There is a commonly used term, “ideal weight”. This implies that there is a magic weight everyone should have that will keep you healthy and free from disease. It is simply not true. Each of us is an individual, and we have different body shapes and sizes. There is not one right weight for everyone.
Many ideas about “normal” weight are expressed using BMI, or “Body Mass Ihint. This is a formula using only a person’s height and weight. The person who came up with the BMI, Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, said it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fat in an individual. Quetelet was a mathematician, not a doctor. He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the level of obesity in the general population to help the government allocate resources.
In the 20and Century, the idea was adopted by life insurance companies as a way to calculate premiums for a large population. The medical establishment picked it up and started spreading the false information that BMI somehow indicates health.
So what’s the deal with BMI? It does not take into account the relative proportions of bone, muscle and fat in the body. Bones are denser than muscle and twice as dense as fat, so a person with strong bones, good muscle tone and little fat will have a high BMI. So, athletes and fit, health-conscious people who train a lot tend to end up overweight or even obese. And one more thing that’s wrong with BMI: it doesn’t take gender or age into account!
The next time you come across a health professional telling you about your BMI being too high or too low, don’t listen. Remember that BMI was designed to assess large populations, not individuals.
I use the word “fat” instead of “overweight” because the latter term implies that there is an ideal weight that we should all be. It is simply not true.
Ellen Glovsky is a Key Biscayne resident, published author, and registered dietitian and nutrition coach. Her work aims to help people explore and improve their relationship with food, using a “Health At Every Size” approach. She is also involved in the island community with her work on KBCF’s Women’s Giving Circle. For more information, visit nutrition-coach.com