Body mass index (BMI) only considers height and weight to estimate an individual’s weight and adiposity status1 (i.e., underweight, healthy, overweight, obesity). While this metric is certainly useful for population-wide research and in some clinical settings, it doesn’t give an accurate depiction of a person’s overall metabolic health and well-being.
BMI is also dismissive of sex, racial diversity, and body composition nuance. For example, a highly fit athlete with a muscular build may be categorized as “overweight” or “obese” due to their muscle mass. “The BMI standard was developed for an idealized Caucasian male, and the thresholds remain rather oblivious to important discrepancies warranted by gender and ethnicity,” father of functional medicine Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D. previously shared with mindbodygreen.
When it comes to metabolic health (which is should be the true goal when aiming to maintain a healthy weight), how much you weigh doesn’t give a full picture. “Metabolism isn’t just about weight. It actually has more to do with how our body uses the food we eat and converts it to fuel for energy, functional medicine nutritionist Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS, previously explained to mindbodygreen.
Other aspects of your health—such as hormonal health, blood sugar levels, sex, muscle mass, gut health, medical conditions, and genetics—can play a massive role in how, where, and why your body holds onto fat. And many people who appear to be healthy may be struggling in other areas of metabolic well-being.