September 23, 2010

is BMI bs?

Well to that I would answer yes...and no.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure used as a screening tool to indicate a healthy range for weight vs height for an average adult.  It is controversial because adults who we might generally think of as normal size will often register as "overweight" because the calculator does not take into account frame size, muscle mass, and changes in body composition with age.  BMI was not developed with the intention of being used as widely as it has in the health field (see this interesting article, thanks to a fellow blogger), and there are more accurate indicators of healthy weight status.  In short, it is not perfect and certainly should not be the only factor used to determine health status.

With that said, let's ask ourselves: why does this matter?  

One reason is somewhat obvious: being categorized as overweight or obese by a generic "one size fits all" tool feels...well, bad.  Especially when BMI puts what is now the average American into these categories (and let's just be honest - the average American isn't in this category because of high muscle mass).

Yet, researchers who use this tool are not using this to measure your "hotness".  They are trying to understand risk factors for diseases related to being overweight, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, certain cancers, and more.  What studies do show is that higher BMI's, despite the many variables, are linked with health risks.  

Are you looking at BMI as a measure of how thin you are, or as a measure of your health? You know your body, you know how you feel and you know if you are living the lifestyle that keeps your body at its best.  Someone "20 lbs overweight" by whichever medical standard who exercises regularly; eats ample fruits,vegetables and whole grains; drinks plenty of water; and gets enough rest is arguably in much better health than a "thinner" person who does not do these things.  

Your "BMI status" might not be accurate...but in many ways that really does not matter.  What does matter is your health, your energy level, your perception of yourself, and your happiness.  So I would ask: how do you feel about these things? 

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