A “healthy weight” can be subjective in many ways. Although we have guidelines like body mass index (BMI), the number on the scale leaves out a lot of information about what it actually means to be healthy. In fact, someone can be at what looks like a healthy weight while making poor eating and lifestyle choices.
Before you get obsessed about a certain weight to get healthier, consider these seven factors that actually matter more.
1. The Number of Fruits and Vegetables You Consume
Fresh fruits and vegetables contain various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your body needs to fight off disease. They’re also good sources of dietary fiber, which supports healthy digestion and gut health.
According to Harvard Health, a diet full of vegetables and fruits can help:
- Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke
- Decrease blood pressure
- Support healthy blood sugar levels
- Prevent some types of cancers
- And lower the risk of eye- and digestion-related issues
What you eat makes a big difference in how you feel and function as well as your disease risk. And you can’t necessarily tell how many healthy foods someone is eating based on their weight.
2. Your Amount of Abdominal Fat
Abdominal fat can be measured by the size of a person’s waist (using measuring tape). Higher abdominal fat has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, and stroke compared to fat in other body areas.
The general guidelines for healthy waist size are:
- Less than 35 inches for women and
- Less than 40 inches for men
Fat in the abdominal area can increase inflammation in your arteries, even at a healthy weight.
3. Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Numbers
Even at a healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol should be checked regularly. High health numbers can mean an increased risk of heart disease. Generally, blood pressure should be below 130/80 mmHg and cholesterol should be:
- Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol 60 mg/dL or higher
- LDL cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL
4. Your Fasting Blood Sugar Levels
High fasting blood sugar levels (above 100 mg/dL) puts you at risk of developing diabetes. People of all weights can develop diabetes, but a healthy diet low in processed foods and high in heart-healthy whole foods can help prevent out-of-control blood sugar levels.
5. Your Activity Level
No matter what your weight says on the scale, a sedentary lifestyle is not healthy and puts you at risk for a whole range of conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and more. Plus, exercising can boost your “feel good” hormones so you’re more likely to make healthier choices throughout the day.
Learn more about getting enough exercise here.
6. The Number of Hours You Sleep
Most adults need at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night, but the power of good shuteye is underestimated. Quality sleep boosts your mood, energy and focus while keeping your body and immune system healthy.
7. How Many Drinks You Have Per Week
Alcohol consumption can definitely contribute to weight gain, but even those who hold it on their body well are not free to consume without consequences.
Consuming too much alcohol can increase your risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Fatty liver disease
- Depression and anxiety
- Some cancers
Also Consider: Your Mental Health State
Stress, worry, anxiety, and depression are all serious issues to consider when it comes to your health, too. No matter how you look, emotional turmoil can take a toll on your wellness and affect the above factors.
Make sure you are prioritizing “you” time, spending time with people who are good friends or family, engaging in regular self-care, and treating your brain as another precious organ to care for.
The Bottom Line
Making good choices regarding each of these factors can contribute to an overall healthy weight, but that can look different on everyone. Besides stressing about one number on the scale, look at your daily habits and how they affect your overall health.