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To BMI or to not BMI

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I have a ton of updating to do, including my sister's wedding, vacation, a friend's wedding, and other fun stuff. I'll get to those (with pictures), but again my mind was wandering.

I broke the 170s this week much to my surprise as with vacations and celebrations I have not been as diligent with my food tracking, but as the scale showed, I made healthy choices and stayed active and still managed to lose when my goal was simply to maintain.

The best part about my sister's wedding was that I got to see my family, and of course, they gave me a lot of positive feedback on the hard work I've been doing. I get the bigger body frame and darker features from my dad's side, but my (lack of) height from my mom's side. Needless to say, my mom and her sisters are tiny little things, but they all stay very active. You'd be hard-pressed to determine that they were in there 50s and above.

My Aunt Karen said, half kidding, half joking, "Just make sure you don't over do it. You don't want to get too skinny."

Ah, that comment. I knew what she was saying, and it wasn't anything mean. She just wanted to make sure I was being healthy and doing things in a smart way (she is a nurse after all). Losing 90 pounds in less than a year is a big body change. But true to form, it got me thinking.

My Mii on Wii Fit finally lost the hoodie of shame as I hit the "Overweight" designation this week. I was happy, but my body definitely did not resemble my overweight Mii. My stomach is rapidly shrinking, and I'm putting on more muscle.

My friend Kelly, who has always been skinny, said that she is even considered overweight.

So my question is: Does BMI matter?

In some cases, yes. I know anesthesia is highly dependent on BMI for dosing and safe practice. But I'm not sure if that accounts for muscle mass vs. fat.

I'm starting to think no. I have nearly 40 more pounds to go before I reach a "healthy" BMI. I don't know where those 40 pounds will come from and I'll still be recognizable to myself. I need to tone; this I know, but 40 pounds. Geez.

Is there a better measure of healthy than BMI? I was lucky. I decided to get more active before I had any serious health issues. I don't have a set number or size in mind. I feel healthier because I have more energy and I look like the average woman now. I feel the world's clothing stores are now open to me in a way they weren't before. So do I need to focus on BMI? If I chose not to, will I still feel okay when my Mii is called "overweight" although I can see the muscles and flexibility in my body?

I'm just curious about what others think and what you do to measure your ideal healthy body. As for me, I'm not sure about BMI.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    BMI is a rough guess. A really accurate measurement is body fat percentage. The most accurate way to do this is to go to a professional and get measured with calipers. However, I purchased a decent scale that also calculates body fat percentage by sending a faint electronic signal up one leg and seeing how long to get to the other. (You cannot feel it.)
    1776 days ago
    Good question about BMI I know the doctors are really into "BMI" It can go 2 ways body builders BMI usually tells them they are over weight and they don't have an ounce of fat on them ! So it is a double edge sword In my own case my doctor is insisting that I lose about 15 more pounds she isn't taking into account my body fat %. All I want is to be at healthy BMI

    emoticon forward don't let any of this sidetrack you
    1776 days ago
    Congratulations on your accomplishments! I guess I haven't really thought much about the BMI issue besides how it relates to me and cancer. I've been told that being at a healthy BMI reduces my risk for cancer significantly, so it has been my goal. My personal opinion before cancer was that people could be healthy at all shapes and sizes and did not really correlate to BMI.
    1776 days ago
    I think that's been the hardest thing for me; I have no concept of "skinny Renee." I'd been over 200 lbs. since my teens, so this is some serious adjustment.
    1776 days ago
  • MEMEME75
    BMI calculated online can only tell you so much. You should think about getting a "true" measurement of BMI that is done with calipers that provides a more accurate picture of BMI. Perhaps with the significant weight loss and body changes over the year, it's time for a general physical with your doc and/or 1 session with a personal trainer to give you ideas on how to continue from this point forward?

