The BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a simple and reasonably reliable measure for body size – except in a few cases.
a) If you are a particularly petite body size or still a growing child (in this case it may earmark you as underweight, when in fact, you are not), or
b) if you are extremely muscular, as in a body building competition level or professional athlete, (in this case it may class you as overweight, when you simply have an above average muscle mass – and this can pose a risk in itself – see below).
For everyone else, BMI is a good measure.
You can find out your Body Mass Index here: <click here> It will take just a few seconds.
You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to find images of a group of normal weight people together on the Internet for this post. Either I had to get a group of Asians or a group of Africans (which is what I did). All groups of Western adults included many people as overweight at least. Except for
- fitness sites where everyone was doing aerobics or weights together,
- people on a diet plan, and that was advertising,
- images where everyone looked under 21 years old,
- old pictures, such as soldiers from WW1.
Here is another picture of a person with a normal BMI – a sugarcane workers in Asia. These days, in the West, being overweight is actually “the norm”.
More than 66% of us in the West are classed as overweight, meaning our BMIs are over 25.
When people drop below 25, at first people think they look great, but as it dips further towards 21, concern arises: “My dear, have you been ill – aren’t you getting too thin?” When in fact you are well within the normal range. If you lived in some parts of Asia, you would still be considered overweight! Their normal is 18.5 – 21, as ours used to be before it was altered so the whole population didn’t class as ‘overweight’.
We worry when people today start looking like people in our parents day normally did. I recently looked at my parent’s old slides. Everyone looked lean – no one was fat or even chubby amongst all their friends and acquaintances. Yet when anyone looks like that today we shudder and think they are “too thin” or just have “model’s genes”.
What if you are just muscular?
I have heard it said literally dozens of times that “My BMI is higher because I work out at the gym or I play football”. Yes, muscles – a lot of muscles – will give you a higher BMI – but at what cost.
Studies of thousands of American linebackers (footballers) over several decades, who gain muscle weight to excel in their game position – die up to 20 years younger than other footballers. Numerous older weight lifters have had heart bypass operations, due to heart disease. ‘Big’ is not healthy, no matter how you get there. Lean and muscular is very healthy, but huge and muscular is not.
You might win a Mr Universe competition, but fail to see your grandchildren grow up – which will it be?
No matter which way you look at it – a high BMI is unhealthy – whether it is fat or muscle pushing it higher.
Friends – we have got too used to fat. Thousands of children in the USA classed as obese were recently interviewed and asked if they thought they were overweight. The vast majority said “No, I’m quite normal” or “Maybe just a little bit overweight”. So used to overweight had they become they no longer knew what normal was!
Even our dogs (and cats) are getting overweight and we’ve forgotten what ‘normal’ is.
If your BMI is over 25, you are in the overweight category, and with it comes risk of health problems. Lean is healthy, it has always been healthy – and we have virtually forgotten what being lean looks like. And when we see it in our husbands and friends – we call it unhealthy and want to fatten them up!
Being under 18.5 BMI for over 6 months by choice is classed as underweight and possibly anorexic. Over 18.5 has never posed a health problem in itself.
A normal BMI will not make you look like a model – unless you are right at the lower end of ‘normal’ and include regular cardio exercise and lifting weights in your lifestyle. But all within the normal range of 18.5 and 24.9 are healthy weights.
*Note: Many models are actually underweight. Twiggy’s BMI was 15.5 which is definitely in a health risk category. That’s not what anyone is encouraging.