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Screw You, BMI

by Jason Edwards

According the Body Mass Index, I am overweight. I’m 5’8” and 186 pounds. No one who looks at me is going to say “that guy’s too skinny.” No one’s going to call me slender or thin or emaciated. No one’s going to take a look at me and start up a campaign to get me fed.

However, I don’t know what “overweight” even means. Does it mean I’m not healthy? My doctor says all my levels are in the “very good” range (except my Vitamin D, but I live in Seattle, so gimme a break). I ran 5 miles this morning, 4 miles last night (Thursday), 4 miles on Wednesday, 4 on Monday, 8 on Sunday, 6 on Saturday. I can do 30 pushups in a row, 10 pullups. I can touch my toes. So how the #$%^&* am I not healthy? I’m 40 god damn years old.

According to this BMI I have to get down to 164 pounds to be “Normal.” And since a person’s weight will fluctuate on a daily basis, I’d need to get down 156 pounds so that I don’t skirt that “overweight” line. So I’m 30 pounds overweight. 16% of me is unnecessary, heart-stopping, artery-clogging, liver-busting fat.

This is what 30 lbs overweight looks like.

Or I’m not. I typed “BMI is” into Google and it helpfully tried to finish my search query with “BMI is a wrong,” BMI is a joke,” and “BMI is BS.” Dozens of forums with people expressing the same thing as I am expressing right here. And of course, a handful of BMI defenders. “It’s a scale, a tool to get an idea of where you might be, especially if you’re sedentary.”

No it’s not. It’s useless. It’s an arbitrary calculation that people who don’t know you can use to give you a label that doesn’t fit. If your doctor uses BMI to tell you to lose weight and considers nothing else, your doctor is useless. Get a new one.

If you’re sedentary, you’re not healthy, no matter what you weigh. “What about people who are too old to move around a lot, or people who have some sort of condition that doesn’t let them play sports?” Sorry, but those people are not healthy. Whatever their health level is, it can’t be measured against the rest of us.

And if you’re not sedentary—if you’re active, you’re going to have muscle, according to the kind of activity you do, the lifestyle you lead, and your genetic makeup. How can we used the same tool to compare a short Russian bodybuilder and a tall Kenyan runner? It’s not just comparing apples to oranges; it’s comparing watermelons to carrots.

I’ve known this for a while, and I would say to myself, “Okay, fine, I don’t need to be 165 pounds. But I could stand to lose some weight, nevertheless.” Well, I’m here today to say that’s bullshit too. I don’t need to lose a single pound. My weight is not holding me back from anything that I need or want. That I’m never going to win a marathon has nothing to do with my weight. There is no weight I could be that would make me a better husband. The size of my ass will never have any impact whatsoever on the quality, quantity, or general public acceptance of my writing.

The thing I have to remind myself, constantly, is: six-pack-abs is not “healthy.” It’s not unhealthy, but it’s not the only measure of health. It would be nice to have, but it’s certainly not something I should measure my self-worth with.

Do your buns sag a little? Boobies have a little droop? Got some cottage cheese lurking on your thighs? Me too. Yes, I have man-boobs, and they’ve jiggled me over 26 miles of running this week.

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