How is it possible that the two men on the scale (in the picture shown above) have the same body mass index (BMI?) Doesn’t a BMI of 33 technically mean that you’re obese? When referring to BMI, take into consideration that you’re measuring the ratio of your height and ‘weight.’ It does not take into account where this weight comes from – muscle or fat.

Let’s take a look at how we determine one’s BMI (calling out my math nerds!)

Our good friend Billy Bob is 5’8 (68 inches) weighing 180 lbs. His BMI would equal 27. But what does this number even mean? Well let’s look at the category chart below created by the World Health Organization:

So according to this chart, our friend Billy Bob is considered to be overweight. In your mind, the word overweight already places a certain image in your head of how an overweight person should look like. But let’s say that Billy Bob is a weight lifter and has bulky limbs to the point where he can’t touch his own shoulders. Although he appears to be extremely fit and ripped, he is still classified as overweight.

I’m sure many of you have heard that “muscle mass is more dense than fat,” but take a look at the comparison below:

The size differences are night and day between the two. So when you’re exercising in the gym and jump on the scale to see that you’ve gained a few pounds, chances are the weight gain is muscle mass. Yes, the fat will begin to diminish given that you’re cleaning up your diet and exercising regularly on a weekly basis. But don’t be deceived numbers on the scale.

A better way to measure weight loss is to track your body fat percentage. There are many ways to measure this, but it usually requires some sort of professional (either a trainer, dietician-nutritionist, etc.) to assist you in getting a rough estimate of this number. Aside from this method, you may use your belt notches, jeans and shirts to help get an idea of the ‘fit’ in your clothes. It may also be advantageous to take progress photos every week to visibly see the changes in physique and muscle tone.

Do not solely rely on the BMI to dictate how you should feel about yourself, or what ‘category’ you belong in. Your body isn’t something to label, because it’s unique to YOU! Love your body; love it so much that you want to take care of it by feeding it nutritious foods and giving it plenty of exercise. Regardless of where you are along the spectrum in your BMI or your health and fitness goals for this season, remember that consistency and patience are key. Hard work pays off so train yourself to discipline your mind in recognizing that the rewards don’t always come instantly. Eat clean, train dirty and keep grinding.