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Is Your BMI Number BS?

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I had a Spanish-inspired lunch:

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I have been CRAVING yellow rice for days.  Black beans with yellow rice is such an awesome combination.  Nom, nom, nom.

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With a side of green beans for some color. 

 

Is Your BMI Number BS?

 

This morning, I was doing some research on the BMI scale for the Operation Beautiful book.

The BMI (Body Mass Index) scale uses your height and weight to determine if you are underweight, a healthy weight, overweight, or obese.

 

You can calculate your BMI using that chart above or this calculator.  The BMI categories are as follows:

 

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight = 25-29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

 

Reading about BMI got me thinking how odd the BMI system is.

 

  • What about athletes who have a lot of lean muscle on them?  A strong woman would likely weigh more than a thin but inactive woman.  The BMI doesn’t account for muscle mass or level of fitness at all. 
  • What about the differences in body shape and bone size?  Or, for that matter, gender?  What about your age?  People tend to get shorter as they age, so their BMI would go up over time even if their weight didn’t change.
  • What’s the point of the BMI, anyway?  Health is obviously influenced by your weight, but its not the be-all-end-all.

 

On the POM Wonderful tour, I met Roni, and we started to talk a little about the Fat Acceptance movement.  I don’t really have an option on FA yet (I try not to form opinions on topics I feel like I don’t understand!), but she pointed me to Kate Harding’s blog, Shapely Prose, who talks a lot about body image and FA.

 

Kate has a really interesting set on Flickr called “Illustrated BMI", in which woman have submitted pictures of themselves with their BMI numbers.  The point of the set is that BMI doesn’t really tell us much.

 

For example, Ginny is 5 ft 11 and 214 pounds. She’s 1/2 a pound away from “obese” according to the BMI.

Ginny is half a pound shy of "obese." by Lucysol.

These sisters are “overweight,” “normal weight,” and “underweight.”

These sisters are "overweight," "normal," and "underweight." by Lucysol.

Chiara is “overweight.”

Chiara is "overweight." by Lucysol.

To get to my point… I think that the BMI means very little. 

 

The BMI issues makes me wonder why we try to shove so many different bodies in one neat little chart.   Maybe some would argue that it’s a good “starting point,” but I fear that it’s also very limiting to talk about health in terms of weight/height ratios.  Health is about many things, not just a number on a scale.  

 

Do you disagree with me about the BMI?  Why? If you could create a new system to determine a person’s “healthiness,” what would it consider?

 

PS – Today is the LAST day to vote for Healthy Tipping Point and Operation Beautiful for the Foodbuzz awards.  I’m up for Best Healthy Living Blog and Blogger Humantarian Effort.  If you love reading HTP or OB, I’d love your vote:) Thank you!

{ 117 comments }

 

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  • Sara October 29, 2009, 1:02 pm

    I think any new system would have to take into account the persons activity level and body makeup. Like you said, someone who has more muscle on them would be “hevier” than someone who is inactive. This chart would make that person look overweight when in reality they are in better condition than a person who does next to nothing. To me, this chart is just another thing that makes women feel like they have to fit a specific mold. I mean look at those women who would have been considered “overweight” or “obese” that is ridiculous! You should be healthy but there is much more to being healthy than a number on a scale. There are many other things that should be taken into account.

    Reply
  • Erin October 29, 2009, 1:03 pm

    I think that athleticism has been the biggest complaint about the BMI. So many pro athletes (especially football) are considered obese because they are so heavy and muscular but obviously these athletes are in great shape.

    What’s the point of BMI? As long as you’re healthy overall, why does this matter?

    Reply
  • Evan Thomas October 29, 2009, 1:06 pm

    I was craving black beans for lunch, too, but there was none at the cafeteria :-(
    I don’t know what would be better than BMI, but I agree it’s not great. My BMI says I’m underweight. I’m definitely thin, but I don’t think too thin is right, and I definitely eat a lot and get plenty of nutrients

    Reply
  • Leah @ L4L October 29, 2009, 1:06 pm

    I’ve always gotten huffy over BMI, largely because it isn’t an all inclusive indicator of one’s health but it is what is largely used in the medical world. I find that the alternative tests like the wrist test are also relatively inaccurate but at least account for bone/frame size in some way, shape or form.

    I think that if I were to create a system, it would include a physical test, blood tests, etc to see how physically healthy you are! What is your cholesterol like? Blood pressure? Insulin/Glucose regulations? Are you anemic? Do you have a history of medical issues, either you or your family? It’s also phsychological too! Are you depressed? Do you have any kind of hormonal imbalances?

    I had seen a different site with an illustrated BMI similar to the one you posted and it was the same sort of thing. You can’t see any consistency with BMI’s because everyone is unique!

    Personally, according to the BMI charts, I am borderline overweight/healthy weight. If you ask anyone that knows me, I bet you they will all tell you I look very healthy. And I have tried and tried to lose more weight but you know what? My body is really happy and comfortable with where I am at so why fight it? It takes me months of dieting + intense exercise just to shed a few pounds. And for what? That isn’t the kind of lifestyle I want. It’s not healthy for my sanity!

    Reply
  • brandi October 29, 2009, 1:07 pm

    I think BMI is nonsense, too. It doesn’t take into account a lot of things that matter.

    Reply
  • Jessica @ How Sweet It Is October 29, 2009, 1:09 pm

    I’ve always hated BMI. It has always put my at overweight, because I have a sh!t ton of muscle.

    Reply
  • Diana October 29, 2009, 1:11 pm

    I read some blogs of people involved in the fat acceptance movement. It’s pretty interesting and I honestly love the positivity, you should definitely check it out.

    I’ve always thought BMI was BS. As you said, there are many examples that show us that our BMI doesn’t mean much. Right now I’m at a healhy weight. I am not fit though. I’m working towards it. My weight won’t probably change that much but I bet my body will change quite a bit (losing fat and gaining muscle does that :P ).

    I’m glad you’re talking about these things. I think it’s especially important that the people whose blogs are well known talk about this and let people know that there’s more to life besides their weight.

    Reply
  • Amanda October 29, 2009, 1:13 pm

    I think there is too much emphasis placed on the BMI as an indicator of what is healthy. In college I saw a nutritionist who told me that I was “underweight” according to the BMI. But, if I were to gain about 5 lbs, I would magically be at a “healthy weight”. It didn’t seem to matter what I ate to gain that weight, or if I stopped exercising to gain the weight, or what … doesn’t seem so healthy to me!

    Reply
  • Jessie October 29, 2009, 1:14 pm

    Caitlin, BMI is used mostly in healthcare fields to assess risk based on weight. The first picture you put up is of a beautiful women, but she does have some extra weight that could possibly be causing her health concerns. BMI was not meant to be an hot-bod scale, the public just turned it into that. As a diagnostic tool it is relavent and practical.

