BMI – Don’t let it Define You.
Sam walked into my office and before he even sat down, blurted out that he was too fat to get insurance. What? Like, What?? Sam was by appearances NOT overweight at all. He was tall sculptured and looked vibrantly healthy.
Visibly concerned and upset. Sam was told that his BMI was too high. He was very overweight bordering on obese and should do something about it if he wanted to get insurance coverage. Still in absolute disbelief, I really wanted to swear at this stage, and I wanted to swear a LOT. I knew where he was going. It’s that damn BMI calculation again. BMI don’t let it define you.
Without going into the semantics of the BMI calculator it was created some 200 years by Belgian Academic called Quetelet. Being flawed it is outdated and still unfortunately used by medical professions, insurance companies and governments. I believe there was some form of update in America around 1985 but whichever way you cut it, BMI does not actually measure how fat you are. There is no differentiation between muscle, bone or distribution of fat throughout the body. Muscle as we know is very much denser than fat.
Hence this is the reason athletes, body builders, football players and boxers to name a few, may end up with a BMI reading that allocates them into the overweight and obese category. This in itself shows the inaccuracy of BMI, yet we continue to be defined by it.
As I listened to Sam unleash with vitriol that a flawed and outdated chart had in some way sealed his fate, I couldn’t help wonder if the physician actually looked at him at all. Clearly, he is not overweight, he works out, he has muscles and a lot of them, but not overweight. He questioned the result, he questioned they physician for his opinion of whether He thought he was overweight or not. – the answer was – This is the range you are in given the factors that determine your BMI from the Chart. Where do you go from there? Sam asked.
Lucy recited how her walk of shame through the waiting room. The guilt the physician made her feel was a defining moment for her. But could quite easily have destroyed her.
Lucy, who had lost some 23kg was told in no uncertain terms that she must be doing something wrong because her BMI has not reduced. When she questioned the result, she was dismissed. She was right to question the result it’s definitely wrong if it hasn’t changed after a 23kg loss. I see clients getting a BMI reading and becoming obsessive about it because they are confused and overwhelmed.
While Shaming people with a high BMI may not necessarily be the intention it certainly is the outcome for a large number of those who find themselves overweight or obese. With an already fragile body image, shaming intentional or otherwise, actually has the opposite effect and can send some into a deeper state of overwhelm than they were before their BMI result. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon.
Far more accurate means to measure fat, muscle and bone are available to us now. It should be used instead of too much emphasis being placed on the BMI result.
Some fat is ok but too much fat in the wrong places is definitely a health risk. Researchers note that the best measure for excess body fat involves the circumference of your waist.
BMI is also used as a marker for those wanting or needing Weight Loss Surgery. A lot of emphasis is placed on BMI in this instance by Surgeons. Initially one needed a high BMI to qualify for Weight Loss Surgery. Over the years the parameters have shifted with a lowering of BMI qualifiers allowing more people to participate in these programs.
Excess body fat around the middle has been linked to serious health issues including diabetes, stroke, certain cancers and heart disease.
If you really want to know your body composition find a gym or health practitioner that has modern equipment giving you a detailed map of your body and body fat. There are also mobile practitioners who will come to you with their equipment and perform the assessment in the privacy of your home or office. No Shame, No Guilt, No Judgement.
My personal advice to Clients and others is to ditch the BMI. Focus on what you can do to reduce your weight and regain health. Seek out help from someone who gets you. Someone who will guide and support you.
We clearly know if we are overweight or obese, its generally obvious. Understanding and solution would go a long way to encouraging weight loss and dealing with our obesity health crisis. Numbers from outdated charts are no longer relevant.
If you find yourself needing help with specific weight issues or want a free 30 minute strategy call please contact us at www.savvybariatrics.com.