BMI IS BS.
This has been a heated debate in the last couple decades because many believe that using a rigid system to account for someone’s overall well-being may be discriminatory and dismiss other factors in people’s lives. BMI can be inaccurate in determining a ‘healthy’ weight for an individual for many reasons. While this research has grown more popular over the last few years, it always bears repeating in fitness and health, as we encourage everyone to focus on becoming healthy rather than focusing on specific set numbers on a scale.
What is BMI?
BMI or Body Mass Index is a height to weight ratio that determines the weight category a person can be sorted into.
These categories ranges are:
BMI under 18.5 – This is described as underweight.
BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 – This is described as the 'healthy range'.
BMI between 25 and 29.9 – This is described as overweight.
BMI between 30 and 39.9 – This is described as obesity.
BMI 40 or over – This is described as severe obesity.
These categories are again, determined by a person's weight in kilograms (or pounds) divided by the square of height in meters (or feet). However, as many of you know, this is not an accurate way to determine someone's health. This is because BMI does not account for muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, racial and/or sex differences that can have a major impact on people’s weight in relation to their height. This may not seem super important, but in the realms of fitness for those of bodybuilders and athletes who have more muscle mass can have a BMI in the overweight or obese category, when in reality they have lower body fat percentages. I have experienced my doctor placing me into the obese categories when I was a full-time athlete and there was a time where I was obsessed with lowering these numbers, not understanding the consequences of these thoughts. While BMI can be helpful in some cases, it should be taken with a grain of salt depending on your lifestyle.
Why this matters to us:
There are many people who go to the gym with one goal, to lose weight. But what people don’t understand is that their real goal is to lose body fat. This is important because while doing strength training, for example, the numbers on the scale may simply not move downward or might move upwards at the beginning, which can be very discouraging. What is happening often in this case, is that the person is gaining muscle while also losing body fat, therefore they are weighing the same or more since muscle weighs more than fat. Women especially, tend to retain and need a larger body fat percentage to maintain overall health, making it hard to lose body fat since naturally we hold onto it.
While BMI may be helpful in determining potential risk factors that go along with your weight, it is important that this number is used as a guideline and speaking with a professional is more important to understand your health and overall body composition. This categorization was used to screen for obesity and often misses crucial factors, but it was motivated or introduced to prevent diseases and health problems that are associated with people who are overweight. This is because many people who are overweight are more at risk for diseases such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and other heart related diseases.
BMI may not accurate, but that should not discourage you from achieving a healthy lifestyle. Numbers on a scale should not be the main motivator for your fitness journey, your health should be. So no matter where you start, no matter your BMI, it is starting and continuing to dedicate yourself that does matter.