    Reply
  • Jessie October 29, 2009, 1:17 pm

    and i should add that it is based on the national average of weight to height, obviously not everyone is going to fit into its diameters (the extremely muscular for instance)but when used in a health care setting obviously a health care proffesional can weed out the abnormalities.

    Reply
    • Adrienne October 29, 2009, 5:00 pm

      Yep, Jessie’s exactly right.

      It was really developed to assess the health of large groups of people and the cut-offs were developed based on risk of lifestyle illness and death.
      But it’s not so good at predicting individual risk – as (of course) there are people who fall outside the norm.

      It’s a guide only. And should be used with a whole lot of other assessment tools incl waist measurement.

      (I’ll stop being a dietitian for a second, and say “love the waffles”!!)

      Reply
  • RhodeyGirl October 29, 2009, 1:17 pm

    I actually think BMI is a great indicator. I looked at that site with all the pictures and did not disagree with what the BMI illustrated (underweight, normal, overweight, obese). I don’t think it should be the only thing one looks at, but sometimes numbers are needed for evaluation and comparison and I think it can be useful. However, just like everything else, it IS only a number and other factors can come into play.

    Reply
  • Matt October 29, 2009, 1:19 pm

    I think BMI is used more in the medical field than it is for assessing how someone looks. Someone with more weight on them could be at a higher risk for a heart attack and such.

    Reply
    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 1:21 pm

      actually… the BMI is not a good indicator of whether someone is more prone to a heart attack.

      In an analysis of 40 studies involving 250,000 people, heart patients with normal BMIs were at higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than people whose BMIs put them in the “overweight” range (BMI 25–29.9). In the intermediate range of BMI (25–29.9), BMI failed to discriminate between bodyfat percentage and lean mass. The study concluded that “the accuracy of BMI in diagnosing obesity is limited, particularly for individuals in the intermediate BMI ranges, in men and in the elderly… These results may help to explain the unexpected better survival in overweight/mild obese patients.” Patients who were underweight (BMI <20) or severely obese (BMI ≥35) did, however, show an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

      (from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_mass_index)

      Reply
  • greenbean October 29, 2009, 1:20 pm

    i tend to agree with these statements. disagreement with the BMI is well documented and discussed all over the place. i agree that all the women look fine, but i don’t think the system was intended to label a person based on looks. a high or low BMI does not mean a person has to look obese or underweight. i agree that the system is way outdated, but i’m afraid you’re arguement or main point that you mention at the end of this post shouldn’t focus on the women looking fine. again, i agree with you but this is just my suggestion to improve your argument.

    Reply
  • katherine October 29, 2009, 1:23 pm

    I agree with Matt that BMI is used more in the medical field and should not be used for the average person to judge their appearance. As you said, increased muscle mass can strongly affect BMI. I think body fat is a better gauge of health (but even that is difficult to read accurately without expensive tools).

    Reply
  • Lisa October 29, 2009, 1:25 pm

    I agree with what you wrote about BMI being a poor indicator of health! Muscle mass, healthy body fat levels, bone structure, etc are going to wildly affect weight. I am at the highest end of “normal weight” according to the BMI chart and people call me “thin” or “petite” all the time! I would much rather be healthy than have a “good BMI”.

    Reply
  • Estela @ Weekly Bite October 29, 2009, 1:27 pm

    Don’t quote me on this, but I believe the BMI was to be used for insurance purposes…

    The BMI is skewed! LBM is not accounted for…
    Its still used in some medical offices, but I in my experience, it is being recognized as an inaccurate way to assess someones health.

    Reply
  • megan October 29, 2009, 1:28 pm

    I agree with you – I definitely don’t put much stock in it. My husband just got a physical and his BMI told him he was defintely overweight, but if you looked at him, you would think that he was thin. his BMI told him he was overweight even when he was a skinny high schooler because of all his muscle mass. (which i love) :)

    Reply
  • Amanda October 29, 2009, 1:30 pm

    I completely agree with you about the BMI thing. I am larger than several of my friends but I am healthier by far than most of them. There is no way to determine how healthy someone is solely on height and weight.

    Reply
  • Meg October 29, 2009, 1:31 pm

    We just talked about this in my Nutrition Assessment class (I am in grad school to become an R.D.) BMI is more of a screening tool for potential disease risk, but there are many other, better measures. As many people already know, fat around the middle is one of the most dangerous, so women with a waist circumference over 35″(I believe Dr. Oz recommends 32″) and men over 40″ are at an increased risk for cardiovascular and related diseases. Of course, no single assessment tool can predict all risk factors. We also have to consider cholesterol, blood pressure, and other information to get the whole picture. BMI is only a jumping- off point.

    Reply
    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 1:32 pm

      i think you’re right – its a decent starting point, but i can’t be the only factor.

      i think the waist measurement is a good one, because studies have shown that waist size is highly linked to CV diseases.

      Reply
  • Jenna October 29, 2009, 1:33 pm

    i totally agree with you on the BMI scale!
    jenna

    Reply
  • Jess October 29, 2009, 1:34 pm

    I think BMI is a great place to start but then the other factors you mentioned (muscle, fitness level, etc.) must come into play as well. Unfortunately, I think the ‘average’ person using this scale is not as athletic and at as high of a fitness level as say you and me are, so I think these people are the exceptions and for most people, the ‘overweight’, ‘obese’, etc. labels match the person pretty accurately.

    Reply
  • Juli D. October 29, 2009, 1:38 pm

    NPR recently ran a story on BMI – the history behind how bunk the actual mathematics of it are. Check out the story here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439

    Reply
  • Dawn October 29, 2009, 1:38 pm

    I think BMI can be a useful tool for starting a discussion with a health care professional and identifying possible people at risk…however, the truly scary thing is that there have been rumors that in the future BMI may be used to establish a “fat tax” or be used by insurers to determine health care premiums. Obviosuly, some of these rumors are purely speculative, but often times these things do come to pass in one form or another.

    Reply
  • carolyn~ October 29, 2009, 1:40 pm

    I had a personal trainer that utilized 3 measurements:
    • BMI
    • Waist-to-Hip Ratio
    • Fat analysis
    All three together are a better indicator of an individual’s over all weight “health”.
    I am considered overweight per the BMI scale, but with the hip to waist ratio and my fat analysis I am not. So with the 3 combined I knew that if I fell in the overweight section, it was not the end of the world!
    I think it is a good beginning but nothing is perfect.

    Reply
  • EatingRD October 29, 2009, 1:42 pm

    I also think that BMI is BS really because it doesn’t look at a person’s body fat and fat free mass. Plus there are many ‘heavier’ individuals who are very healthy and many ‘skinny’ individuals who are not. It really depends on the person and should really look at total body composition and also physiological wellness, not just height and weight for health.

