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Bmi - 05-25-2005, 05:24 AM

Watch Your BMI


Weight loss is a numbers game
By: Dave Zinczenko
More on this in Health & Fitness

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One of the bigger challenges of any diet plan is monitoring your progress. Here's a look at the four major measurements you can use to determine if your diet is as effective as it should be.


It's the most straightforward. The heavier you are, the more at risk you are for disease and the less fit you are. It's a good measuring stick to gauge how well you're progressing on your diet, but it's incomplete in that it doesn't take into account the amount of muscle you're going to develop over the course of a plan. Muscle weighs about 20 percent more than fat so even a dramatic fat loss may not translate into a dramatic drop in body weight.

Body mass index (BMI)

The BMI is a formula that takes into consideration your height and your weight, and gives you an indication of whether you're overweight, obese, or in good shape. To calculate your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 703, and divide the number by your height in inches squared. For example, let's say you are 6 feet tall (that's 72 inches) and weigh 200 pounds. So first we multiply your weight by 703.

Next, we calculate your height in inches squared, meaning we multiply the number by itself. Then we divide the first number by the second. In this case the BMI would be 27.1.

That's not terrible. A BMI between 25 and 30 indicates you're overweight. Over 30 signifies obesity.

This measurement, too, has flaws. It doesn't take into account muscle mass, and it also leaves out another important factor-weight distribution, that is, where most of the fat on your body resides. But BMI can give you a pretty good idea of how serious your weight problem is.

Waist-to-hip ratio

Researchers have begun using waist size and its relationship to hip size as a more definitive way to determine your health risk. This is considered more important than BMI because of visceral fat -the fat that pushes a guy's waist out in front of you. Because ab***inal fat is the most dangerous fat, a lower waist-to-hip ratio means fewer health risks. To figure out your waist-to-hip ratio, measure your waist at your belly button and your hips at the widest point (around your butt). Divide your waist by your hips. For example, if your hips measure 40 inches and your waist at belly button level measures 38 inches, your waist-to-hip ratio is 0.95.

That's not bad, but it's not ideal. You want a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.92 or lower. If you were to lose just 2 inches off your waist-something you can do in just 2 weeks with the Abs Diet-you'd find yourself in the fit range.

Body fat percentage.

Though this is the most difficult for the average man to measure because it requires a bit of technology, it's the most useful in terms of gauging how well your diet plan is working. That's because it takes into consideration not just weight but how much of your weight is fat. Many gyms offer body fat measurements through such methods as body fat scales or calipers that measure the folds of fat at several points on your body.

See your local gym for what options they offer. Or try an at-home body fat calculator. I like the Taylor Body Fat Analyzer and Scale 5553 for its price (about $50), convenience, and accuracy.

If you want a simple low-tech test (and this isn't as accurate as what the electronic versions will give you), try this simple exercise: Sit in a chair with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Using your thumb and index finger, gently pinch the skin on top of your right thigh. Measure the thickness of the pinched skin with a ruler. If it's 3.4 inch or less, you have about 14 percent body fat-ideal for a guy, quite fit for a woman. It it's 1 inch, you're probably closer to 18 percent fat, which is a tad high for a man but desirable for a woman. If you pinch more than an inch, you could be at increased risk for diabetes and heart disease.

This last measurement can be the most significant because it'll really help give you a sense of how well you're sticking to a plan. As you see your body fat percentage decrease, you'll see an increase in the amount of visible muscle. Experts say that in order for your abs to show, your body fat needs to be between 8 and 12 percent. For the average slightly overweight man, that means cutting body fat by about half.

Before you begin

Before you start a diet plan, it's important to record some of these measurements so that you'll know how far you're progressing. Take one baseline measurement, and then remeasure as needed for motivation. I'd recommend measuring every 2 weeks (at the beginning, after 2 weeks, after 4 weeks, and at the end of the program (after 6 weeks). That'll be enough time to see significant differences to propel you through the next 2 weeks. (Measure body fat percentage only at the beginning and end of the plan, unless you have easy access to a measurement system.) Any sooner than that, and you're focusing too much on numbers rather than process.



Waist-to-hip ratio

Body fat percentage

Make sure to have the same person administer body fat readings using the same method to ensure consistency.

As with any diet plan, it's also important to develop some kind of quantitative goal-your ideal weight, waist size, or percentage of body fat. This chart will help you figure out where you are and where you need to go.

I don't mean to hit you with more numbers than a fantasy baseball nerd. In fact, it might be easiest to simply focus on one number-six-so that the others will fall into place. When you start to see those six ab***inal muscles, it'll mean that everything else has decreased-your weight, your BMI, your waist-to-hip ratio, and your body fat percentage. And the Abs Diet 6-week plan will get you there.
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