BMI: Bogus Measuring Issues
While the BMI (Body Mass Index) goes hand in hand with doctors and stethoscopes from, an overall health perspective it is useless. Sadly, it measures (albeit, inaccurately) the health of individuals based off of their weight and lumps them into categories:
Normal (what does that mean?)
Do these descriptions make you feel uncomfortable? Me too. Because these terms are stigmatizing, and the BMI is useless for predicting health. Here’s why…
Dating back to the 1800s, a Belgian mathematician created the BMI to measure the weight of a population. That’s right a group of people, not individuals. Additionally, it was meant for a group of men. There were no women or diversity in the group.
The equation for figuring out BMI is:
weight (kg)/height (m^2)
and was not scientifically created. It’s skewed because the height had to be squared to make the data work. Additionally, if you are taller you will have a higher BMI.
Besides a faulty equation meant for a specific population, there are three main problems with the BMI when it comes to looking at a person’s health status:
1. It doesn’t separate different types of bodies or different body masses: fat, muscle, and adipose tissues are indistinguishable when looking at a BMI number. Muscle weighs more than fat, so someone with more muscle or denser bones would have a higher BMI.
2. You can’t assume anything about a person’s health based on their BMI: there isn’t a single disease that a person in a larger body might experience that someone in a smaller body couldn’t experience as well.
3. Having fat doesn’t mean you have a disease: bodies come on all shapes and sizes. You cannot determine health based off of fat. Assigning an arbitrary disease like “obesity” to someone is extremely problematic and can contribute to psychological, physiological, and social stress which is more harmful to your health than weight itself.
What to do instead?
1. Focus on behavior, not numbers: try increasing fruit and vegetable intake, find movement that you love and do it in a way that feels good, don’t smoke, and cut back on alcohol consumption.