    Reply
  • Jaime October 29, 2009, 1:42 pm

    The thing that surprised me about BMI when hubby went to see a nutrionist last year was that it doesn’t matter whether your body mass is made up of muscle or fat…it’s just your mass in general. So ya, it doesn’t really take into account healthy body mass! Just another one of those strange medical things out there to help confuse people trying to tackle a healthy journey! eeek.

    Reply
  • Tasha - The Clean Eating Mama October 29, 2009, 1:43 pm

    I feel the BMI is outdated. I am on the verge of over weight… HIGH normal. I call BS. Not that I am tooting my own horn or anything; I know I could lose some extra padding around my hips and butt, but I am content with my size and that’s all that matters
    Healthy Eating
    Tasha

    Reply
  • Cynthia (It All Changes) October 29, 2009, 1:46 pm

    We have turned BMI into something it was never intended to be. I don’t like it personally because I do have a large quantity of muscle so I will never fit into the normal scale. But it isn’t intended for us to look at ourselves and compare. It was intended as a professional tool.

    Reply
  • Kara October 29, 2009, 1:46 pm

    I think it can be a good starting point, but the “results” should be taken with a grain of salt. Back in college, my friends younger brother was classified as obese according to the BMI scale… he’s 6’2 and maybe 180lbs. Obese? Doubtful.

    Reply
  • Christina October 29, 2009, 1:46 pm

    I completely agreee w/ you regarding the BMI.

    Reply
  • Lara (Thinspired) October 29, 2009, 1:50 pm

    I completely see the arguments against BMI measurement, but I also think that, used together with other tools, it can be a good TOOL to provide information about your health. I think it should be considered as part of a much larger picture of health (muscle mass, measurements, bone density, etc). Much like the scale, I just see it as another tool but do not take it too seriously.

    Reply
  • andrea. October 29, 2009, 1:52 pm

    Well, I think that when the BMI formula was developed (back in the 1800s) it was meant to be used on populations, not individuals. You took the average weight of a GROUP and divided by the average height, and could have a general idea of how over or under weight that group was. For instance, you could use it today to say that, on AVERAGE, children are having a higher BMI than ever before and thus are probably becoming more obese, IN GENERAL. But the idea that you could apply it to a particular individual is pretty proposterous!

    Reply
  • Katie October 29, 2009, 1:53 pm

    Hi Caitlin, I agree this is a difficult (and emotive!! – as evidenced by all of these replies) issue. I’m a doctor, and I think BMI can be a useful tool when trying to open up discussions with a patient about health and weight – as in, it makes it not an issue of me judging that they look overweight but I can share with them the number and use that to introduce a discussion about healthy eating, exercise etc. But I know that it isn’t perfect by any means – I think the British Medical Journal had an article about this a couple of weeks ago (I don’t have it to hand) – particularly talking about thigh circumference and CV risk. I think waist:hip ratio is probably a more accurate representation of CV risk, but it isn’t the most practical thing to measure in a short consultation with a doctor – and I know personally it is bad enough them knowing my weight, but imagine them getting out the tape measure too – ARGH!! Sorry, I’m waffling, I guess I’m saying that BMI isn’t great but it’s the best of a bad bunch! BTW, love the blog! Katie x

    Reply
    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 1:54 pm

      this was interesting to hear from a doctor! and i think you are right, the BMI would be a good way to open up communication with an overweight patient who needed to lose weight.

      Reply
  • Sara October 29, 2009, 1:53 pm

    I think body fat percentage might be a good add on to BMI. A good analysis…”The widely-used body mass index (BMI), on the other hand, simply makes blanket assumptions as to what every individual of a certain height should ideally weigh, regardless of the body composition which makes up that weight. The BMI gives particularly inaccurate information with regard to individuals with above-average lean muscle mass, classifying such individuals as “overweight” or “obese” despite the fact that their body fat percentage would indicate they are in excellent physical condition.” (Wikipedia, obvi :) ) I think, however, BMI can be a decent starting place in SOME cases. I also think it’s pretty obvious who is “muscular” and fit versus carrying around excess/dangerous weight (when it comes to comparing two people with the same BMI, for example). I agree that BMI in and of itself isn’t an ‘answer’ or accurate measure, but with the rising problem with obesity (especially young children who are unlikely to be body builders :) ) in this country I guess we need some tools… :( BUT I agree completely with you on how fit you are, how much you exercise and how healthfully you eat are always going to outweigh ANY number, scale, BMI or otherwise :)

    S

    Reply
  • Kath October 29, 2009, 1:53 pm

    I think BMI is most useful for health screenings. It raises a red flag to take a closer look at the REAL factors that impact health most – diet, waistline, weight, lifestyle, activity level, body fat %, etc.

    Reply
  • RhodeyGirl October 29, 2009, 1:53 pm

    By the way I’d also like to add that if I looked at my BMI alone I would be annoyed (as even though it is normal it is higher than it should be for what I look like and for my fitness level)… then again if I looked at the scale alone I would be annoyed too.

    I would like to know the history of the BMI.. why it was created in the first place and what its purpose is.

    Reply
  • Katherine October 29, 2009, 1:54 pm

    I think it is one tool…of many. All systems used to clasify are going to have pros and cons because you can’t factor everything in. There are measurements that are not quantitative and cannot be captured by any system.

    It is a GENERAL classification system. It should be used less than it is and relied on less than it is.

    Reply
  • Carrie...On The Cheap October 29, 2009, 1:55 pm

    I think it should used very loosely as a guide. However, it is clearly not accurate for many people. It’s not perfect by any means. If you don’t fit exactly into the normal category, you shouldn’t go off and starve yourself. But, I think if you’re way WAY off, then I think that’s a problem.

    Reply
  • Sean October 29, 2009, 1:55 pm

    BMI was developed in the 1800s and of course things changed quit significantly since then — it lost it’s ‘usefulness’ a long time ago. Anything not taking body composition into context isn’t going to provide any semblance of accurate results.

    Reply
  • Mellissa October 29, 2009, 1:57 pm

    Why do we need a system? It should be about being healthy and active. Why do we need to classify things based on weight? Look at the things like blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat %- they all tell a better picture than weight. Someone with a BMI of 19 or 20 may not be healthy at all while someone with a much higher version could be very healthy.

    Reply
  • Yasmin October 29, 2009, 2:00 pm

    I’m really glad you brought this up. I’ve thought about this topic a lot. It’s very difficult to capture health via a generalized formula. It really does come down to the individual, their lifestyles, and body type. For one, people who are genetically predisposed to having bigger boobs, or a “bubble” butt, or carrying more muscle will for sure have a higher BMI, but that doesn’t necessarily make an accurate statement about the state of their health, or even vanity.

    Reply
  • Sara October 29, 2009, 2:07 pm

    Yes, the BMI seems like a very outdated way to measure health!

