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Posted: May 27, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Let's start talking about health and weight

There is a large and somewhat disturbing truth in Georgia that’s hard to talk about, but we must start the conversation.

A greater percent of adults are overweight and never move their bodies for exercise here than in other parts of the United States.

This is so easy to fix. It just takes a number of small steps toward a more balanced lifestyle. Nothing radical, nothing expensive and nothing you can’t do in your own home and life.

People having unhealthy weight is so common that many people now think it is normal. While it may be too common, it is not healthy to be overweight, and should not be seen as normal, average, or OK.

Big people can be healthy, small people can be unhealthy — but people who carry too much of the wrong kind of weight on their body in the wrong places will always be less healthy than they could be. Those people are likely to become very sick with a preventable disease, such as diabetes or heart disease, have long-term disabilities and die earlier.

The choice is always yours to make, but let’s start today to be aware of having that choice so we know what we are doing to our bodies, our minds, our spirits and our emotional well-being. We need to understand our reasons for making the choices we make and the true costs of our behavior. That isn’t asking too much of anyone. It is actually common sense.

Would you trade your favorite dessert for another day of life? Or would you rather trade 60 minutes of exercise, have your favorite dessert, and also live longer? Think about it.

Body mass index, or BMI, is one of the ways health professionals measure how healthy a person’s weight is... or is not.

Many people assume that if they have a high, or unhealthy, BMI, their health care professional would tell them. But that’s not always true.

Sometimes health care professionals may not like to talk about weight any more than you do. So if you’re interested in your BMI percentile, it’s best to ask directly.

Some people don’t visit a health care professional as often as they should, so they simply may not be aware that their weight is not healthy for them.

Who doesn’t know a loving grandmother or doting father who wants their children to be big and healthy? Problem is, being too big isn’t healthy. We often associate food with love, so feeding our families may seem like a loving, healthy thing to do – but too much of even a good thing can be bad for us in the long run.

The point about talking about a person’s BMI is not to embarrass anyone. The point is to let people know about a health problem with serious consequences so they can talk with a health care professional about the next steps they should take.

No one should ever make fun of anyone because of having too much weight, too little weight, or being a different size. We are all different. We are all due respect.

There are even some cases in which BMI might be misleading. Athletic individuals in particular may fall into the overweight category when they are actually just very muscular.

Also, remember that as people start to exercise they will add muscle, their weight and BMI may well increase — especially at first — as lean muscle is heavier than fat. But muscle is the engine for burning calories. If you’ve heard of metabolism, you know that it’s good to have a “high metabolism.”

The way to get a high metabolism, which is one that burns a lot of calories, is to have lean muscle mass. That’s just one of the reasons to exercise.

Other reasons include stress management and maintaining or building functionality — such as being able to bend down and get back up again without falling.

Your BMI is an important indicator of your health, but it is only one piece of the overall picture of your health. If your BMI score indicates that you are not within the healthy range, you need a complete weight and lifestyle evaluation with a health care professional.

The WebMD online calculator for BMI is easy to use, and is located at www.webmd.com/diet/calc-bmi-plus. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.99 is considered the healthiest.

If you find that you are moving toward either of those points, it is time to make some changes in the way you live.
This approach also lets you calculate the ratio of your waist size to your height because where you carry your weight on your body is also important. Belly fat affects your health more than fat in your arms or your hips, for example.

Having too much fat on your belly is linked to a higher risk of cholesterol and diabetes, and it puts you at risk for other diseases.

When you know your BMI, you can then continue the conversation about how to make better choices about your health and wellness.

Andrew Pleasant is the Canyon Ranch Institute’s senior director for health literacy and research.

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