Archives: November 2022

The Limitations of BMI and the Simple Measurement You Should Do at Home

Pink measuring tape coiled onto of a scale

Back in the 1950s, an actuarial calculation known as the Metropolitan Life (MetLife) Height-Weight Table gave us a straightforward range of ideal body weights. While the underlying data was criticized as inconsistent, it considered age, body frame size, and gender. The tables were revised in the 1980s. However, the Body Mass Index, or BMI soon supplanted this widely used calculation. Interestingly, the BMI is an even older height/weight comparison that provides an easy-to-understand double-digit number showing where one lands on the scale between underweight and morbidly obese. When the underlying formula for BMI was created in the late 1800s, it was not meant to be a measure of obesity but has been adapted and adopted as such.

Today, governments, medical practices, and individuals use this calculation as the primary criterion to determine a person’s eligibility for bariatric surgery. Insurance companies even use the BMI to assess the coverage of weight loss procedures, medications, and programs. As you probably know, a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese, while a BMI of 40 or more is morbidly obese.

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Can You Be Obese and Healthy?

plus sized woman smiling

Obesity and its related diseases represent one of the modern world’s most significant public health crises. If we take the US alone, upwards of a third of the population is obese, while almost two-thirds are overweight. This widespread presence of obesity has begged the question of whether you can be obese, yet healthy. The answer is nuanced, so let’s dive right in.

First, we must talk about obesity, which represents a BMI or body mass index of 30 or higher by today’s measurement standards. The body mass index is a rudimentary calculation that doesn’t consider several factors, including muscle tone, body frame, gender, age, and ethnicity, all of which can influence whether a person is genuinely suffering from weight-related problems. However, regardless of the accuracy of the BMI, it is not unreasonable to think that somebody of average stature and frame would be at a higher risk for the diseases associated with excess weight once they cross the 30 BMI threshold.

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