When I moved up to Boston a few years ago, I felt truly happy with my health and wellness. I was active every day, eating the right foods and taking care of myself mentally and physically. During a quick doctor’s check-up, my mentality changed completely because of 3 letters: BMI. My doctor informed me that my BMI indicated that I was overweight and wanted to discuss my fitness and nutrition plan. I’m not entirely sure what she said after that because I was completely traumatized. A medical practitioner just told me that I was obese! Growing up in a household where I never focused on the scale or my clothing size, I based my health off how I felt physically and mentally. In my late twenties, those 3 little letters made me question my beliefs. For something like BMI to completely rock my confidence, I needed to research and understand the meaning behind it.

BMI or Body Mass Index, is a method of estimating a person’s body fat levels based on their height and weight. Muscle mass is heavier than fat, leading to a higher body weight and BMI measurement. Highly trained athletes tend to fall in the “obese” category due to their muscle mass. On the next visit to my gym, I used a cool technology called the InBody, which measures body composition by fat, lean body mass, minerals and body water. From this assessment, I found out that my body fat percentage was 22%, which is fit and healthy for a woman. This had me thinking: If I, as a 27-year-old woman, was traumatized by my doctor’s assessment of my BMI, this type of misinformation must be damaging to young, teenage girls and their outlook on their bodies. So, how do we bring body positivity and confidence to the forefront when we rely so heavily on advice from medical professionals? Here are a few suggestions that I live by to :

Keep Your Health Goals Positive and In Check

1) Don’t measure your success through numbers on a scale.

Truly listen to your body. How do you feel? Are you active and moving throughout the day? How are your energy levels? How is your nutrition? Oftentimes, your body will tell you what it needs. You could be at a heavier weight on the scale and wearing a size bigger, but in the best shape of your life. Don’t let the numbers define you.

2) Test your body composition every few months.

Some health clubs offer this service for free and sometimes it’s an additional cost, but trust me, it’s worth it. I keep a binder with all my results. If I’m consistent in my fitness and nutrition routine, I can see the changes in my body mass from test to test. If you’re unsure of how or where to have this testing done, reach out to a personal trainer at your gym. I take pride in knowing my body composition, but at the same time, I don’t stress about it.

3) Set a goal for yourself.

To keep my fitness fun and interesting, I always have a goal on the horizon, whether it be big or small. Not only does it keep my mind engaged, but it helps me to push further in my workouts to achieve what I set out to do. If I want to run 5 miles at the end of my day, I know I must stick to my meal plan for the day and drink lots of water to stay hydrated in the heat. Need some goal setting tips? Check out 5 Ways to Set Goals and Crush Them.

healthy4) Use positive body affirmations.

I know, I know, this sounds silly. For so long, I criticized areas of my body instead of praising myself for my accomplishments. When you get ready every day, give yourself a compliment. “Your skin looks beautiful.” “You really worked your arms yesterday and it’s showing!” “Look at that peach you’ve built – way to go!” Try some confidence on. I promise it will look good on you.

5) Compliment your fellow ladies.

Whether it be your mother, sister, co-worker, or workout buddy, share something positive you notice about them. The other day, my co-worker told me I looked pretty and asked about my makeup and skincare regimen. It lit up my morning and changed my outlook on the day. “Your lunch looks delicious and healthy – what did you make?” “What have you been doing for your workouts? You look amazing and I need to change up my routine at the gym.” Notice and praise those around you. Positivity is infectious, and we all deserve to feel strong and confident in the skin we’re in.