Calories and BMI Aren’t the Best Measures of Healthy Living, Experts Say

Lots of us have health and fitness goals that involve losing weight, fitting into a smaller clothing size, and eating less. But health experts say that obsessing over the number of calories you’re eating in a day or dropping your BMI number aren’t the best ways to go about adopting a healthier lifestyle. Instead, try focusing on the numbers associated with these five pillars of a healthy mind and body.

1. Proportions

Being aware of the amount and type of calories that you’re consuming can be helpful, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of sticking to a healthy diet. In fact, calorie counting can take the focus off of the quality of the foods that your eating in exchange for being laser-focused on the quantity. So instead of strictly following a particular calorie diet, try shifting your focus to the types of foods on your plate.

Health professionals recommend filling at least half of your plate with vegetables and a small amount of fruit, one quarter of your plate with protein, and other quarter with whole grains.

2. Fiber

Although your body doesn’t digest fiber, it is an important nutrient that helps other foods pass through your digestive system, as well as regulates your body’s blood sugar. However, most Americans are eating much less than the suggested 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day.

By upping your fiber intake, you can help to curb hunger, regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and lower your risk of developing some types of cancers. Healthy sources of fiber include:

  • Nuts, beans, and lentils
  • Whole grains
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Apples
  • Berries

3. Sleep

As a society, we’ve adopted the mindset that if you’re not constantly on the go and hustling, you’re not doing your best. But the importance of getting enough good quality sleep cannot be discounted when it comes to maintaining a healthy mind and body.

Most adults should be getting 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night. If you’re getting much less than this, you could be putting yourself at risk for long-term health effects like an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, try removing all screens from your bedroom, like your cell phone, tablet, laptop, and TV.

4. Exercise

A healthy diet and exercise go hand-in-hand, so it’s important that you’re getting enough physical activity in addition to making smart food choices. It’s recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours of exercise every week. Ideally, you’ll spread this throughout the week by exercising a little each day. This comes out to 30 minutes of exercise five days each week.

5. Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” because it often presents no symptoms, yet can lead to health problems like heart attack and stroke.

You may be at a greater risk for developing high blood pressure if you:

  • Smoke or drink alcohol
  • Have a family history of high blood pressure
  • Don’t get enough exercise
  • Consume too much salt
  • Are very stressed
  • Have certain conditions such as kidney disease or diabetes

Normal blood pressure is around 120/80 mmHg, so get your numbers checked and monitor them if you’re in the at-risk category.

In Summary

Staying on top of your health doesn’t have to be as worrisome and obsessive as sticking to a strict calorie diet or pushing down your BMI as far as you possibly can. Although these numbers can help you get a ballpark idea of how well you’re eating or how successful your weight loss efforts are, they’re not the only numbers that matter. Try to factor in these five tips above to achieve the well-balanced, healthy lifestyle you’re after.