BMIs are a load of hooey

Everywhere you look, people are giving you a number. It’s not weight, anymore, because the idea that your weight determines how healthy you are has been soundly discredited. It’s not waist size, even though multiple studies have connected waist size to heart health, diabetes, and every other major disease.

No, it’s your BMI (or body mass index). Everyone is telling you how to calculate it, giving you a number that is a healthy range for your age. Online calculators abound.

I got my BMI from this calculator. It’s 23. This places me in the “normal weight” category. A couple of problems with this calculator: it didn’t ask me my gender, it didn’t ask me my age, and it does not tell me ANYTHING about how much of that weight is fat or muscle. Also, by calling this a “normal” weight, it does not tell me if that weight is HEALTHY, but only that it’s “average.” And confusingly, the next category down is “underweight,” and the next category up is “overweight.” This leads me to believe that “normal” is the only healthy option.

That is bovine fecal matter. We know that the average American carries around an unhealthy amount of fat. So why would “normal” be considered synonymous with “healthy?”

For example, Hugh Jackman, at 6’2”, weighs in at 210. According to the oh-so-simple calculator, he clocks in with a BMI of 27. Overweight. This is when he’s in his Wolverine shape and probably the healthiest and sexiest human being on the planet. But according to his BMI, this actor and body builder and health fanatic... is fat. Again, that is bovine fecal matter.

Though there are many ways to determine health (How about how often do you suffer from basic viruses and bacterial infections? Do you injure easily? Do you lack energy even when well-rested?) but if you really really must have a number, I suggest calculating your body fat percentage. This will tell you so much more than the abstract BMI does. At least with body fat percentage, you can get an idea whether the weight you are carrying is healthy or not. We know that not carrying enough fat is unhealthy, but so is carrying too much.

Here is a useful chart for determining where your body fat percentage should be. As far as calculating it, you can use this online calculator which is pretty good, but the only way to get a truly accurate reading is have a trainer or doctor measure you with calipers. Using this method, I discover that I am about 30% body fat, which is WAY above where I ought to be as a healthy woman, even though my BMI told me I was “normal.”

I want to get my body fat percentage down to 21%. Follow my journey by subscribing to “Losing Weight After 30.”

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