Body Mass Index or BMI has long been considered the standard of measuring how “obese” a person is based on their height, weight and age.  However, did you know that the BMI was invented by a statistician who had no medical background or interest in the study of obesity?  The BMI chart was originally developed by Adolphe Quetelet in 1832; it was initially called the “Quetelet Index”.  The BMI chart was officially adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1995 as the standard measurement of obesity.

Limitations to Body Mass Index

Body Mass Index has many limitations in determine if a person is obese.  It does not consider the fact that muscle weighs more then fat.  For example, Duane “The RocK” Johnson, former WWE Superstar and Actor, is consider obese by BMI standards.  But have your seen this guy (picture below)?  He is the definition of muscle.

Body Mass Index

Body Mass Index: Does he look fat to you?

Furthermore, the BMI chart does not consider bone density at all.  In general, thicker, heavier bones is a sign of good health.  It means our bodies are less brittle, less susceptible to getting hurt. But higher bone density means higher BMI, which means that BMI punishes what should be a positive health indicator.  In addition, the BMI chart does not consider where fat is being stored which is a huge indicator of overall health.  This article demonstrates how similar individuals (same age, ethnicity, and fat mass) carry their fat totally differently.  Water retention is a factor as well.  I know for myself I can carry 5 to 15 pounds of excess water weight based on my hormonal changes and diet.  Higher sodium intake and too many carbs can make your body hold on to excess water.

In summary, it is not advisable to use a 185-year-old calculation that does not reflect bone density, water and muscle weight, and fat distribution to determine health!  These clear flaws with the Body Mass Index (BMI), show why it should NOT be the determining factor of whether or not you are obese and/or at risk for certain medical conditions.  If your doctor is still holding on to this archaic tool as the ONLY determining factor of whether you are fat or not…I would look for a new doctor.

Other tools to determine obesity

We live in the age of science, technology and information .One way to determine how much fat you have on your body (remember it is about fat loss not weight loss, see my blog) is to get a hydrostatic weight.  Basically, you get in a tub of water and exhale all the air our of your lungs and they measure how much body fat you have against the water density.  It cost about $40.

You could also get a DEXA (Dual-Energy X Ray) scan which give the exact breakdown of fat, muscle, tissue and bone.  It takes about 10 minutes to do the scan and get the results. It is very accurate.   Costs range from $150 and up.  Another alternative is a simple “pinch test”.  You use skin calipers to pinch folds of skin in different areas of your body.  Based on those numbers, plus height and weight, a trained professional can come up with a reasonable estimate of body fat percentage.   If you have a certified personal trainer, they should have a pair of skin calipers and should be able to calculate it for you.  Otherwise, you will have to find someone, and the cost depends on the individual.  But I wouldn’t pay over $10 (it is not that time-consuming or hard).

Another way is …. surprise, surprise…YOU!!  Are you tired all the time? Do you not like the way you are looking in your clothes? Do you have weight related health issues? Does the scale ask if there is another person on it? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, then you may want to come and visit InShapeMD.  If you follow our instructions, you will lose the fat and learn how to keep it off.  Make an appointment today.