Pink gave birth to her son Jameson three months ago, and she’s been candid about her struggle to lose weight, despite logging serious time at the gym. But in a new Instagram post, she makes a case for why new moms should avoid stepping on a scale in the first place.
“Would you believe I’m 160 pounds and 5’3″? By ‘regular standards’ that makes me obese,” she captioned a photo of herself at the gym, looking fit. “I know I’m not at my goal or anywhere near it after Baby 2 but dammit I don’t feel obese. The only thing I’m feeling is myself. Stay off that scale ladies!”
The “regular standards” Pink is referencing likely is the body mass Index (BMI), which measures body fat in adults by calculating a person’s weight-to-height ratio. However, she’s not quite in the “obese” category — at her height and weight, she has a BMI of 28.3. That’s on the high end of the “overweight” category, but is not technically “obese.”
But Pink points out an important fact: BMI isn’t the best measure of overall health and fitness. “BMI is only one indicator in a slue of other metrics that help paint a picture of the overall health status of an individual,” Beth Warren, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living A Real Life With Real Food, tells Yahoo Beauty. “It is by no means in and of itself a direct indicator of health status.”
Jessica Cording, a New York-based dietitian., agrees. “I consider BMI a jumping off point,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “It offers a frame of reference to help determine whether someone is an appropriate weight for their height, but there are other factors, such as body composition, to consider as well.”
BMI also doesn’t take into account muscle mass, which can increase the number on the scale, Fatima Cody Stanford, instructor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Muscle tends to weigh more than fat,” she points out. Stanford calls BMI a “crude metric” but says it’s “the best measure we have right now to pick up on people who might be in categories that might not be safe.” However, she notes, there is a growing debate in the medical community about whether BMI should be used at all.
Weight distribution is more important for overall health, Stanford says, and doctors are particularly concerned about people who carry weight in the belly button region, known as central adiposity. “That’s important because the fat is around all of your vital organs, and it’s close to your heart,” she says. “I would be much more concerned about someone having central fat mass than weight in their hips, butt, or thighs, where there are no vital organs.”
If you feel that your BMI puts you in a category that doesn’t reflect how you look or feel, Warren recommends tracking your waist and hip circumference and watching how your clothes fit. “It’s a truer indicator of fat loss, which is the more threatening aspect of weight — not solely BMI,” she says. Cording also suggests keeping a piece of clothing, like a pair of jeans, to use as your measurement of progress.
Just don’t track yourself daily: Stanford says that it’s normal to have weight and measurement fluctuations on a regular basis. Instead, she recommends checking once a week or once a month, depending on how much you feel comfortable with. “Don’t get obsessed with it,” she says.
If you find that your BMI indicates that you’re overweight or obese, Cording says it’s not a bad idea to consult a healthcare professional, just in case. “You can get a reality check and establish an eating and exercise plan that’s appropriate to meet your needs and goals,” she says. It may simply be that you have a muscular frame, or perhaps there are a few tweaks you could make to be healthier. Whatever it is, a professional should be able to steer you in the right direction.
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