Sunday, December 25, 2005

BMI: RIP

[I'm tempted to have another piece of pumpkin pie, so I'll put up a blog post to withstand the craving. Blogging is a good thing by which one can ward off the munchies...]

Have you ever calculated your body mass index [BMI]?

If not, here is a site where you can do so. The categories are: <18.5 = underweight; 18.5-24.9 = normal; 25-29.9 = overweight; and >30 means obese. Feel free to share your BMI with the world!

Last night [Christmas Eve], I was goofing around on the computer and decided to check mine out. I'm 6' and weigh 215 lbs. The BMI calculator says that the PP BMI is a whopping 29.2. According to this scale, I'm barely out of the obese range and am on the outer fringe of the overweight range!

If we accept this, I'm one of those American fatties. From the Wikipedia article on the topic of BMI, a 1994 survey seemed to indicate that three fifths of American males were [at least] overweight, having a BMI over 25; half of American females were [at least] overweight as well.

Consulting various "What weight should you be for your height" calculators, I've seen that 6' large-framed adult males should be around 165 lbs at lowest up to a maximum of 190 lbs.

So, I'm between 25 and 50 lbs overweight according to these scales. I'm obese according to the BMI scale.

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But are these one-size-fits-all calculators really worth anything? Let's review the facts:

(i) My waist is 32-33". I have no gut whatsoever, and you can see my upper abs.
(ii) I run 30-35 miles per week on a treadmill and the street.
(iii) I play full-court basketball two nights a week.
(iv) I lift weights fairly intensely for about an hour at a time, four or five times per week, usually with the Daveman.
(v) I could crack a 7' mile [and then I'd get sick to my stomach], and could put out at least 15-16 miles with rested legs. [Note: I was so enflamed at being called obese by a BMI calculation that I ran 8 miles around the neighborhood at 10pm on Christmas Eve just to stick it to the BMI calculator.]
(vi) I eat fairly well, eschewing junk food, fast food, sugared colas, etc.
(vii) Resting pulse rate = mid 40's. The nurse stated that was very low, but then I told her about (ii)-(v) above. So, if I understand her correctly, I have a very low resting pulse rate due to all the cardio conditioning.

6' overweight and borderline "obese" people [relative to BMI] are not supposed to have 32" waists while kickin' out half marathons on little more than a whim. Fatties can't crack 7' miles or chug out 7 miles at a sub 8-minute pace.

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Now I'd like to hit 190 lbs within the next three or four months. That would take me from a good physique to a very good physique or "somewhat ripped." I could run and run and run down to 190, but then I'd lose muscle and strength, so that sort of weight loss is sub-optimal. The trick is to hit 190 while adding to strength. Surely, dropping another 25 lbs [mostly fat, we hope] will push me into the "normal" range on the BMI and out of the "overweight" range?

Well, the BMI calculator gives a BMI of 25.8 once this goal is achieved. Take a good athlete, lop off another 25 lbs, and he drops from 29.2 to 25.8. He's getting close to the "normal weight" category, but he'd *still* be overweight according to the BMI system.

I'd have to drop into the high 170's to low 180's just to get at the high end of the "normal weight" range. The last time I weighed 178 was in 1989-1990 [Age 18-19]and I was bagging groceries for close to minimum wage at a local supermarket. Even with a 29" waist at the time [the good ol' days], I'd still be slightly overweight.

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Starting February or March, I'm going to go on one of those bodybuilder "shredding" diets [or will try to do so] because I'd like to get my body fat percentage down under 15% or even under 10%. I'm not sure how successful it will be, but it will be an interesting experiment. At 34, you're not getting any younger, and it would be fun just to see how far one can [healthily] go, even though one has the creeping suspicion that you can't keep it under 10% for too long if you want to have a life! Even then, the BMI will probably list me as obese or overweight.


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Most of the guys I played basketball with and lifted with would also be considered obese by the BMI calculators. When you see some 5' 10" running back who weighs 235 lbs, he's severly obese by the BMI, even though he runs a 4.4 second 40 yard dash. Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, who I believe weighs 250+ lbs, would be moogoo obese by the BMI scale. My favorite NBA player, Peja Stojakovic, who is 6'9" and 220 or so [he's pretty lean], is very close to "overweight" by the BMI scale. Shaq is very obese by this scale.

Some of the bodybuilder types at the health club would also be considered pretty obese by the BMI scale alone, even though they're ripped and anaerobically well-conditioned.

