In my article titled Bikini body for anyone? You bet your ass! I mentioned that I would write about the true intention of the BMI. This is the single most important thing you should know. The calculation for the Body Mass Index (BMI) was NEVER MEANT TO BE APPLIED TO AN INDIVIDUAL. Yes. I have deliberately added a lot of emphasis on these words. I love the explanation provided by Dr. David Lewis and Dr. Margaret Leitch in their book Fat Planet – The Obesity Trap and How We Can Escape It.
“The statistical technique for comparing people’s weight was invented by the eighteenth-century Belgian statistician and polymath Adolphe Quetelet. At the request of the Belgian government, who wanted a quick and easy technique for determining obesity levels among the general population, he created a standardized measure based on an individual’s weight divided by the square of their height. It was an assessment technique that, he always emphasized, could and indeed should, only be used to assess groups and never individuals. (My emphasis added here).
This calculation was developed 300 years ago for a specific purpose similar in use as that of insurance companies and actuarial tables based on statistics applied to the overall population. For example, men under 25 have more car accidents than the rest of the population or smokers are more likely to get sick and to die earlier than non-smokers. Insurance rates are based on these tables. However, it doesn’t mean that every male under 25 will be in a car accident or that every smoker will be sick and die sooner than a non-smoker. Following this same logic, being placed into one of five categories (under, over, obese, morbidly obese, just right) based on a BMI number is ludicrous.
Here’s an example. Take a 6’2” tall body builder weighing 260 lb. His BMI would be 33.3, which, according to the tables, is considered obese. You might be interested to know I’m describing Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was Mr. Universe.
I’m sure you have seen picture of body builders.
There is no fat to be found anywhere. They are all muscle. How can you term these people as obese?
BMI applied to an individual as a measure of fitness is not only irrelevant but downright irresponsible. It doesn’t take into account bone structure and density or muscle mass.
In fact, it doesn’t take into account so many other factors that lead to whether or not a person is healthy. So, a 5’2″, 125 lb, completely sedentary person with small bones, little fat and on a diet of junk food with a BMI of 24 would be considered “just right” whereas a 5’2″, 137 lb, person who has a little extra around the middle but eats healthy food, exercises regularly, is full of energy but has a BMI of 33 would be considered obese.
The BMI scale does not reflect overall health and, in my opinion, should be abandoned. It assigns a number, thereby giving the illusion of legitimacy and scientific validity but is a poor indicator of real health.
It’s time for the BMI to be put to its intended use, classifying populations instead of individuals for policy making purposes. The more personal system for determining individual health and wellness needs to be re-applied. That means, doctors taking time to speak to and assess their patients and treat each based on his or her respective needs.