    PS...When are we going for a walk?
    1776 days ago
    I honestly think there is a certain wisdom in BMI. Yes, it can be inaccurate for people who are really short (like under 5 ft), people who are body builders with tons of muscle, and people who are very, very tiny in build (like my sister, whose body is normal sized/shaped at 100 lbs at 5'3, when according ot BMI she's underweight). But for the most part, I think it's fairly accurate. Of course, when you're on the line between normal/overweight or overweight/obese, it can seem a little off, but I do think it is a good measure to at least guide by. The range takes into account a lot of possible muscle weight. Plus, as we lose weight, we don't JUST lose fat, as much as we'd like it. We do lose some muscle. I've noticed as I've gotten lower and lower in the overweight range, that my body seems to be doing a lot of rearranging. One day I'll have very little fat covering my bones/muscles, but a week later, I have a thicker layer, even though my measurements stay the same (or get smaller). I can only guess that my body is moving fat from inside to outside, redistributing. I have no idea if this is a scientifically-verifiable thing, but I"ve definitely seen it happen multiple times since about 5-10 lbs over the overweight line. So maybe some of the weight will come from inside you.

    Having said that, I'm not sure that BMI should be the ONLY indicator. It CAN be off. I like to think of it as a guideline, but not a rule, something to shoot for, but if I get to 5 lbs over my "normal" weight and look as thin as I did in college, I'm not going to try to lose more just to hit a certain number, you know?
    1776 days ago
    Thanks for your input, everyone!
    1776 days ago
    I'll use a general "you" throughout this post. Which considering the length I'll be posting to my own blog. :)

    I was resistant to gauging myself by BMI for a long time. The thing you hear most often is that many pro athletes are obese. Well, football and baseball for sure, but there are only 4 NBA players who fall into the obese category. And if you think about football and baseball players, they are more concerned with mass and power than speed in many cases. Since BMI divides your mass by your height *squared*, the very tall are going to be at especial disadvantage, which is why there are any basketball players in the obese range.

    It's also true that BMI was devised to evaluate populations, not individuals. The obese designation is the boundary at which an increase of death from weight related causes has been observed across a population. While muscle weighs more than fat, if you take a whole population the bodyfat percentages will average out.

    Bodyfat percentage is it's own ball of wax. I've been hydrostatically weighed and I have a set of skinfold calipers. Everything I've heard about the electric impedance meters is that they likely rely on BMI calculations. Like, if you accidentally enter that you are male, not female, they magically give you a lower bodyfat reading. Even if they are reading your electrical imedance, it is going to vary based on hydration and mineral concentrations. So that brings us back to skinfold and hydrostatic weighing, and one takes a second trained person to do it right and the other is 50-100 bucks a pop. There's also measuring tape, but I'm kind of too impatient for that. Over 6 months and 25 pounds, my waist dropped maybe two inches, which I'm grateful for, but Dr. Oz promises that in two weeks (I'm not going to try his diet, but I heard that and was like BLAAAAHHHH.)

    So while BMI is far from perfect for evaluation of individual weight, it's kind of what is possible for most folks. Scientists have found that people who are overweight (but not obese) according to BMI are more likely to survive traumatic injury such as a car accident. The fat apparently acts like airbags for the internal organs. For this reason, I want to get to the top of the normal range but probably not a lot below that.

    One other way to figure out whether extra weight is fit or fat is to take fit tests, which are in the weight tracker. I just started doing those this month (I've been tracking food and doing intermittent workouts since the start of the year). You see how many pushups and crunches you can do in a minute, how long it takes to walk a mile, and what your cardiac response to 3 minutes of step ups is. The step up test was kind of a pain to set up, and is pretty intense so while every exercise says "ask you doctor first", really be cautious on that one or wear a HR monitor while you do it if you are not at least sort of fit.
    1776 days ago
    I struggle with the same thing. Unless you go to a personal trainer and they actually track your fat vs. muscle (apparently this can be done) your BMI will not reflect the healthy you! I know i have more muscle than other women and I know this because when i used to go to weight watchers I would get on the scale and the women would be like no way you weigh more than me and they were seriously round! I use the scale to measure loss but I also use the tape measure and how my clothes fit! I have 20 more pounds until I am in the healthy range and I don't know where they will come from or if i can even drop that much more myself. I know I need to tone so hopefully more strength training will do the trick! Great job and keep working on you and your goals!
    1776 days ago
  • WILEE323
    At 5'10", 170 lbs, and 24% body fat, I'm borderline overweight on the BMI scale. I have a very muscular build which BMI does not take into consideration. I wouldn't put too much emphasis on any one measure as none are truly accurate for everyone. Personally, my ideal is when I fit into a size 8 pants. Pay attention to how you look and feel and you'll find your own personal "healthy" ideal!
    1776 days ago
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