body fat % including BIA, DEXA, skinfold calipers, and more. They each have a ton of variance, so pick one you can do reliably and stick with it. This is especially helpful if you have less than 15lbs to lose.
3. Measure your Waist and Hip Circumferences
Because you tend to store most of your fat around your waist and hips, losing fat means we can expect those measurements to decrease. This might not be as helpful if you have less than 15lbs to lose.
4. Take Progress pictures (monthly)
Seeing yourself on camera can be disarming, but pictures can show qualities you wouldn’t otherwise be able to measure. You could see more muscle definition, veins, less puffiness, or an old fat roll that seems to have disappeared.This is especially helpful if you have less than 15lbs to lose.
Be careful not to obsess over this one. If you know you might, feel free to avoid it altogether.
Check these numbers regularly (every 2 weeks or so) and don’t obsess over any particular one since they all have their own fluctuations.
You’ll get there, just trust the process.