    Reply
  • Marcia October 29, 2009, 2:08 pm

    I totally think BMI is very deceptive. I am at the high end of the normal range yet I wear a size 2. I think/hope my muscularity throws it off.
    I’m no doc but I think a more accurate portrayal of someone’s overall health would have to include checking cholesterol levels, resting heart rate, BP, insulin sensitivty, etc.

    Reply
  • Kelly October 29, 2009, 2:08 pm

    I definitely see the point of the doctor above. Otherwise I think BMI is pretty useless. However, I (a long time ago) had the BMI convo with my doctor. I was considered overweight and it was right, I wasn’t being healthy. I wasn’t fat, but I was not in a good place with my eating/exercising.

    Reply
  • Bree October 29, 2009, 2:10 pm

    I agree that as a starting point for discussion with health professionals it can have merit. It’s also easy – anyone can enter the height and weight into an online calculator. As someone who has been mostly average to thin, I still disagree with it for determining if someone is healthy or not. Mostly for the athlete argument. I know many male college athletes who are in the prime of their fitness, but are considered overweight by the BMI. Body fat % and waist to hip ratio can be better tools, but those both have their flaws as well. Calculating body fat is hard to do outside a lab setting, and getting someone who knows how to use calipers accurately is hard to find – especially your run of the mill trainer in a commercial gym.

    Reply
  • Jocelyn October 29, 2009, 2:11 pm

    I think it’s ridiculous that after losing 20 pounds I was still only 1 pound away from “obese” Yet I felt healthy and happy.

    Reply
  • Alison October 29, 2009, 2:11 pm

    I agree with you; I think the BMI scale isn’t the most accurate weight/fitness assessment tool. I often joke that I have titanium bones because according to the scale my BMI is over 27 and if you saw me in person, you’d know that I’m not overweight. I’m certainly not underweight, but I’m not overweight either. Muscle mass and body frame have to be factored in, in my opinion.
    My daughter, who is 7 1/2, is also the recipient of my titanium bones. She’s tall (53.5 inches) and thin, but weighs 63+ pounds. According to the Wii Fit (assuming they use BMI standards), she’s overweight and while she clearly IS NOT, she is bothered by the fact that the Wii Fit says she is.
    I can see how the BMI chart can be used in a very broad sort of way, but it’s just not accurate enough to be considered THE ONLY WAY to judge overall weight standards.

    Reply
  • Carolyn October 29, 2009, 2:12 pm

    I think you’re exactly right about BMI. It needs to be taken with a grain of salt. P.S. I am giving away two breast cancer awareness prize packs on my blog: http://lovinlosing.com/.

    Reply
  • Wendy October 29, 2009, 2:12 pm

    I agree! I think it’s a good starting point, but all those factors you pointed out must be considered. I’m 5’10″ and weigh ~170-175 lbs, which, according to your BMI chart, puts me at boderline overweight. But, I am muscular with a large frame, a largish chest, and physically fit. So really, BMI doesn’t tell me much of anything about my state of health. Interesting discussion!

    Reply
  • Leah (Nutritionista) October 29, 2009, 2:21 pm

    BMI is bogus. Check out this article I posted on my blog from NPR about the 10 reasons why only using BMI to judge your healthy weight is a baaaad idea: http://yournutritionista.com/post/139033317/nprs-top-10-reasons-why-the-bmi-is-bogus. The first reason? The mathematician who dreamed up the BMI said explicitly that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual!

    Reply
  • Rosey Rebecca October 29, 2009, 2:22 pm

    That’s totally true! BMI is crap! I took a class called Health and Sports for life and the professor told us that the BMI is the most important thing. I definitely don’t agree.

    Reply
  • Sarah @ The Foodie Diaries October 29, 2009, 2:23 pm

    I think BMIs and even scales in general are terrible indicators for healthy bodies. During a recent fitness evaluation, I was told I weigh more than I look; the assessment suggested I lose 15 lbs. But I would seriously be a BONE if I did; it’s all loco.

    Reply
  • Tammy (Defining Wellness) October 29, 2009, 2:25 pm

    I agree that BMI is only one measure of health, and I don’t believe it’s always an accurate one. I had a coworker who was classified as obese who was very muscular, fit, and extremely good-looking I might add! :) He does triathlons, is a retired police officer, and is definitely healthy and in shape. I know my R.D. (who I just interviewed and posted about on my blog if you’re interested) would definitely say that BMI is not nearly as important as how you feel. I think that, usually, you know if you feel healthy or not, and that is way more important than any number.

    Reply
  • Stephanie J October 29, 2009, 2:30 pm

    In all of the tests (BMI, BP, etc.) I’d really just like to see people asking more questions of their doctors or those administering the tests to find out what it really means, how accurate it is, etc. For instance, if you test your BP somewhere like a Walgreens, it’s best to go in several times over the course of the week rather than just taking one test at face value. I also tend to be at the high end of the normal range for blood glucose but upon discussing it with my provider determined that I didn’t need to be as worried as I was making myself. Going along with Dr. Katie’s statement, I think the opening of the door for conversation is key.

    Reply
  • Kate October 29, 2009, 2:33 pm

    Not a fan of using BMIs. I do some work with patients with eating disorders, and our agency works really hard to encourage local doctors and the university health center to get away from using the BMI system. I was seeing a patient in recovery from ED-NOS (mostly binging and purging, some restricting) last year, and she was told by her psychiatrist that she was overweight based on her BMI. I almost choked someone.

    Reply
  • Erin October 29, 2009, 2:49 pm

    Caitlin,

    Do you have the acutal reference for the study you mentioned in your first comment — the link doesn’t work and wikipedia is not exactly a scholarly reference (anybody can enter information).

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 2:51 pm

      those statistics on the wikipedia page are footnoted – check out footnote #18 and #19 on the BMI page.

      Reply
  • Frannie October 29, 2009, 2:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing the site with us. I was looking through the photos and all I could think was “every one of these girls is beautiful” and I certainly don’t feel beautiful when I refer to my BMI chart and cannot fathom ever being in the normal range. Also, I noticed quite a few of the ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ women were very curvy and have heavy chests. I have to say that sometimes genetically large breasts can add a lot of weight. I lost 40 lbs two years ago by becoming a triathlete and runner and I’ve only gone from a DD to a D. I think if I got a breast reduction, I could have a normal BMI, no joke!

    Reply
    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 2:51 pm

      hahaha boobies weigh a LOT!!!

      Reply
  • Kailey (SnackFace) October 29, 2009, 2:51 pm

    I understand that the BMI index is useful in a medical setting, but I take issue with how individuals internalize the number, just as any number, such as weight or a size. A single number doesn’t represent one’s health, just as a jean size doesn’t represent one’s worth. Unfortunately, countless people take these measurements to heart. I suppose I’m against most forms of measurement. People imbue too much extraneous meaning to little symbols known as numbers.

