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Drop That Pie!
It's all about your BMI!

“Sure, I’ll have a sample of white tea,” I said to the salesman at an evening event. He filled my cup to theJulie Garden Robinson brim. I made the wrong assumption that the clear beverage had no caffeine.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the special tea was spiked with caffeine. I should have gotten a clue when the salesman referred to it as an “energy drink.”  I guess I was thirsty.

I was so energized I couldn’t sleep that night no matter how many times I told myself to fall sleep. Bleary-eyed, I wandered into our living room and turned on the TV.

When I grew tired of watching 1960s reruns, I began watching infomercials. As I flipped through the stations, various diets and exercise devices were being hyped. At about 2 a.m., I began watching an infomercial about a corsetlike undergarment designed to mold you into a slimmer shape. I was hoping to be bored to sleep.

A series of women modeled unflattering knit tops. The models lamented about their tummy and back bulges to a sympathetic host who measured their waist circumferences and announced them on national TV.  I certainly hope they were paid well.

Then they put on the tight undergarments and were measured again. They had shrunk by 4 or 5 inches and their ramrod-straight posture was quite amazing. They appeared to be able to breathe, too, unlike the corsets of yesteryear. At least these shapers seemed to be a step up from the girdles worn by women in past decades. I wasn’t enticed to order one, or actually two for the price of one.

Instead of being bored, I ended up thinking about waist circumferences and body mass index and their role in health. Studies have shown that excess visceral fat, or “belly fat,” places you at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some types of cancer and dementia. Unfortunately, compressing our flesh into a smaller size does not carry a health benefit.

Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, respectively, often are used to determine weight status and body fat distribution. BMI may overestimate body fat in athletes and underestimate body fat in older people.

Do you have a calculator and a tape measure or length of string and a ruler? Try these techniques that are used in research and clinical settings to estimate weight status and risk for certain diseases. 

First weigh yourself, then use a calculator to determine your BMI. Multiply your weight in pounds by 703. Then divide the total by your height in inches. Divide this total by your height in inches (again).

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is in the healthy range. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and a person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. Despite the widespread use of BMI, however, some researchers have reported that waist circumference may be more important for determining your risk of disease and premature death than your BMI.

Use a tape measure or a length of string and ruler to measure your waist circumference. Place the tape measure around your bare abdomen just above your hipbone. Be sure the tape is snug but does not compress your skin. Keep it parallel to the floor. Relax, exhale and measure. If using a string, measure the length of string corresponding to your waist circumference using a ruler.

In a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, men with waist circumferences of 40 inches or more and women with waists measuring 35 inches or more were at higher risk of dying prematurely.
If either of the activities was an eye-opener, don’t rely on a “girdle” for slimming purposes or fall prey to “magic” diets and supplements.  Let the season inspire you to get more physical activity, such as walking, even if that means going to an air-conditioned mall. Pay attention to your portion sizes and the calorie content of the foods you choose to eat. Visit with a health-care professional to assess your overall health.
Here’s a tasty, nutrient-packed salad to go with a grilled burger or chicken breast.
For more information about nutrition and fitness, visit www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart

Broccoli-raisin Salad

  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice

  • 3/4 c. low-fat mayonnaise

  • 2 Tbsp. sugar

  • 6 c. chopped broccoli

  • 1 c. raisins
1 medium peeled and diced red onion

  • 4 cooked and crumbled bacon slices (optional)
Mix lemon juice, mayonnaise and sugar. Add other ingredients and mix. Chill for at least two hours.
Makes eight servings. With bacon, each serving has 230 calories, 27 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 13 g of fat, 3 g of fiber and 310 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Without the bacon, each serving has 180 calories, 27 g of carbohydrate, 8 g of fat, 3 g of fiber and 220 mg of sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, LRD is an Associate Professor and Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist at North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. She is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in food and nutrition and a doctorate in cereal chemistry/food technology. An award-winning educator and writer, she does research in the area of nutrition and food safety education. She is married with three energetic children, ages 7, 12 and 15, and two equally energetic dachshunds. She is an avid musician in her spare time.

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