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Your BMI May be Misleading

Pop quiz: What does an obese person look like?

BMI (body mass index) is a number health professionals use to classify people into categories based on their height and weight. It’s a simple equation that gives a single number, but not always an accurate one.

A person’s BMI is determined by dividing weight by the square of the person’s height. The number that comes out then corresponds with a health classification. A BMI of 25 or less classifies a person as being of a normal weight. If the number is 25-29, the person is overweight, and 30 and above is obese. The weight classification is what signals to doctors how at risk for health problems you are. It ‘s assumed that the closer you are to a normal weight, the healthier you are.

The issues with BMI are glaring: a 5′ 8″ athlete that weighs 200 pounds has the same BMI as a 5′ 8″ sedentary person that weighs 200 pounds, putting them into the same health classification. BMI doesn’t take the quality of a person’s body mass into account. The athlete who eats properly and exercises regularly is the same on paper as the sedentary woman who is over-fat, eats poorly, and is at high risk for heart disease. Something is off.

We generally look at someone to decide if they are fat or not. It’s hard to ignore the fact that someone who is 100+ pounds overweight is probably unhealthy, but more often what happens is that BMI offers a false sense of security for those who are of “normal” weight by society’s standards. These people are often assumed healthy, and are given a healthy BMI, when they may be in danger of obesity related medical issues.

America does have a weight problem, but it isn’t unique to the overweight. Exercise and eating healthy has been attached only to wanting to lose weight, so those who feel they have no weight to lose feel immune to the need for both. This has led to the “skinny fat” phenomenon which is secretly plaguing many women.

How often do you hear a thin woman say, “Oh, I don’t have to watch what I eat, I’m naturally thin”?

Good for her, but she still may be obese.

While some women may be able to scarf cheeseburgers and not gain a pound, that saturated fat and those excess calories are still doing damage. Those excess calories still turn to fat, and that saturated fat will still strangle their heart.

You can technically be a normal weight, but still have excess body fat due to poor diet and exercise habits. Even though you can slip into a pair of size six pants, you can still be overweight.

No matter what you weigh, if you have a high body fat percentage you are still at risk for obesity-related conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes.

Don’t envy those who don’t have to exercise and eat right to maintain their weight, because no matter what their pant size, it’s health that matters, and theirs is probably suffering.

August 30th, 2010

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