The BMI Scale is a joke. It has inaccurately mislabeled Americans for decades, and now science is finally catching up to what many of us fitness professional have said for so long: it is a greatly flawed assessment of health.
Last week, LA Times reporter, Amina Kahn, wrote “a new study from UCLA finds that some 54 million Americans who are labeled as obese or overweight according to their body mass index are, when you take a closer look, actually healthy.” Hooray! It’s about time we recognize the BMI scale causes more damage than good. It is grossly inaccurate for most people. It does not take into account nutrition, fitness level, activity levels, or body type. Laughably, most of its “victims” are health professionals, or those with amazing physiques who have a higher mass of muscles than body fat!
What is BMI?
Body Mass Index (BMI) is “a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women,” according to the National Institutes of Health. It is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of the person’s height in meters. A “healthy” BMI is 18.5-24.9, an overweight BMI is 25-29.9, an obese BMI is 30 or higher, and “underweight” is anything less than 18.4 on the scale.
Why the BMI Scale is Crap.
I am 5’8 and weigh 158 lbs. I fit very comfortably into a size 8 jeans, and am in the best shape of my life. I mostly eat healthy, God-made foods but I also enjoy my pizza, wine, and dark chocolate. On the BMI scale, I am 0.8 points within the “healthy” category. A mere 6 lb weight gain would push me into the “overweight” category.
To the left is a photo of me from 3 weeks ago. Do I look 6 lbs away from being overweight? Do I look like someone who could lose 36 lbs and still be placed in the “healthy” category instead of the “underweight” category?
This is exactly what’s wrong with the BMI scale! It is not a reliable indicator of health, and yet medical professionals have been using it as such.
Why Do BMI’s Inaccuracies Matter?
We often can’t run from the BMI scale even if we try. Here’s a couple ways the mislabeling could be impacting you:
- Pressure to lose weight by unhealthy methods
- Some schools are including it on report cards and, as a result, identifying healthy student athletes as overweight (!)
- Under-eating based on incorrect belief of calories in:calories out
- Medical records showing you’re “unhealthy” when you’re healthy; or “healthy” when you’re not (e.g. underweight visually, but “healthy” according to BMI)
- Higher health insurance rates
- Increased rates for employee health benefits
- Changes to government-regulated recommended daily intakes based on obesity epidemic
Ignore the Bathroom Scale & BMI Scale
Don’t let bathroom scales or BMI scale define you! It’s just a number; not a reflection of your health and wellness. The danger in using the bathroom scale and/or the BMI scale is that you increase your risk for, what I call, hating yourself towards skinny. This means under-eating or starving yourself to lose weight, or having complete reliability on a packaged product (such as meal replacement shakes and bars) to lose weight. There’s freedom when we change our perspective so that we eat for health, not for weight loss. Build strength by remaining active. Forget the scale. Once you heal the inside, the outside will follow suit.
For more, please check out my YouTube video taken from my 2/10/16 broadcast on Periscope: