Most of us have heard the term body mass index, or BMI, but do you know what it is? If you don’t, you aren’t alone. “What is BMI?” is a common question for people who are looking to lose weight and achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Although BMI might seem mysterious, it can be a helpful tool when considering your health. Read on as we explain how BMI is used as a measurement and offer a few tips for reaching and maintaining a healthy BMI.
The basics of body mass index
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.”1 While this may sound complex, in simplest terms, it means that BMI considers your weight in relation to your height.
Although there is a formula for calculating BMI, you don’t have to be a math expert to do the calculations. In fact, there are many reliable BMI calculators. Jenny Craig offers a BMI calculator that is easy to use.
What Does BMI Measure?
It’s important to note that BMI does not directly measure body fat or your health. But research has shown that it moderately correlates with more direct measures of body fat that can be more invasive or expensive.1
BMI is a common measure of health and fitness because it is an inexpensive and simple way to help assess whether a person is underweight, at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. The following guide shows which BMI ranges correspond to which BMI categories:1
- Underweight: BMI of less than 18.5
- Healthy weight: BMI of 18.5-24.9
- Overweight: BMI of 25-29.9
- Very Overweight: BMI of 30.0 or greater
BMI & your health
Although BMI does not directly measure your body fat, the correlation between BMI and body fat is relatively strong. A high BMI is also associated with a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, high LDL cholesterol and some cancers.1 However, even if two people have the same BMI, their levels of body fat may vary. Research cited by the CDC reports that gender, ethnicity, age, and muscle composition can affect whether two people with the same BMI have different levels of body fat:2
- Women tend to have more body fat than men of the same BMI1
- Older individuals generally have more body fat than younger adults of the same BMI.1
- Because athletes tend to have more muscle than non-athletes, they tend to have less body fat than non-athletes of the same BMI.1
Keeping your BMI in range
Your weight is influenced by many factors, including environment, genetics, metabolism, and lifestyle choices.3 Although you can’t control certain factors like your genes, you can make healthy changes in your lifestyle that can help you achieve and maintain a healthy BMI range.
Since diet is a key component of weight loss, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat from the foods you’re eating. Incorporating more non-starchy vegetables into your meals is a great way to get added vitamins and nutrients. If you’re unsure about how to integrate healthier eating practices, a program such as Jenny Craig takes the guesswork out of meal planning while teaching you valuable tools to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Additionally, taking into account not just what you eat, but also when you eat can impact your weight. Eating earlier in the day can help you get in sync with your body’s natural clock, also known as your circadian rhythm, which can lead to greater and more effective weight loss.4
Another factor to consider is exercise. Regular physical activity can help you reach and maintain a healthy BMI. Expert guidelines suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week as well as two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities.5
By understanding more about your BMI, you may be better able to achieve and sustain a healthy range and furthermore, a healthier lifestyle.
Are you ready to commit to a weight loss program that can help you reach your weight loss goals and a healthy BMI? Book your free Jenny Craig appointment today.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple.
Reviewed by: Monica Ropar, Nutritionist
Monica has over 15 years of experience with Jenny Craig, as an expert nutrition and program resource. She develops content, training, tools and strategies for the program to support clients throughout their weight loss journey, and offers inspiration, weight loss tips, lifestyle strategies and motivation. Monica holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Dietetics and Exercise, Fitness & Health from Purdue University and continues to stay current on weight management research, consumer trends and healthcare developments.
Favorite healthy snack: raw veggie sticks with homemade hummus.
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and fact-checked by Monica Ropar, Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.