There's Nothing Wrong With BMI

When I bring up BMI in a gym, the most common reaction I get is disgust and disdain at the idea of someone or something labeling them "overweight". 

Saying BMI is worthless because it doesn't apply to some people is the equivalent of a group of highway Patrolmen looking at a 15,000 pound fire engine and saying, "How am I supposed keep up in a high speed chase in that thing? The miles per gallon are probably terrible!"

When you see a group of obviously fit individuals complaining about their BMI score, you're looking at the highway patrolmen criticizing the effectiveness of the fire engine. 

Saying BMI is worthless because some professionals apply it poorly is like watching someone trying to hammer a nail into wood with a Phillips screwdriver and standing there with your arms crossed, hollering, "That tool is worthless! Throw it in the trash!"

Imagine a 30 year old, 5'8'' 200 pound man with the following health markers:

  • 175 total cholesterol

  • 75 HDL cholesterol

  • 110/70 blood pressure

  • Resting heart rate of 50

Who has a sub 3:00 "Fran" and abs like Zach Efron...

By classification from the World Health Organization, this theoretical man is "obese".

  • Taking this man's BMI and handing a pamphlet on diet and exercise is absurd.

  • Denying this man fairly priced healthcare coverage is absurd.

  • Denying this man life insurance is absurd.

We can all agree on that.

Doing any of these things is like using a Phillips screwdriver as a hammer. 

Where some might disagree, is the notion that this tool is worthless. It isn't perfect but it's the best tool we have to learn about large populations and quickly identify individuals who's health deserves a closer look! The correlation between mortality rates and BMI couldn't be stronger or more relevant despite more and more people demanding it be thrown out. 

If you want to calculate your BMI, you can do it HERE.

  • Overweight is a BMI greater than or equal to 25

  • Obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30.

Don't take these words personally. It doesn't mean you're fat. It doesn't mean you're lazy and it didn't say your snatch technique is garbage. It just means you have enough tissue on your body to firmly place you in the category of human beings at a higher risk for countless health issues.

I don't care how fit you are, how much you workout, or how good you feel. If you're overweight or obese, it's more than worth it to take a closer look at your other health markers! Despite what you may think, fitness and health are two very different things. Strongly correlated, yes but not one in the same. Fit and ripped people die of heart attacks too!

I couldn't agree more with Alex Viada on this when he wrote,

"BMI is still a valid predictor when it comes to risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) and overall health indicators, almost regardless of bodyfat. In fact, I'd argue there is a small sweet spot where you can be "overweight" on the BMI scale and still "healthy", but once you push past that, you're at higher risk regardless.

Your heart does not care if it's working overly hard to perfuse muscle tissue or fat tissue, many of the risk factors are still at play if you're a larger but leaner individual. In fact, a point made several months ago still stands- you pretty much cannot be "obese" on the BMI scale and still be an ideally healthy bodyfat, unless you're one of the genetic elite..."

You can find his stance on BMI and athletes HERE

We all need an honest evaluation of ourselves. BMI is an objective tool, based simply on the facts, to help us start doing that. Before you yell at me in the comments section let me reiterate that, yes, it's entirely possible that you're "overweight" on the BMI chart but still very healthy.

I just hope this point of view helps you to think a little more critically and thoughtfully about our health and the tools we use to measure it.  


David Barnett