Friday, January 24, 2014

4 Reasons to Forget Your BMI Right Now

This whole blog summed up in a pic. Now scroll down and watch me rant.

So the entire health and fitness industry has been royally ticking me off lately, and one of the plethora of annoyances has been that people care entirely too much about the Body Mass Index, or BMI. Let me skip the pleasantries and get straight the point.

At the time of this post I am 5'11" and 210 lbs. I have visible abs. My BMI is 29.3 and I am thereby overweight and less than 1 point away from being obese. According to the BMI, for me to be considered "healthy" I should weigh between 132.66 and 178.55 lbs. Forget that.

Along with age (don't even get me started), the BMI is the most worthless and inaccurate number used in gyms today, and you probably shouldn't even bother paying attention to it. Here's why:

1. You want to look athletic. Yes, you do. Stop arguing, yes you do. If your gut response is, "No, I want to look toned," slap yourself immediately. First, toning doesn't exist. Secondly, what do you think that "toned" look is? Lean body mass and low body fat. There's a reason why those workout motivation posters have taken over all things social media; the vast majority of people don't want to look skinny.

So what does that have to do with my BMI? It is widely accepted that the Body Mass Index is an inappropriate measurement for athletes. Why? Because...

2. If you really exercise, it's absolutely useless. By exercise, I'm specifically addressing those of us who weight train with a purpose. The reason why it's worthless in the case of athletes is because it doesn't account for muscle mass. In other words, it sees you as a blob. You could be chiseled out of granite or look like a Muk Pokemon, it doesn't matter. You're a blob that is this tall and ways this much. Somehow both are in the same health classification and are at the same risk for heart attacks and diabetes? Blob please.

3.It turns the scale into the Boogeyman. C'mon, we're still not over this yet? Aren't there enough people with eating disorders and body dysmorphia already? For people who are trying to get lean, this subconsciously teaches that lower on the scale = good and higher = bad. Even if you know that the BMI is no good with muscle, you can still feel bad for doing better!

4. There are much better measuring options. If low body fat is your goal, why not measure wellIdunno FAT?? Even if you're trying to gain some muscle, you can more accurately measure how much of that extra mass is muscle vs. fat. Throw in circumference measurements with a measuring tape and you've got a pretty clear picture of body composition. Every competent personal trainer knows how to use skinfold calipers, so why the heck are we still using the BMI?

In summation, The Body Mass Index has become a very dated resource for determining someone's health. It's not the inventor's fault, he came up with it in the mid-1800's. We as health professionals have completely dropped the ball on letting this stay relevant. Life insurance companies even look at your BMI before determining the price you pay, and a higher score means a higher premium. I'm paying more for trying to be a fit beefcake? For trying to live longer? Are you kidding me?

 If at all possible, have your body fat and body cirumferences measured. That way, you can fully understand what your body is comprised of and develop strategies to achieve or maintain those optimal numbers. And if you think I'm done ranting, just wait until the next one...