Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Soap Box Wednesdays: TMI about BMI

Today is my first Soap Box Wednesday post! I would've posted this last week, but I've been encountering serious blogger's block and plain ol' laziness. Since I was inundated with responses for topics of discussion for SBW *sarcasm*, I've decided to share my thoughts on BMI,  otherwise known as Body Mass Index.

So before I share my thoughts, let's start with the science:

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for adults. However, BMI is not a diagnostic tool. For example, a person may have a high BMI. However, to determine if excess weight is a health risk, a health care provider would need to perform further assessments. These assessments might include skin fold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, family history, and other appropriate health screenings.

The Metric Calculation for BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared: xx(kg)/[xx(m)2]  [shout out to all my international readers!]
The American Calculation for BMI is your weight in pounds divided by your height in inches squared multiplied by 703: xx(lbs)/[xx(in)2]x703

or you can skip this trip down middle school algebra lane and use a BMI calculator like this

...So what's my BMI?
weight: 116 pounds [yeah I'm not that girl who won't reveal her weight. I told people my weight when I was 134 pounds, I just don't care that much...] height: 64 inches [yeah...I'm vertically challenged, so what!]
*random math mumblings* [carry the 1...cross multiply 703...I really suck at math, lol]

OK, so what the hell does that number mean??

Well, the standard weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults are: 

Below 18.5 Underweight

18.5 – 24.9 Normal

25.0 – 29.9 Overweight

30.0 and Above Obese

It's just that simple.....NOT!

What if my BMI isn't "normal" does that really mean I'm overweight?
Is there an ideal BMI or weight I should aim for?
Is BMI biased/skewed more toward those of European descent and doesn't factor in my ethnically influenced body shape and "shapely gifts"?

*My Thoughts*

IMO, BMI generally does what its supposed to. The range in values for each category are fairly generous to allow for variations in body type and weight distribution, including some of those shapely "gifts from the motherland". Height and weight do have a strong correlation to your body fat distribution; if you're only 5'2" and weigh 150 pounds, the odds are, you truly are overweight. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean the system is perfect.  Since BMI only factors in weight, and not body composition (ratio of body fat, muscle, and bone) it can lead some people astray. You need to first understand your body and be honest with yourself. If you have a naturally athletic/muscular build, and/or you're walkin' around all swole like Terry Crews or Serena Williams, you may end up with a 25+ BMI score, because muscle weighs more than fat.

Damn, I gotta get my weight up!

If this is what you look like, a body composition measurement will give you a more accurate interpretation of your weight (you can get a body comp measurement at most local fitness clubs, more info about body composition can be read here.) Just remember that the term overweight really means "over fat", and being over fat is bad for your health. Looking like either of these two, if naturally acquired of course, is not.

Big boobs and some extra junk in yo' trunk may also skew your BMI score, but if you have junk in yo' gut, thighs, arms, etc as well, then you could probably stand to lose a few pounds. Which brings me to my next point.

So if your BMI is above "normal" (25-29.9) and your not a walking ad for Gold's Gym, you may want to lose a few pounds. And when I say a few, I don't mean you need to lose 20lbs. I don't really believe in an "ideal" weight or BMI (singular) but I am a fan of an ideal range of weight/BMI (3-6 pounds). Again, this goes back to knowing your body.  I've always had a small build, my nickname is preschool was "tiny-tot", I've heard every skinny joke imaginable [my favorite was "you're so skinny, you could hula-hoop with a cheerio"...c'mon that's damn funny!]  While at first, I was a little shocked to see my BMI to be so low at 19.9, it wouldn't make sense to desire a BMI of 24. Even with having a naturally muscular build when I was at my "studyin' n munchin" weight of 134, my BMI was 23, and it didn't always look great. Likewise, if you have never been forced to drink Ensure shakes by a mother who refused to listen to doctors who said, "she's fine, she's just small"** [no bullshit! I can't drink milkshakes to this day..] then perhaps aiming for a BMI of 19 is unrealistic, and probably unhealthy.  It has been discussed within the medical/research community*, that a 5-10% reduction in overall body weight can result in significantly improved health outcomes (blood pressure, blood sugar, blood lipid levels, etc). Granted this sentiment generally applies to those who are Obese (BMI of 30+), it's a good place to start your weight loss goal even if you just need to shed a few pounds, for whatever your motivation is. So if you're 5'4", 150 pounds, BMI of 25.7, you can start with a goal of losing 7.5 -15 pounds. Its nothing drastic, and if you go about losing the weight properly (i.e. no crazy diets, no insane workout regime that you can't possibly sustain), then you're off to a really good start.