    Reply
  • Beth @ DiningAndDishing October 29, 2009, 2:54 pm

    What I do like about the BMI chart is that it takes into account both height and weight. I am very tall (5’11) and often used to feel like I was overweight because my height adds pounds. With the BMI chart I could see that my weight is considered healthy for my height, which is important I think.

    Reply
  • Naomi (onefitfoodie) October 29, 2009, 2:59 pm

    BMI is super crazy. I think it does do a good job as far as baseline measurements but there is so much that it doesnt take into account. as a personal trainer it is so hard to explain to people if itheir BMI says they are obese. it does not take into account lean body fat vs muscle vs fat. I understand it is important from a medical standpoint, and aggain, good for baseline measures, but I don’t like how off it can be in terms of what type of fat vs muscle you have

    great post!!

    Reply
  • Lindsay October 29, 2009, 3:05 pm

    I don’t know what a better system would be, but I agree that BMI isn’t that great. There are so many things that contribute to a persons overall health. I don’t think it can be summed up based on hight and weight alone.

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  • Nobel4Lit October 29, 2009, 3:08 pm

    Yep, I hate teetering at the edge of “normal” and “overweight.” I might be short, but I can assure everyone that I have a ton of muscle on me from all the running. I’m a size 2/3 pant, 6 in dress size… nothing is a good measure of anything!!!

    Reply
  • Liz October 29, 2009, 3:09 pm

    I think that BMI has become a “problem” only because of society’s obsession/sensitivity with weight. It is useful as a simple model in the medical field. Certainly other metrics might be more informative (to include body fat % or activity level), but it terms of something that can be determined very quickly and objectively by everyone – most people have access to a method to measure height and weight – it makes sense as an initial screening process. Models are never 100% accurate and can never be applied identically to the entire population, they exist to serve a a guideline.

    I think the concern is that our society has put such a negative connotation on being “overweight” that peple get very defensive/upset when their BMI places them into that catagory. If it wasn’t such a sensitive issue, people would think “well I have a lot of lean muscle and I am eat well and exercise and at my last physical so it really doesn’t matter what the label is” but instead, people get upset about being afficted with a “negative” label.

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  • Meg C. October 29, 2009, 3:12 pm

    thanks for posting this – BMI is a good general indicator of weight health but definitely not an exact science. it’s also true for men who are bodybuilders, because of how much muscle they have they are categorized as “obese” even though they are in rock solid shape!

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  • kilax October 29, 2009, 3:27 pm

    I definitely think BMI is BS! :) I think the range of “healthy” weight is too small. And, you can never really judge weight by numbers anyway.

    Reply
  • Marlene October 29, 2009, 3:28 pm

    Couple of thoughts on BMI:

    1. I think that being OVERLY MUSCULAR is not particularly good for your health (taxing on the heart, etc), so if someone’s BMI is REALLY high, then I would argue that whether that no matter where that excess weight comes from (fat or muscle) it’s still something to monitor because it falls out of the “normal range” for human beings.

    2. I believe that in some countries, Fashion Models MUST have a BMI of AT LEAST 18 in order to get work (I’m sorry I don’t have a reference for this, but I’ve heard it a few times now). This, to me, is a positive use of the BMI.

    But I hear what you’re saying about this formulaic system. For example, my BMI is 22 – which is smack dab in the middle of the “normal weight” range, and even then, I don’t think that particular number is “right” for me!!!

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  • sarah (ghost world) October 29, 2009, 3:32 pm

    my perspective, as a pediatrician (3rd year resident):

    it is a useful tool in the pediatric population (which by the way has a special growth curve for BMI — you can’t just use the standard numbers of 25, 30, etc). a lot of parents have a skewed view of what a healthy child is supposed to look like, and it can be easier to talk about an unhealthy BMI than an unhealthy weight. while i DEFINITELY agree that there are limits to the use (i have seen multiple healthy teenage males without an ounce of fat on them in the ‘overweight’ range), if a kid is off the charts (literally above all of the curves, as many of my patients are), it can be a good tool to demonstrate to the parents that there is a health risk that needs to be addressed.

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  • Danielle October 29, 2009, 3:33 pm

    I feel like I’m a good indication that the BMI scale is NOT accurate. A few years ago I lost my “cycle” (overshare…I know) but I was solidly in the “healthy weight” category. I come from a mysteriously dense family and we all weigh more than we look.
    I’m not sure I’m a fan of the “fat acceptance” movement. I’m definitely glad to see more self acceptance and that the thin-standards are changing in society. But I think we need to focus on being healthy and accepting ourselves, not sending the message that you should be accepting and proud of having an unhealthy amount fat.

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  • Ali @ Food, Fitness, Fashion October 29, 2009, 3:45 pm

    I think the BMI is pretty much BS. It labels Adam (my fiancee as overweight). He is really muscular (hot, hot, hot), because he is an athlete, when you see him he does not look overweight in the slightest! I think “healthy weight” is so individual for everyone it is hard to do it all by numbers. Great post, Caitlin!

    PS I voted for you ages ago :)

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  • Megan October 29, 2009, 3:51 pm

    I think that looking at pictures of people as a baseline for disputing BMI as a methodology is ridiculous. Being severly overweight is unhealthy, period. BMI is just a method of making a distinction between different heights, rather than just looking at weight.

    Yes, there are many other factors to be considered when assessing whether weight loss is necessary. But medical professionals USE other methodologies. If someone has a high BMI, doctors can see it as a warning and THEN look at other factors, such as muscle mass, waist size, etc..

    I think there is absolutley nothing wrong with using BMI, especially when it is not the only tool being used (as it rarely is). Being “opposed” to BMI seems like a strange position, when it’s just a measure of height and weight. It seems that people often get caught up in being defensive of being labeled as “overweight.” The fact that someone looks “normal” in America doesn’t mean much in a land of obesity. Being healthy isn’t only about how you look. I know that Operation Beautiful and all its supporters agree embrace that belief. So why denigrate one of methods that medical professionals use to try to encourage people to be as healthy as possible?

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    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 4:45 pm

      i didnt say that being severely overweight was unhealthy, nor did i use the pictures of the women as my sole reason for disputing the BMI, either.

      Reply
      • Megan October 29, 2009, 6:12 pm

        I’m not saying that that was the only argument–I just think using that is meaningless. There are definitely other arguments against BMI, namely that it doesn’t account for muscle mass and that it shouldn’t be the only method. As far as muscle mass is concerned, I think that the people who are categorized as “obese” and have 3% body fat or something are most definitely the exception rather than the rule. The fact remains that it is very unusual to have a high enough muscle mass to seriously impact BMI.

