Olympic Size

The Chicago recently wrote an article called, “The real women of the Olympics aren’t all tiny.” I think this is an excellent way to open the eyes of people to the fact that health is not equated to your size and that the BMI scale isn’t an end-all, be-all. While watching the Olympics, I was surprised to see some* of the height and weight statistics flashed on the screen – the height/weight combinations would easily be classified as overweight or even obese by a BMI chart. The reason for this is muscle mass.

Muscle weighs more than fat per cubic inch – basically, a cube of muscle would weight more than a cube of fat the same size. This concept is discussed readily but seems to be hard for many to grasp. We are so enthralled with the number on the scale that we forget it is just that, a number. Does the scale know that your pants are looser or that you had to purchase a smaller swim suit for your trip because you have been exercising regularly and eating well? Of course not! So why is it that we step on it every day and judge our progress by what it tells us? The reality is that BMI and the scale are just one piece of the puzzle and shouldn’t be the sole way we judge health.

What do you use to judge how healthy you are or how well your diet and lifestyle changes are going?

Some ideas include:

  • Waist circumference (<40″ for males and <35″ for females)
  • Waist to Hip Ratio (<0.8 for feamles and <1.0 for males – if you have smaller hips, this number can be deceiving)
  • Cholesterol levels (Total Cholesterol: <200 mg/dL, LDL Cholesterol: <100 mg/dL, HDL Cholesterol: >50 mg/dL)
  • Triglyceride levels (<150 mg/dL)
  • Fasting blood sugar (<100 mg/dL)
  • Blood Pressure (<130/85 mmHg)
  • Increased endurance (able to do high- or medium-intensity exercise for longer than you could before your changes)
  • Increased muscle strength (able to do more push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, or other exercises than you could before your changes)

*Interestingly, figure skating does not give the athletes’ weights, just their heights. I wonder if this is because people would be shocked by how thin these athletes are compared to the others, or if the athletes would prefer for them to not be disclosed. Figure skating, like dancing and gymnastics, tends to be a sport geared more towards long and lean athletes, as opposed to the other Olympic sports that have athletes that are a more muscular size.

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