One last point I'll make is that a low BMI can also be deceptive. Body Composition is an important factor here. You may have a naturally small frame, a non-muscular build, and have a normal BMI of 20, yet still have body fat composition that is higher than what is considered healthy. There are probably a good deal of women who may fall into this category, especially those "naturally thin" women who are completely INACTIVE. I'll say it once more, you need to understand your body. Determining your body composition isn't something you can do on your own, ask about it your gym or doctor's office.

Hopefully this information has been helpful. I think I'll step off my soap box now...

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? How did I do for my first soap box post? Should I follow up with a body composition post since I mentioned it several times?

*I recently read about this when trying to land my dream job--well not so much a dream job, the the dream stepping stone job. I had a phone interview, got my hopes all high, and then they got left high and dry. Sigh, another rant for another day...
**for the record, I really don't like being called "small, little, or petite" i have too much personality for those terms. I prefer to think of myself as "travel size" lol...


  1. Hooray for Soapbox Wednesdays! I know my BMI is high and it's not because of muscles! Thanks for this. :)

  2. Great post. I have no comment on BMI :)

    What do you eat on a typical day? What's your exercise routine?

  3. @ Zdubb, glad you appreciate it!

    @ Keeley, my eating patterns vary wildy. But on a "typical" day, and by typical i mean the good habits i've been trying to keep to for the last two weeks: which means eating 3 squares a day (for the last couple months, i had a really horrible habit of skipping breakfast and lunch, then gorging at dinner). I'm a fan of cereal and milk, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, chicken dishes, pasta, bacon and pancakes/french toast. I try to buy fruit at least once a week, berries are my favorite because they also dress booze so lovely. i try to be conscious about eating veggies, but usually end eating spinach and broccoli almost exclusively. I don't necessarily watch what i eat, but i don't eat whatever i want. now that i can eat pork and beef whenever i want to, i'm back to watching my intake of it (after 2 weeks of mcgriddles and bacon and burgers) you know, everything in moderation. except water, i try to drink more water than anything else. i'm not big on juice, but coffee and booze are my weaknesses, so i go through phases where i'll not drink coffee for weeks at a time (can't say the same for booze). as for my exercise routine, i walk a lot. i walk to work (6 blocks) and i try to walk kona at least 6 blocks a day, when it gets warmer, its more like 10 blocks a day. i used to do some light running, but it didnt' agree with my knees. oh and of course i take pole dancing classes, once a week typically, aiming for twice a week now.

  4. I dont think I'd want to know my BMI!lol Im working on getting it lower!! I've always shared my weight too, i dont think telling someone your weight is going to change the way they view you i mean its not like their blind

  5. You're too funny! I wouldn't have a problem stating my weight if I only weighed 116lbs!! I haven't figured out my BMI, but I know that my weight "should" be in the 124-155 range, which means I few a bit more than a few pounds to get there! But I'm half way there, so that's always exciting :) I also think that if I were anywhere near the 120's, I'd look sickly! So 150-155 is my ultimate goal, and even that might be too thin (I'm pretty tall)! Thanks for the info :)

  6. I share the same sentiment. Our body builds vary according to person, it's best to study what works and what doesn't work for you. Of course, the common denominator to realizing the sort of body and health we wish to attain stems from good eating habits, excercise and sleep. Good article!

  7. I agree with Solomon. Nutrition and diet is mathematical the formula includes nutrition and excercise.

    "Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you've got a kingdom.” ~ Jack LaLane.

  8. @ L, as long as you're working toward a goal, its all good! but you shouldn't be scared to face your BMI, its not so bad

    @ Maddy, you have been kicking ass with your weight loss, go girl! and the opposite is tru for my weight range, i could go all the way up to 145 pounds and have a bmi of 24.9, I think the only way i could pull that weight and look good is if i grew some boob, hips, and booty. i guess i can always dream, right? glad you like the info!

    @ solomon, you bring up a really good point about sleep. maybe i'll talk about that the wednesday after next (this is a bi-monthly series)

    @ the surveyor, i like that quote, so simple, but essentially true. and i just checked out your blog, and it looks like some good reading for when i get home.


  9. Great post! My friend and I were just talking about BMIs and how they should be more "culturally sensitive" i.e. accomodate those of us with "junk" :)


    serena's body puzzles me sometimes. She's so thick yet set so fit! her legs and stomach. You have someone like Ciara whose also very fit but lean and skinny and then you have Serena whose also very fit but very thick at the same time. Interesting!

    Have a great week girly!



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