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BMI

Need I say more? These three little letters have been the bane to my existence for more years than I can remember. So I did I little research on it to understand it better. What I learned doesn't make me like it any better, but a little education never hurt anyone.

BMI, or Body Mass Index was devised in the 1830's by Lambert Adolphe Jaques Quetelet, a Belgian astronomer, mathematician, statistician and sociologist. He was a bit of an over achiever. he came up with this to assist the government in allocating resources. It was never meant to be used for individual information but for an assessment of an overall group. To get your BMI, you divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. This will give you a number that puts you in a category of underweight to obese. Below 18.5 is underweight, 18.5 - 24.9 is normal, 25-29.9 overweight and 30 and above is obese.

There are some real problems with this. One is this does not take into account if you are male or female. Whether we like it or not, men generally weigh more than women. Also this number that the BMI comes up with doesn't measure muscle mass, bone density or overall body composition. There are also racial differences in our bodies. It measures one thing, weight to height.

So I am going to use myself as an example of why this is not accurate of someone's health.

My BMI is 28.2. This puts me near the top of the overweight category. I work out every day, I lift heavy for me weights, I do some sort of cardio every day and teach up to 6 classes a week. I also eat pretty well. Do I want to lose a few pounds? Yes I do, but I want to do it for me. My blood work is perfect, my blood pressure is great. All the markers of health that a doctor looks for are great, except my weight. The BMI doesn't take any of this into account and it doesn't take into account that I am a muscular woman. Almost all athletes have a higher BMI cause we carry more muscle. So if health insurance or life insurance just used the BMI to make their assessment of my health, I would be paying higher premiums.

If you want to really know about your bodies makeup, one of the best ways is to get a DEXA scan. It can give you a much better idea of what your body is made up of like how much muscle you have and how much body fat you are carrying. Another way, that is much simpler is to find out your weight circumference. Extra body fat around your stomach could be an indicator that you could have some health problems. Women's should be under 35 inches and men's under 40 inches.

So the moral of this story is BMI is not a good measurement of health. Most it does is make some people feel bad about themselves and it does not tell the whole story of who we are and what we are made up of.



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