Thursday, August 4, 2011

More BMI Bashing (A Good Thing)

Yes, recently I've been bashing away at the BMI. Who knows how many times I will be accused, openly or more subtly of simply suffering from sour grapes. Only time will tell.

But if you think what I have to say is a load of uninformed bull, maybe...just might take more kindly to the opinion of Dr. Arya Sharma, a world-renowned obesity specialist.

As my regular readers know, I have had my ups and downs with Dr. Sharma. Sometimes we just don't see eye to eye, not that I'm in personal contact with him, aside from a wonderful chat we had a few months ago when he was in town. However, the following article is, I believe, a must-read for those whose mental well-being seems to hinge on their current BMI number ("Yeah, hooray, today my BMI is 24.9. I'm therefore "normal". Or: "I've got to lose 22.3 pounds, otherwise I'm clinically overweight/obese and I am DOOMED.").

Here it is: Why I Don't Like BMI.


  1. I don't like BMI either. In fact, I detest the notion that health is tied to calculations. However, for Americans, it is a sad truth that those who have a BMI in the obese (or even overweight) range may have to pay substantially more for health insurance or be denied coverage entirely. Since you live in a country with socialized medicine, this isn't a problem for you.

    Unfortunately, there is what I believe and then there is the grim reality that we live in. I can rail against arbitrary notions of what constitutes "health" all I like, but it changes nothing when it comes to securing health insurance in the U.S.

  2. I officially gave up on the BMI chart when, at my lowest weight (which had me in a size 8) still labeled me as obese. Luckily, my doctor always tells me to just go by how I feel. Those who do use that chart need to consider that they're possibly sabotaging their physical health for the unattainable. Great post.

  3. Sour grapes can be made into decent wine, no?

    BMI is awful. In addition to health insurance, my husband's life insurance carries higher premiums for people with higher BMIs (but has no penalty for going under minimum BMI requirements, to my knowledge).

  4. Three excellent responses. Strange how laypeople can be just as--if not more knowledgeable--than the doctors.

    P.S. This comment is not directed at Dr. Sharma, but rather at another doctor who deigned to comment on one of my posts...

  5. Bmi is obviously misleading in many ways. I had a very interesting conversation with my mom the other day that started under the auspice of 'skinny jeans' and how crappy they look on most people. I said 'you have to be in shape' mom says "well these girls are skinny'...and I introduced her to the concept of 'skinny fat'. A person who is skinny but in craptastic shape. For instance, a boyfriend I had in highschool. Bean pole skinny, but get him to run and he couldn't make it a quarter mile without looking like he was going to stroke out. I was 156 at the time and considered 'overweight'...but I could ride my bike 20 to 30 miles. Just because someone fits into a size 4 doesn't mean they aren't a big pile of mush under those pants.

  6. You know where I stand on this topic ; )

    The good news, is his response is intelligent and wise. The bad news is that it is not the norm among MDs and insurance companies, who now make BMI the determining factor for gastric bypass, which is now seen as a quick fix for all our ills.

  7. Recently, a couple of caring friends have suggested, very gently, that i have perhaps become too thin. It wouldn't be very nice to laugh at them, of course, but they were equally offended, i found, when i pointed out that by BMI standards i'm actually still just a tiny bit fat, just fat enough in fact to disqualify me from buying medical insurance and/or life insurance at slightly *better* rates (lower, and yet still NOT affordable...on the other hand, these same corporations apparently won't object if i donate a kidney, for free of course)*sob* I remain convinced, however: 1) losing more weight would not make me any healthier, but might actually increase risks for specific diseases, 2) BMI will continue to be used as a one-size-fits-all-health risk criteria for as long as insurance companies run the health care and/or life insurance scams, and 3) I may indeed *choose* to lose more weight at a future time for economic reasons (to be able to purchase/afford insurance). Oh, the irony.

  8. I have lost 67 pounds, which took me from a BMI of 37.8 to a BMI of 25.7. I have been stable at that weight for some time, and do not at this point feel I want to put in the effort that it would take to lose the 5 pounds that separate me from a "non-overweight" BMI of 24.8. FIVE POUNDS. How much difference could that possibly make? I am healthy, I no longer have high blood pressure, I run and swim, I eat primarily nutritious unprocessed food. Those 5 pounds cannot possibly be magic. It is a very artificial dividing line.

    But for some reason it still bothers me. I am annoyed with myself that I have come this far and am still "overweight". And then I am annoyed with myself for being bothered by this. ARGH.