BMI: I am Obese

Or, more accurately titled, According to the Inaccurate Body Mass Index, I am Considered Obese.

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I recently went to the doctor and saw this information noted in my medical records when I got home. The obese diagnosis was simply based on 3 things: my gender. my height. and my weight. Nothing else. My BMI is 30.4% based on these 3 things. No other questions were asked. Nothing else was measured.

No consideration for bone density.
No consideration for muscle mass.
No consideration for water weight.
No consideration or measurement for actual fat mass.

I know that I am not a small human. I have no delusions about my size. Could I loose 20 - 25lbs? Absolutely. I however I would also be losing a good portion of muscle with that number, which at this time I am not interested in. My real body fat percentage at that size would be extremely low, also which I am not interested in.

Two things to realize here:

  1. Being skinny and having a low BMI does NOT equal healthy.

  2. Not being skinny and having a high BMI does NOT equal unhealthy.

As a woman in my late 40’s, I am interested in building my strength, my mobility, and my overall health. I have accepted myself as a big and powerful woman. I have a lot of lean mass. I have very high bone density. And I love my body (on most days!!). This is a body that has birthed 6 amazing humans. It is a body that can train jiu jitsu 5-7 times a week in a room full of grown-ass men and be a serious training partner for them. It is a body that can safely lift heavy things, often heavier than expected. It is a body that can keep up with 20 somethings in most activities that I choose to do. The only real down side is that my jiu jitsu competition weight class is Super Heavyweight…. which means the real possibility of going against people who are 100lbs+ more than me, which honestly is not safe (and I really do hate it and I do complain about it more than anything). For me that is a reason to at least explore dropping those 20+ lbs, but I am not sure that is right for my overall goals and everyday training. One thing is for sure, I certainly wont do it because of a random BMI number on my medical records….

So what is BMI?

BMI is a measure which takes into account a person’s weight and height to gauge total body fat in adults. Someone with a BMI of 26 to 27 is about 20 percent overweight, which is generally believed to carry moderate health risks. A BMI of 30 and higher is considered obese. The higher the BMI, the greater the risk of developing additional health problems.

A healthy weight is considered to be a BMI of 24 or less. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 and above is considered obese. Individuals who fall into the BMI range of 25 to 34.9, and have a waist size of over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, are considered to be at especially high risk for health problems.

Food for thought… The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, yes, that big muscly guy, is also considered “Obese” according to this inaccurate measurement system with a BMI of 34.3%

Let that sink in for a minute. On paper he is obese and at serious risks for health problems. Are you worried for his health? Are you going to be the one to tell him his BMI is unhealthy and that he is obese?

The U.S. government started using BMI in 1980 to establish cutoffs for what was described as “ideal,” “desirable,” “suggested,” or “acceptable” weight. Yes, in 1980…. the decade of the super aerobics.

Yeah…. you heard that right, within the first 45 seconds it said that Alan Thick was “the chairperson for the National Fitness Foundation”… Somehow he was an authority on fitness??? And, yeah, this is an actual “aerobics championship” (how hard exactly can I roll my eyes here???)

So what to do? Measuring body composition with some accuracy is extremely helpful when you commit to a fitness program. However stepping on the scale never tells the whole story. Measuring your hips once tells you nothing about your journey. So I do encourage you to take measurements, and often, but by using a few different methods.

Healthy and easy methods that I recommend:
Weekly or biweekly Progress Pictures.
Monthly or biweekly Circumference Measuring (i.e. hips, arms, calves…)
Weekly Weight Check In’s.
With these three things you will be able to SEE your progress.

So look at your BMI for what it truly is… an inaccurate system put into place by the US government in the 1980’s that can not distinguish between fat and lean muscle tissue.  It literally tells us nothing.

Here is a little more about Dwayne and his BMI…

In Strength,
Deb, who is “obese”, from Oregon

Deborah GarnettComment