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        • Megan October 29, 2009, 6:22 pm

          To clarify, I guess I just don’t understand the point at looking at photos and making subjective judgments on whether or not they “look” healthy or overweight. I’d seen the Illustrated BMI Flickr page before, and I am just puzzled at what excatly one is supposed to learn from it. What is the take-away message? If the point is to make you re-consider BMI becuase people don’t look “disgusting,” it makes me very uncomfortable. It seems that it takes the focus from health to appearance.

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        • Heather October 29, 2009, 7:55 pm

          Personally, I find that the message of the BMI project is that too often we judge people based on their physical appearance and weight alone. A lot of the women who are considered “overweight” look like normal bodies to me and ones that I would like to see in magazines and on TV and in movies. I think it’s illustrating the fact that BMI is bullshit, and in some of the photos (like the ones of “obese” and “overweight” athletes) that BMI is not an overall indication of health.

          I’m going to go ahead and assume that by your use of the word “disgusting” you find obese people “disgusting” and that’s your perogative, but I think ultimately, judging someone whether it’s based on their lifestyle, appearance, their overall healthiness, etc. is pretty “disgusting” itself.

          Reply
    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 4:45 pm

      i didnt say that being severely overweight was healthy, nor did i use the pictures of the women as my sole reason for disputing the BMI, either.

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      • Megan October 29, 2009, 11:39 pm

        Heather, my use of the word disgusting was actually in reference to what I see as the faulty assumption rooted in the use of the images in the BMI project to prove that BMI is incorrect. By showing pictures of individuals who are overweight or obese and still “attractive”, this endeavor further promotes a paradigm in which people are judged based on how they look. Not everyone who is overweight looks bad, but so what? It says nothing about the vailidy of BMI as a health indicator. In fact, it just perpetuates the idea that people should be judged on how they look. The use of these pictures to try to prove a point ultimately works against the feminist objections to making judgements solely on appearance.

        Reply
        • Heather October 30, 2009, 9:49 am

          Apologies about my assumption (you know what they say when you assume!) These kinds of heated discussions can get a little emotional, you know.

          Ultimately, it seems that you think the point is to show that these people are still “attractive” no matter what weight they are, while I see it as showing that a) these people are still PEOPLE no matter what their BMI is and b) society has some jacked up standards as to what is considered ACCEPTABLE, not attractive. Attraction is subjective — there are some people there that I find attractive and some I don’t. If you want to dissect from a feminist standpoint, I’d say it IS feminist because it’s looking at women’s (there’s a few males in there, but most photos are of women) bodies from a political standpoint and arguing that we can’t be judged solely by a number. I get the argument you’re making, I just happen to disagree with it.

          Reply
  • Jess October 29, 2009, 3:57 pm

    I’m sorry but isn’t Fat Acceptance a bit of an oxymoron? I’m not forming an opinion because I don’t have the info as well but I doubt someone who is overweight wants someone to call them “fat” or say “I accept you being fat.” Doesn’t seem right to me.

    Reply
    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 4:43 pm

      actually, FA activist take pride in the word “fat.” they use it as a descriptive term, much like i would say “i am a brunette.”

      i reallllly dont know enough about FA to say much more, but i know they don’t mind the word fat at all. :)

      Reply
  • Eve October 29, 2009, 4:08 pm

    This is tough, BMI is a good indicator as others have mentioned. There has to be a way to screen people. Especially since being overweight increases your risk for so many diseases including DM, HTN, CVD, certain cancers, etc. Yes it’s true that it does not tell everything. So I think once someone is determine as overweight or obese, they need to be evaluated further. Personally in my private practice I do not use BMI to determine recommended weights. I work with my clients to come up with a weight or size they feel comfortable with and that is healthy for him or her. The goal weight I come up with is completely different for everyone!

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  • Sammi October 29, 2009, 4:09 pm

    I think all these number charts are bs! I had my body fat percentage checked at the gym and it said I was 33%. I looked up what it meant and it said 33-39% body fat means you are overweight to obese! I’m 5’4″ and 125-128 pounds and by NO means fat or obese! The guy told me he wants me under 30% body fat but I’m not listening to some crazy bodybuilder who doesn’t even have a degree in nutrition. He also told me I need 100g of protein A DAY!

    Reply
    • K October 29, 2009, 9:24 pm

      Sammi – although you are not “technically” obese at 5’4″ and 125-128 pounds, it IS possible to be unhealthy with 33% body fat.
      A person could be 5’10″ and 110 pounds, and although underweight (BMI-wise), still have a too high body fat percentage.
      Body fat percentage is a measure of what your body is composed of – for you it’s 33% fat and 67% lean body mass.
      And remember fat weighs less than muscle… I’m not saying you’re overweight or unhealthy, but I thought a little clarification was needed. :-) Here is a link that explains body fat and testing: http://exercise.about.com/cs/weightloss/a/bodyfat.htm

      Reply
  • NutritionStudent October 29, 2009, 4:13 pm

    There are problems with the BMI chart, that being it does not account for muscle mass. Thus, say, two men could each weight 180 lbs and considered overweight but one sits on the couch everyday and has a poor diet while the other exercises and is mostly lean muscle mass…however the BMI still is useful. It’s an affordable way to find out if you as an individual are at risk for an unhealthy future. Yes, it may seem shocking that some of those “normal” sized women are overweight and close to obese and as beautiful as they may be it still doesn’t change the fact they may not be taking care of themselves to the fullest extent even if they are happy. As a country our view of what size is considered normal and healthy is severely skewed to the point we think overweight is “normal”. It’s amazing what you are doing and I think you have helped so many people but at the end of the day it is important to not be TOO accepting of everyone. If someone is overweight and fit, then wonderful :) but if they are overweight and not taking care of themselves, shouldn’t they be aware things need to change? NOT for appearances sake, but for health…

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  • Nicole October 29, 2009, 4:18 pm

    I really hate the BMI chart. I have a friend in the military, and according the the chart she is overweight even though she is a crossfit freak, can do 20 pull ups, and has a body fat percentage of 16%. She used to get points off of her PT (physical training) test because the military would use this chart to gauge fitness. Ridiculous. I think the military is changing that this coming year because of how ludicrous it is!!

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  • Lauren October 29, 2009, 4:37 pm

    Hi Caitlin, I think it’s really cool that you are taking a look at the “Fat Acceptance” movement and other stuff from Kate Harding! I like reading her writing and other feminist blogs, and it’s funny because I spend the other half of my time in the blogosphere among the “fit bloggers,” people with lifestyles a bit more like my own. At first, we in the “fit blogging” world might tend to recoil from the message of fat acceptance, but I think, in a way, it’s actually kind of freeing for us to accept the idea of fatness as OK–because when you judge and criticize those who don’t resemble your ideal, it reflects the way you judge and criticize your own self. You should check out this article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8327753.stm

    Reply
    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 4:42 pm

      i think its a cool concept too. i dont necessarily agree with all of its points but i think the basic idea is great.

