What’s My BMI? And other useless questions…
The BMI, or body mass index is a measurement that some doctors and other administers use to determine if a person is obese, or right in line with where they should be to be healthy. However, health and a healthy lifestyle really have more to do than the number on a scale.
For example, there was a man in Mexico that weighed in at 1200 pounds. He was desperate to lose weight and nothing seemed to work for him no matter how much or how little he ate. The curious thing was that based upon his blood work…he was normal and had all the “stats” of a healthy individual. However, most people (including this man) would agree that living in a 1200 pound body is the furthest thing from healthy.
Still, organizations like the CDC believe that the BMI “…provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.”
Why the BMI is Bogus
It can be frustrating when you finally make up your mind to get healthy through proper food choices and exercise only to be met with antiquated formulas such as the BMI or inefficient benchmarks such the number on the scale, to gauge your progress. We have been conditioned for years to focus on numbers as measures of success. In school is was a grading percentage ranging from 0–100. In matters of health it is the number reflected on the scale or the results of your Body Mass Index calculation.
But as we all know, numbers often don’t tell the full story. There are scores of successful business owners who had poor grades in school. And, there are many people that score “normal” on the BMI yet inside, at the cellular level, they are extremely unhealthy as a result of poor eating and lifestyle choices.
The BMI has actually been referred to as “mathematical snake oil”. Just like snake oil, it’s not a one size fits all formula. In fact, some would argue that it’s not an effective formula at all.
For instance…let’s look at the history of the BMI. Did you know that the initial calculations for the BMI measurement were produced over 200 years ago in order to help the Belgian government allocate financial resources. They wanted a simplistic way to measure how many of their general population were obese. While some mathematical equations can stand the test of time, such as the laws of gravity, the laws of obesity have evolved.
In the same manner that a ton of cotton will take up more space than a ton of iron, the parts that make up your body – bone, muscle, and fat– all weigh in differently because of their varying densities. Muscle weighs more than fat. If you are strength training and building muscle then you could weigh more than a sedentary couch potato of the same height. And, your doctor could determine that you are “obese” based on your BMI calculation.
There are more accurate measurements available which can determine the amount of body fat you possess. The most accurate, yet most expensive, method is the water test where you are submerged in a tank of water for measurement. You can also have a caliper test which measures various sections of your body to determine your overall fat percentage. Both tests can better determine your percentage of muscle weight versus fat weight.
Don’t get hung up on the vagueness of the BMI. Don’t be defeated if the number on the scale doesn’t move in the direction you are hoping for. These are just numbers and you are more than a number. The BMI is an average method to determine obesity in an average, sedentary population.
This is not you either. By getting a more accurate reading or your body’s composition you will have a better chance of achieving your long term, lifetime fitness goals. And when you eat the right kinds of foods, and supplement your diet with the best dietary supplements when the right kinds of food is not readily available, you can maintain your health at any weight no matter what the BMI is telling you!