There are many ways in which fitness and overall health can be measured. One of the most common ways is using the BMI, or Body Mass Index.
BMI is simply a calculation that takes into account your weight in kilograms in relation to your height in meters squared. In other words:
BMI = weight (kg)/[height (meters)2]
As you can see, there is no room in this calculation for accounting for differences in weight based on how much body fat a person has. You can have two 29-year old women who both are 64″ tall and weigh 150 pounds. However, one of them may only have 20% body fat, while the other may have a higher body fat and a 40″ waist. So, who is healthier?
Well, your doctor probably isn’t going to tell you. Not because he or she doesn’t want you to know, but because they don’t know.
You know how it goes when you go for your check up. They take your weight and vitals and the doctor tells you if you’re overweight based on your BMI.
Here’s the fundamental flaw with BMI: you can have a BMI that indicates a person being overweight, but, in reality, that person may have a higher percentage of lean muscle mass (your weight without the body fat). When that is the case, the medical provider should be able to look at other indicators of health instead of just the weight on the scale.
When looking at BMI, the following numbers are guidelines are used to indicate underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese:
BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese
So when you go to the doctor and she says you have a BMI of 33, the average person might have no clue as to what that really means. What your doctor is trying to tell you, without hurting your feelings, is that you’re obese and need to lose a substantial amount of weight.
But right here is where many providers drop the ball. Because they don’t get much nutritional/exercise training while in medical school, they really don’t know what to tell you. In fact, some of these doctors telling you to lose weight are also overweight or obese!
When I was told that I was 198 pounds and needed to lose weight, I was not told how much to lose or how to go about doing it. My provider didn’t even suggest that I go to the free nutrition clinic in the hospital to get help there.
Are you kidding me?
No wonder people are so confused as to what they should be doing to lose excess body fat and live healthier lives.
When I got certified as a personal trainer, I also made sure I had measuring tape and an electronic way to measure my body fat percentage. After all, I know that I can’t just go by the number on the scale; neither should you; neither should your doctor.
BMI has been touted as the end-all be-all of health indication when there are other things to consider.
What about that person who is of normal weight but has high cholesterol or blood pressure?
I say it’s time for the public to educate themselves on body composition and all of the factors that make you fit and healthy.
And if you find yourself getting obsessed with the number on the scale, toss the scale. It’s not really your friend anyway.
So the next time you go to the doctor and all they want to talk about is BMI, ask more questions. Ask them what that really means. Ask them what you can realistically do to lose body fat and live healthier. If they can’t help you, then it may be time to get a new doctor.
Your health is the most important thing. Don’t leave it in the hands of someone else. Take charge and do what you need to do live fit and healthy.