bmi is bs

Why BMI is BS: Health Experts Weigh In

What if a tool meant to help you lose weight was a complete sham?

America has a serious problem with obesity. In fact, 42.4% of the population is obese. To help lose weight, many of us use the BMI as an indicator of our health.

Unfortunately, the BMI (body mass index) is old-fashioned and imperfectly designed. When you really use something like this to track your health, you may end up sabotaging your health rather than helping yourself out.

But why do health experts think that BMI is BS, and what do you need to know to help lose weight? Keep reading to discover the answers!

Its Creator Cast His Doubts

Considering how many doctors still rely on BMI, you might be surprised to hear how irrelevant it is. Why is BMI not useful? Just ask the man who created it!

BMI was invented way back in the 19th century by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. He never developed the BMI to be an individual assessment, though. Instead, he was using it to try to figure out the obesity of the general population so the government could figure out the best way to spend limited resources.

But the test was flawed to begin with because all his data came from European men. And he never designed it to assess or diagnose health.

In short, we are using BMI on populations it was never designed to measure and using it for health diagnostic purposes that its creator never intended.

It Doesn’t Work For Active People

When the BMI was first developed, Quetelet worked on the assumption that the average citizen was sedentary. That is still a safe assumption. However, that means that the BMI is inaccurate for those who lead active lifestyles.

One reason for this is that active people are going to have stronger bones and more well-developed muscles. Strong bones and muscles weigh more than fat does. And since BMI focuses on height and weight, you can have very muscled and very toned people who have a high BMI.

When professional athletes would be considered obese by the body mass index, that is proof that we can’t fully trust BMI as a way of measuring our health!

The Science Is Wonky

Part of the reason so many trust the BMI is that it seems scientific in nature. After all, if so many doctors still use BMI, you might think the science behind it would be sound. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all!

Quetelet’s decision to square height to calculate BMI was arbitrary. He developed a formula and then chose the variables that best fit that formula. This is a backward approach and not very scientific at all.

And one of the ways you can tell the approach is unscientific is that it ignores waist size. This is despite waist-to-height being a better way of determining health and despite the fact that waist size is a better predictor of things like diabetes.

The unreliability of BMI is just one more reason it’s better to concentrate on feeling healthy than counting calories or focusing too much on BMI.

The “Math” Is Fuzzy

The whole point of BMI is to try to quantify subjective concepts such as “healthy” or “unhealthy” into numbers that we can measure. But when you scratch the surface, it is clear that these numbers are arbitrary and inaccurate.

Ask yourself: do you believe that a single decimal point can separate someone from the “ideal” category? Or that a single digit should define the difference between “overweight” and “obese?”

And as we noted before, the heavier weight of healthy bones and toned muscles throws all of the math off. And if we can’t trust BMI for numbers regarding our health, then why trust it at all?

It Hinders Medical Science

Why do so many doctors still rely on BMI? In a word, tradition. This was the system they were raised using and later trained to use, so this is the system they stick with.

However, there are other methods that are more accurate. This includes things like Body Adiposity Index, hydrostatic weighing, body fat measurement, and even just measuring the waist-to-hip ratio.

These methods are more reliable than BMI, but they take a bit more time than simply squaring somebody’s height. Therefore, one of the reasons we dislike BMI so much is that the longer doctors rely on this old and inaccurate system, the longer they put off researching and implementing far better measurement systems.

The Dangers of Weight Bias Among Health Experts

Speaking of doctors and the BMI, modern patients often have to worry about weight bias. If you’re not aware, “weight bias” refers to a doctor relying on your BMI too much when it comes to diagnosing and treating various problems.

For example, if someone has a higher BMI, a doctor is likely to blame a host of different issues on weight. This means that the doctor may fail to diagnose the real issue, causing the patient to suffer.

Weight bias has gotten bad enough that many with a higher BMI hold off on going to the doctor. Over time, this worsens their overall health.

Not Relevant For All Populations

The final reason we don’t trust BMI is one that we touched on earlier. Because it was designed with only European males in mind, BMI is less accurate across different populations.

For example, the World Health Organization had to design different BMI cut-off points to measure health risks in Asian populations. And one study found that Black women were considered healthy at higher cut-off points than those who aren’t Black.

BMI was designed with one population in mind, and these issues with accuracy reveal why this is a problem. Ultimately, anyone hoping to lose weight is better off relying on systems other than BMI.

Start Your Weight-Loss Journey Today

Now you know why health experts are wary of using BMI. But do you know who can help you finally shed those unwanted pounds?

From meal plans to fitness plans, we offer the customized service you need to start shedding pounds. If you’re ready to start feeling both happier and healthier, contact us today!

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