      Reply
  • Peter October 29, 2009, 4:48 pm

    I do agree that BMI is just a number, and one of the factors that would help a person understand what their fitness level is. However, there is no doubt that carrying around extra weight is a burden on your heart, lungs, muscles and skeleton. I don’t think a persons’ weight is an indicator of their virtue or lack of it, but if someone is overweight 20% of their body weight (as I was last year), their blood pressure WILL go up.

    It’s better to think in terms of percentages, not pounds. Mindy, with a weight change of 11 pounds, lost nearly 10% of her normal weight! For me, 11 pounds would be only 5%. 5% of Mindys’ weight for me would be about 4 pounds – a big lunch with a liter (quart) of fluid.

    Reply
  • Emily Eats and Exercises October 29, 2009, 4:54 pm

    I agree with others that BMI can be a starting point. By any standard I still have some more weight to loose to be in the healthy category. However, I have noticed that as I’ve been doing lots of cardio and strength training my body shape is changing even if the numbers on the scale are not. I am 3 pants sizes smaller now than I was the last time I was at this weight!
    Obviously that is not accounted for in BMI.

    Reply
  • Hil October 29, 2009, 4:56 pm

    I think the BMI is a great tool for measuring weight change in a population–that is what it is designed for. It wasn’t ever meant to assess how fat an individual person is, much less how healthy they are. Health is such a complex thing with so many aspects that I can’t imagine any chart that would definitively tell someone whether they were healthy or not.

    Reply
  • Eliza October 29, 2009, 4:56 pm

    That chart doesn’t go low enough to my weight. I am 112 lbs at 5’4.5 Perfectly healthy, and I am 18, so it should go a bit lower.

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  • Eliza October 29, 2009, 5:06 pm

    I also think it is relied on too much, it was created my a mathematician, not a physician, and many things were not taken into account. There are many other reliable measures of weight and health, which are not used.

    Reply
  • Brenna October 29, 2009, 5:18 pm

    Although I do disagree with any system that takes a “one size fits all” approach to weight, the BMI calculator was a huge motivator for me to get healthy. My weight had slowly been creeping up for a few years and I had managed to convince myself that it was normal. Truth be told, I was in denial that my eating and exercise habits were healthy, when they were acutally far from it. I was about 1 lb away from being “overweight” on the BMI scale, which was a HUGE wake up call for me to stop taking my health for granted and start taking care of myself. Over the past year I lost 16 lbs and when I visited my obgyn for my annual exam I was sitting squarely in the middle of the “normal” BMI range. This reflected the healthy changes I made and how much better I feel about myself and my body as a result. While it may not work for everyone, I have only good things to say about the impact the BMI calculator has had on me.

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  • D October 29, 2009, 5:22 pm

    I agree that there are plenty of “exceptions” to the general BMI rule, but thats why those people are exceptions – because the BMI scale is generally accurate for the vast majority of people. In this sort of forum, where the women reading and commenting are at least familiar with healty eating and regular exercise, there are obviously more “exceptions” than rules. However, I think that the BMI scale is a good tool for those who are unfamiliar with these ideas and need a general starting point. Realistically, the majority of people in the overweight category are not going to be classified as such because of muscle mass. If you know enough about health/fitness to know that muscle and exercise could affect your classification (and think that it may apply to you), then I don’t think you need to worry too much about the scale in the first place. However, as unfortunate as it is, I think far too many people claim that extra weight is “muscle”. It takes some serious, intense strength training over months to gain even a few pounds of muscle, and someone who is a casual exerciser is not going to be putting on any significant muscle mass, ever, and I think a lot of people fall into that trap. It’s obviously great to exercise and strength train, but it’s extremely misleading to hear “don’t worry about a few extra pounds, it’s probably muscle since you’ve been exercising”. If we take emotion and judgement out of it (meaning not associating weight with anything but facts and saying it like it is), then we can’t just write off the “overweight” category as unfair because someone MAY be the rare exception. Great topic!

    Reply
    • Caitlin October 29, 2009, 5:34 pm

      i agree with you that most people cannot put on a ton of weight from muscle. that exception applies to serious athletes more than regular people.

      Reply
  • Tay October 29, 2009, 5:25 pm

    It’s really really crazy. Not only for the facts you stated above, but also many people could have normal BMIs, yet have a lot of “fatty muscle” such as the elderly, and highly inactive. That’s why it’s so much more important to have you BODY FAT % tested, rather than a BMI. For example, my roommate is 5’3″ and 94 lbs (a stick!) yet her body fat % was high! It’s crazy.

    Reply
  • Tania October 29, 2009, 5:33 pm

    BMI gets a terrible rap, because people expect it to be “the” thing that will tell them where they stand. Yes, it leaves out many factors. But yes, it is also useful. The United States needs a major wakeup call, as is evident by our ballooning sizes and declining health. In general, I think the biggest obstacle to healthy weight, exercise, and eating habits in the U.S. is unwillingness to hear the truth and see the consequences of our actions. If BMI helps people wake up, then it’s a good thing. Beyond that, people need to be assessing other more detailed information in order to get a sense of their health.

    I also want to agree with D on the muscle point. It takes an awful lot of exercise to gain muscle. When people gain weight soon after beginning an exercise program, it is often because of retained water and it drops off. They may see themselves getting smaller because muscle is denser than fat, but likely they will not see themselves getting heavier with muscle unless they are doing some serious bodybuilding.

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  • Eliza October 29, 2009, 5:52 pm

    The Fat Acceptance movement is (as I understand it) in response to the rampant size-ism in our society. People who are larger (or fat, whatever) are regularly discriminated against and treated differently than others. Stereotypes and assumptions about them are made.
    There was a really interesting post about it over at Jezebel today, following a vicious attack on a woman because of size-ism.
    http://jezebel.com/5392810/will-anti+fat-hate-crimes-make-people-take-sizeism-seriously

    Reply
  • tra October 29, 2009, 6:48 pm

    i feel you on the bmi. my friend Ro, says that according to the bmi, she’s obese. but by looking at her, you know it’s pure muscle. (she’s ripped)

    yellow rice?! did you make it from scratch?!

    Reply
  • Heather October 29, 2009, 8:00 pm

    You pretty much hit the nail on the hand. Another commenter pointed out some great ways to evaluate health: blood pressure/cholesterol tests, family medical history, nutritional logs, daily activity, etc. Genetics play a large part in our health and I think people tend to ignore those. Some girls are naturally thin, yet they may eat nothing but fast food and never work out, and based on their BMI, they are at a “healthy” weight but may not be healthy, period. Other people, who work out religiously and eat well, may have high cholesterol and blood pressure due to genetics. There isn’t one way to gauge health, and that is okay. Health and weight are VERY personal to each person, and some of these comments are a little depressing to read because people seem to place way too much emphasis on weight.

