Before the pandemic, a practice had started in my school where teachers asked students about their BMI or Body Mass Index. I had heard that word for the first time. So to know what actually is BMI, I did a lot of research on this topic from many trustworthy resources. And now I think I am capable to tell you everything about ‘What is BMI ?’
To give you an idea of acceptance of BMI in our society, for some people it has proven its usage whereas for many it is considered overhyped and kind of ‘not-convenient’! So now let’s see why is it so!!
What is BMI ?
So, basically, BMI or Body mass index is a value or a number that can be derived simply by putting your height and weight into a formula which is –
With the use of this formula, a person can be categorized into 4 broad categories, to generalize one’s obesity, based on their BMI value. A certain value of Body Mass Index is put under a certain category as follows –
- Underweight (under 18.5)
- Normal weight (18.5 to 24.9)
- Overweight (25 to 29.9)
- Obese (30 or more)
And as simple as this BMI may seem, it is actually not. Because it has a lot of problems associated with it. And oftentimes they are unheard or unseen by most of its users. As a result, these “people” tend to follow it like it is the god equation for determining someone’s health.
So now let’s see what all are these cons of BMI, and then decide whether BMI is really useful or not !!
The “unheard” and “many” cons of BMI !!!
- IT IS OLD – Do you know that the formula which we use today as BMI was actually derived by a Belgian astronomer, mathematician, statistician, and sociologist named Adolphe Quetelet. And it was formed almost 2 centuries before the present time of the Corona pandemic. Now you may say that it is not right to say something bad about a formula just because it is old. Well, I may not have a proper answer for that but I have a good argument. See, 2 centuries is a hell lot of time and we have progressed so far in science within this period. But still, even with such advanced machines and knowledge in medicine and science, why aren’t we using a better equation or a better way to fully understand one’s physique. And if there is such tech present today, then why it isn’t been used as widespread as the BMI ?
- “IT’S DENOMINATOR’S EXPONENT IS ARBITRARY” – I think this statement of Nick Trefethman perfectly sums up this point – “BMI divides the weight by too large a number for short people and too small a number for tall people. So short people are misled into thinking that they are thinner than they are, and tall people are misled into thinking they are fatter.”
- DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MUSCLE AND FAT NOT CONSIDERED!!! – To explain this point, let me take some examples of athletes. Serena Williams, Dwayne Jhonson or “The Rock”, Cristiano Ronaldo. Do you know what is common in them? They are muscular!!! And because of this, they all have a BMI equal to or higher than 24. This means that they are close to being overweight. But are they really near to being an overweight person? NO!! They are far from it. I think you got the idea of what I am trying to convey. When we talk about weight, it includes muscles, bones, and fat. So, the thing is that weight can’t determine whether someone is fat or not, based on BMI in every case.
See, it is your wish, at the end of the day, whether to continue checking your BMI. You may want to continue using BMI for your satisfaction but don’t believe in it holistically. So I would advise you to not continue its practice as it may be misleading for you.
Rather you can use several other alternatives of BMI which have been found in today’s world but most of them are not known to a great percentage of humans because they are practiced very less frequently.
- The better FORMULA – The professor of Oxford University, Nick Trefethen devised this new formula which is a lot better than the 200-year-old formula which is still used widely. Here is that equation –
- The Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR) – The fat which is found near waistline can very clearly indicate whether our body. And according to Wikipedia, “A 2010 study that followed 11,000 subjects for up to eight years concluded that WHtR is a much better measure of the risk of heart attack, stroke or death than the more widely used body mass index”. The formula for WHtR is waist(in cm)/height(in cm). Like BMI, this technique also has an index which categorizes you into different categories based on your WHtR value. To know more about this technique click here!
- Surface-based Body Shape Index (SBSI)– This is probably the best technique of all to know about your fitness levels. As, according to survey from NHANES, SBSI was way better than any other known techniques available to know about someone’s fitness. Here is the formula for finding out your SBSI value –
Here, H= height, WC= waist circumference, BSA= body surface area, VTC= vertical trunk circumference. To know more about SBSI, click here.