I am a true believer in the value of BMI, aka Body Mass Index. It is a simple, albeit simplistic, tool that tells us at a glance if our weight is healthy. For most of us living in the developed world the answer is a simple, “No.”
The BMI gives a numeric value indicating the ratio of one’s height to weight. There is no alternate chart for men or women, large boned versus small, muscular or sedentary, and for the vast majority of folks inhabiting the world it works great. Truth is, most of us fall into the over weight, obese or extremely obese categories. Don’t like that fact? Lose some weight.
When I say, “Most of us,” that certainly includes me. I have been weight conscious for as long as I can remember. A BMI of Eighteen and a half (18.5) to twenty four point nine (24.9) is the magic range. If we fall into that range our weight is deemed healthy. Go above and you’re searching for trouble, go much above and the trouble will find you.
As the chart is unisex it needs to be read with a discerning eye. Men tend to be heavier than women and should expect to be on the high side of healthy. My wife, a very athletic five foot ten inch woman, was heavy at 165 pounds, though this qualifies as a normal weight for her. At 185cm/73 inches I feel best when I am at the 175 pound range, a mark I haven’t hit in over 25 years! 189 pounds is my official BMI normal range cut off and for me it is spot on.
The higher I go beyond the 24.9 cutoff the more health problems I have. GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux, rears its head, my knees, back and joints hurt, and I feel lethargic. Diet and weight are tied to blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes and a host of other mortality and morbidity indicators.
For me BMI is a perfect tool. (The only time I was underweight was when I turned 14. That lasted about a year. Most of my life I’ve been overweight and have hit 210 Lb or a BMI of 27.7 a few times in my life. I experience a definite loss of quality of life in that weight range.) According to the National Institute for Health (NIH) being overweight is a major health issue that affects over 75% of men in the USA- three out of four! Sixty nine percent of Americans fall above a BMI of 25 and among those that do 36% are obese while 6.3% are extremely obese. (1)
Okay, so why should you care about BMI? And more importantly why is it anybody else business how much you weigh?
My answer is two fold. One part is that there are people to whom you are important and you owe it to them to care for yourself. The other part is that we all have to pay for your folly.
Obese doesn’t just kill, it costs. Weight and lifestyle affect nearly every aspect of our health care system. According to the California Healthcare Foundation we average nearly $9,000 per person for health care costs here, a total that reaches 2.8 trillion dollars annually. (2) Other estimates go as high as $3.8 trillion. (3)
There is a lot of talk about loving ourselves, loving our bodies, accepting our forms. Great thoughts when applied in a healthy fashion, but let’s align this important concept with what we know about healthy relationships. If someone abuses you year after year and you not only put up with but enable this abuse that makes you a victim, not a roll model.
At the beginning of 2015 my BMI was 27.7 but I have dropped nearly 10% of my weight in the last six months and I now stand at 25.3, a mere three pounds or 1.36 Kg above that 24.9 cut off. Do I feel better? Incomparably so and while I won’t worry about that last 1.6% of weight that is belly fat I won’t give into it either. This could be the year I go all the way and reach that 175 pound, 23.1 BMI goal that I’ve talked about for the last 25 years. Are you with me?
Obviously we do not all need to be long distance runner skinny, but who doesn’t deserve to be tone, taut and trim? I find diversity lovely and I hope we can all love ourselves but if we treated others to the abuse many of us do to self we could be charged criminally for neglect and abuse. I don’t see how that aligns with love nor a positive self image.