BMI: A Weighty Issue

BMI. Body Mass Index.

Otherwise known as the bane of our existence.

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BMI was developed in the mid-1800s by mathematician Adolphe Quetelet to calculate weight based on an individual’s mass and height.

However, it does NOT directly measure body fat. Someone with the same BMI could wear a size zero or a size five. Age and gender also have an effect. Women naturally have more body fat than men. Older people have more body fat than younger people. Yet, each of these individuals could have the same BMI.

Here’s a sweet irony. It’s even unreliable for regular exercisers. Yep, the people who are most likely to keep an eye on their BMIs might actually be perceived as overweight or even obese. Athletes have more muscle—but BMI calculators often neglect muscular athletes, measuring their weight in terms of “fat” instead.

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BMI also does NOT account for our genetics, physical activities, and all-around habits. And your weight can fluctuate throughout the day. Depending on your hydration and what you ate, you can actually gain and lose 3 pounds over the course of 24 hours. That number on the scale isn’t finite.

To show even more how unreliable BMI can be, in the 1990s, the United States lowered the “average” BMI from 28 to 25. Overnight, more than 25 million more Americans became overweight without doing a single thing.

What’s more, researchers from the Mayo Clinic found people with a BMI of 30-35 (which is considered obese) had lower risks of cardiovascular disease than those who below a 20 BMI.

Weight and BMI do NOT measure your health. You could be overweight and strong, or underweight and sickly. While many Americans can increase their health through weight-loss, BMI is not the sole indicator of health. They’re guidelines, not rules.

We’re all unique. Our bodies are all beautiful and different. Why should a number dictate that?

You've been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.

Fuel for Thought: What do you think about BMI? Is it a reliable indicator of health? Should we neglect it altogether, or is there some validity to BMI calculations?

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2 thoughts on “BMI: A Weighty Issue

  1. I think it’s ridiculous that the DSM V left in 17.5 or lower BMI as diagnostic criteria for anorexia. Let’s see – we’ll take a group of insecure, in denial individuals, and rather than base a mental illness on the mental actions and their physical results, we are going to put an upper weight limit just because. I’d qualify as anorexic if I lost 15 pounds. If I lost 15 pounds I wouldn’t be able to stand up. That makes me EDNOS.

    BMI is a useless number, but for people like me who obsess about all numbers related to fat, weight, nutrition, calories, etc., it becomes as much the holy grail as my daily weigh-in. Everything becomes a yardstick to measure myself against and find that I’m not measuring up. And apparently, I don’t measure up to the right BMI either.

    I really like your perspective!

  2. Very true that eating disorders should be focused on more as mental, rather than physical, illnesses. It’s ironic that numbers–the very things that can cause EDs–are used to determine recovery. Yes, EDs have serious bodily implications, but they ultimately target our thoughts. Without dealing with the mental aspects, there’s no way the body will ever fall back into health. Keep staying strong!

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