    Overall, I support the message of the fat acceptance movement, though there are a few qualms I have with it (and I won’t get into them in the comments) but I think it’s an important thing to NOT judge people based on their appearance, and yeah, that means size. I always hear people say things like “I would never pick on people for things they can’t help” (like a physical disability or a birthmark or something) yet people assume that weight is ALWAYS something people can control.

    So much to say, so little time. Great post, and I think it’s so important to read and think about it. Have a great night!

    Reply
  • Diana (Mymarblerye) October 29, 2009, 8:08 pm

    i COMPLETELY agree with you on the subject of BMI. Football players are considered morbidly obese and I know my Tony Romo isn’t “unhealthy”…now…retired nfl players is a different story.

    Reply
  • maria October 29, 2009, 8:57 pm

    I agree! I think the BMI scale is out of date and overrated. You should rely more on how your body feels at certain weights than on a number that doesn’t account for fat/muscle.

    Reply
  • erica October 29, 2009, 9:18 pm

    its not perfect, but a majority of the people in the united states need to lose weight and a majority of the people in this country who do fall into the ‘overweight’ category would be better off physically and emotionally if they could fall into the heathy category.

    I’m just a few hairs shy of 5’11″ and currently weigh 140 lbs but just 2 years ago I was on the rowing team in college and weighed as much as 171 (due to muscle AND fat!). So, I’ve been on both ends of the healthy weight spectrum for my height. I think most people who are pushing “unhealthy” because of muscle mass will know it and won’t worry… and those who are just fat-it should be a wakeup call to take responsibility for your health and happiness.

    Reply
  • Sarah @ See Sarah Eat October 29, 2009, 10:15 pm

    I totally agree with you! A friend of mine at work came up to me, upset because she was told she needed to lose x amount of weight to get her BMI in the right category. I quickly told her not to worry about it and think more in terms of her health and not a number. I told her it does not take height, muscle mass or age into account and even I am considered “overweight” by those standards. Her frown turned to a smile and she thanked me for cheering her up!

    Reply
  • Anne October 29, 2009, 10:19 pm

    Good discussion going on here! I think body fat percentage is the single truest measurement of fitness I have encountered–much more telling than BMI alone. I tend to maintain or increase my weight when I run and strength train a lot, but when I had my body fat percentage measured, it was pretty low. The way I can be sure of my body composition is by using this number, measured by a trainer with proper equipment. I know I could easily drop 5-10 lbs. if I STOPPED running and strength training, but I would be losing muscle! I lift weights and do core work vigorously for 2+ hours per week, though. If I wasn’t doing that, things would be different. I noticed in one of your older posts, you mentioned that when you were injured, you lost weight NOT running, and that seems to be a lot of people’s experience. Obviously getting rid of exercise to decrease numbers on the scale is NOT the solution, regardless of what BMI “seems” to be telling you. Glad you posted this, and I will definitely be “in line” to buy your book!

    Reply
  • Jess October 29, 2009, 11:02 pm

    I think that BMI still has its place because if you are close to being overweight or underweight, you may want to see a health professional and get further evaluation. From the above pictures, i think they agree with what their BMI is, to so many of us being “normal” weight is not infact normal when you look at the history of average weight in this country. They just had an artical in womens health showing how a womans average weight has increased from 140 in the 50′s to 160 now a days. Just because you are “average” weight, does not make it a healthy weight. You can accept your weight all you want, it won’t protect you from the risks of heart disease and cancer.

    Reply
  • Chelsea (Chelsea's Chew and Run Fun) October 29, 2009, 11:07 pm

    I completely concur that BMI should be taken with a grain of salt. It should be used in conjunction with other methods of analyzation to determine if your size/fat percentage/weight is putting you in risky health territory. For my personally, I wear a size 8 and have a 28″ waist, yet, my BMI is a 25. I have very large breasts though that are easily 5-10 pounds. It really depends on the build of the individual. Being obsessed with numbers rather than the whole picture can lead to some dangerous, unhealthy image issues.

    Reply
  • Tasha October 30, 2009, 12:39 am

    Being a scientist, I think it’s just a standardized way for physicians to notify patients of their current health state. However, if a physician knows that his patient is active, and all the cholestrol levels etc. are good, then he won’t tell her that she’s obese and needs to lose weight. It’s good as a rule of thumb for what “generally healthy” should mean. As for myself, being Asian, most of us have more petite builds. So a BMI over 23 is considered as overweight to some.

    Reply
  • Kristi October 30, 2009, 11:06 am

    I think the BMI is BS! Granted, I am in the healthy weight range but I still think it is BS. Right now, I am 136 pounds and 5’5. The thing is, I wear a size 2. The BMI system says I could still be at a healthy weight range if I weight 120 pounds! I do’nt even want to know what I would look like if I weight 120 pounds, I would be in the negative numbers for clothes. CRAZY!

    Reply
  • Cat November 2, 2009, 1:13 pm

    BMI can be relevant and useful for a population, but loses most of its significance when applied to a person. BMI is one useful snapshot to compare populations of people (poor vs affluent, urban vs rural, etc). Statistically (and very generally) speaking, most tools that deal well with averages lose meaning at the individual level. Just my two cents.

    Reply
  • Kirstie August 23, 2012, 8:20 pm

    Ok here is my take on this. I wasn’t at all surprised with the BMI of each of the women you posted here. I think they look beautiful but that has nothing to do with BMI. The main reason why so many people would be shocked and say “Oh my god she’s obese? But she looks fine” is because so many of us got really used to much larger individuals (66% of americans are either overweight or obese) that is why someone that is overweight (BMI from 25.1 to 29.9) seems like normal. Because there are so many people in our day to day lives that are much larger. As for the purpose of the BMI, as a medical student, I have learned that BMI is used as a medical guideline. It sure is not considered as the golden standard but it is much easier to calculate and cheaper than other means. Although there are exemptions, there are large amounts of information that indicates that people that fall out of the healthy range (either below or above) have higher health risks than the ones who fall within, that is the main reason why BMI is still being used. As for muscle weight, I do agree that weight does not take into account the percentage of lean body mass and fat percentage. Therefore, elite athletes will have a higher than normal BMI even though they are very lean. This, however does not apply to the majority of the population (even those that exercise regularly). If you are borderline normal and overweight, and you are muscular (you do resistance training regularly to actively build muscle mass) then it is plausible that you are good. However, if someone’s bmi is in the obese or morbidly obese range (unless they are elite athletes or body builders) it very likely that less healthy and have more health risk (cardiovascular, hormonal, metabolic) than a person in a healthy bmi and should strongly consider losing weight.

    Reply

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