Braving Bikini Season with a Quick BMI Check

4 years ago

Many thanks to Olivine's Charm School for the wonderful photo.

I will probably always cringe when I hear the words, "bikini season," but I know a lot of people are starting to think about showing more skin soon, and for some, the post-holiday shape-up is still underway. One of the reasons I decided to try a vegan diet in the first place was to lose weight. I was over 50, and on the fast train to Frumpsville. I had almost resigned myself to just letting it all go, nearly convinced that it was inevitable to gain weight and slow down as I got older. I'm glad I was only nearly convinced, because in fact, I was absolutely wrong about all that. Since going vegan, with the help of exercise, which I added later, I've lost somewhere between 40 and 50 pounds. I don't know exactly how much because I refused to own a scale for years. But when I started running last year, I decided to allow one back into the bathroom, to help me keep track of my progress. As it turns out, the scale actually began to help cheer me on, rather than discourage me, because adding the running to my already healthy diet really started to change my body. I have noticed that "over 50" it's more of a work in progress than it would have been in my younger years, but it's still working, and I'm still working at it.


A common misconception is that all vegans are skinny, even emaciated, weaklings, although just a little bit of research will turn up loads of well-known vegan athletes who disprove that stereotype in one fell bench press. At the other end of the spectrum, it's completely possible to be a chubby or even fat vegan. Just because a food is plant based doesn't mean it's necessarily healthy. Fritos and Oreos are vegan, but a steady diet of them won't get you into swimsuit shape. The point is, we're all different, we can all be better, and a vegan diet can help us with everything from weight loss to disease prevention and reversal.


After I lost enough poundage to feel pretty good about myself, I came across the idea of checking out my BMI. Body Mass Index estimates the amount of fat in our bodies, based on a simple calculation using height and weight. It's not precise, but it is a good tool for helping to get real about our health and goals. It's easy to fool ourselves into thinking we're "just big boned," or "a little chubby," when in fact we might be officially obese, which of course leads to all sorts of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and "bad" knees and backs. A quick BMI calculation might be just the nudge a "slightly heavy" person needs to get out of denial and on to a healthier life track. A reality check can be an uncomfortable thing, but it's not as uncomfortable as a heart attack.


For me, having been what I would call fat (see my Before picture on the My Story page of my website), it was good to find out that I'm now smack in the middle of the "healthy" range of weight for my height. Having struggled with my weight for years, I had a hard time really seeing my new and improved body accurately. I still want to lose a few more pounds before the next half marathon in June, but now it's simply because when I have less to haul, the running is easier. 


There are lots of online BMI calculators out there, but the one I like best is on the Mayo Clinic site. They offer a version for adults, as well as one for children, explain briefly what BMI is all about, and offer simple suggestions for making improvements, such as eating fruits, vegetable, and whole grains. More and more, eating a plant based diet is just what the doctor orders. Bikini or no bikini, it just makes sense to do all we can to take good care of these lovely bags of skin we've been given to live in. And whatever your choice of swimwear, I'd much rather see you on the beach than in the hospital.


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