******

The whole little excursion to these sites has been interesting. If the BMI calculation is used as a major or sole determinant of whether somebody is overweight, it is a small wonder that some survey lists 60% of American males as overweight [and 50% of females too].

None of this is to make excuses for, nor to justify, the "fat lifestyle." [Though I've been on both ends of the fence, trust me.] Being overweight is no moral failure [perhaps a failure in other ways though], though chances are that people will find you less attractive in a first world Western culture if you're packing the lbs on. And it is not "society's fault" that people are overweight, either, but people are responsible for their own lifestyles and choices.

Personally speaking, I've been at both extremes, having gone from running 7 miles at a 7 minute/mile pace to a weight that should not be mentioned in polite company! Losing weight is not difficult [most of the time], but, alas, gaining bad weight is not difficult either!

Once again, I wonder if those survey numbers mentioned above really tell the whole story. If BMI is the sole or major numerical measure, then the percentage of overweight/obese people reported is higher than reality. And if healthy athletic people whose doctors commend them on their most excellent health and conditioning are considered obese and overweight by this scale, what value does this scale have?

In the end, it seems that you have to be some really skinny person with non-muscular legs, or some extremely lean person, to meet the BMI's approval. I'm not writing this out of any defensive feeling, [hmmm...typing that sounds defensive], but, c'mon, when a measuring system gives you results and labels that defy in-your-face reality, you just have to wonder.

Anybody else in the same boat?

9 Comments:

Blogger Steve Jackson said...

I'm 5'3" and weigh 139. According to the BMI, I'm 24.6, which is on the high side of normal.

Most people think I'm thin, but I feel a little flabby now and have historically been 128-132. So personally I think this calculation is correct.

Monday, December 26, 2005 4:22:00 AM  
Blogger steve said...

It's obvious that the BMI was either devised by anorexic fashion models or vegans--maybe both!

Monday, December 26, 2005 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

SJ --- hmmm....OK.

The calculation has to have some objective basis, I'd think. It just stings being in really good shape and being told that you're overweight!

Steve --- what is your BMI?

Monday, December 26, 2005 2:12:00 PM  
Blogger Der Fuersprecher said...

That calculator doesn't seem that far off from my perspective.

I'm 6'0" and weigh 180 pounds (I have a 33-34" waist too so I am a bit surprised at your 215 lbs weight considering your waist size) - and I'd like to drop another 10 pounds to get to a really comfortable weight for me (which would get me to a 23.1 BMI).

I also can bench press 270 lbs and I do over 100 sit-ups a day (and I recently ran an 18:30 5K) - so I consider myself fairly physically fit.

Monday, December 26, 2005 8:02:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Ah, my max at the bench press is around 250 [one time only].

But I can match you sit-up wise.

On the other hand, if you can chug out a little over 3.1 miles in 18:30, you're the faster pastor. I don't even know if I could run a single 6:10 mile right now.

Well, now you've inspired me, Rev Jenkins. OK, I'm a fattie. Grrrrrrr....

It looks like nobody is backing me up here. So, I'll go hide for three-four more months and drop another thirty lbs. Maybe I can get some "vitamin" shots from my friend "Jose."

The waist measurement is a true story. I have muscular legs and thicker-than-normal thighs, a combination of all the running and squats done over the years [we think].

Monday, December 26, 2005 9:26:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Chris --- I will not rest until I surpass you in all categories. Be warned --- you are a marked man.

Where are those "B12" shots I ordered?!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005 3:55:00 PM  
Blogger Der Fuersprecher said...

Chris --- I will not rest until I surpass you in all categories. Be warned --- you are a marked man.

Eric - I'm worried. Especially in light of the B12 supplements.

BTW - all this concentration on theology is causing your vaunted mathematical skills to fade.

An 18:30 5k is run at a hair under a 6:00 minute per mile pace (18:36 would be a 6:00 minute per mile pace).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Uh, Chris, here's a paper cup. Random testing time.

I know about that "creme" you've been rubbing into your knees. Flaxseed oil....right.....

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 1:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If a man has broad shoulders and a deep or deepish chest, by all those indexes (insurance, BMI, whatever) he will be overweight if not obese. They are a relic of another day and age when the population was for whatever reason Frank Sinatra type thin and sleight of frame (or they are giving answers that for whatever reason insurers or whoever want to hear).

A six foot man who weighs 170 or 165 or even 180 is not going to have much of an upper body, or thighs or calves. I think way back when they took an everyman who had mostly English DNA (none of the three major American sports in England you know) and continue to judge everybody by that standard.

Friday, December 30, 2005 5:30:00 PM  

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