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The New BMI Calculation & Why I Don't Care

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Back in the stone age of medicine - which is, in my opinion, anytime prior to the work of Snow and Pasteur - a formula was created to capture in a number one's healthy weight - the body mass index or BMI.

Most of you are familiar with the BMI.

Some of you can probably quote your BMI without doing the calculation.

And what BMI value you are working toward.

The BMI formula is a simple one as formulas go:

BMI = weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters.

So for me, that ends up being...

116.8 / (177.8 x 177.8)



And if I had my Wii do the measurements, it would then say in a chipper little voice...

"That's obese!"

Thank you, Wii.
I wasn't aware I was obese.
You've been most helpful.

But now there's this proposed NEW BMI formula - you can read about it here:

And the formula is a bit more complicated...

1.3 x your weight divided by your height raised to the 2.5 power

Which means my BMI after all the mathematical gymnastics ends up being....


And again, my Wii Fit tells me that I'm obese with that value too.


There's a calculator link in that article where you can see the results of the "old" and "new" BMI formulas. That link is:

So what does this mean, really?

To me - not much.

I'm thrilled when we improve mathematical formulas.


But the BMI - be it the old formula that everyone uses or this new fancy pants one - is a formula.

A mathematical representation.

An approximation.

An estimate.

No less and no more.

In the same way that my weight is only an indicator - and an IMPERFECT indicator - of my health, so is my BMI value.

And so is YOURS.

Remember that.

So what's the takeaway from all this BMI discussion in the news?

Well, if the new formula by this Oxford mathematician is used, taller people will see some change as will shorter people.

But does that TRULY affect anyone's health?

Not in my opinion.

Nope, not at all.

Because I KNOW already that I'm obese.
And minor fiddling with some formula doesn't change that.

If you are within, say, 5 or 10 kilograms of your "ideal" or "healthy" or "normal" weight, then some BMI formula change might alter some numbers but it doesn't change where you are.

It doesn't change anything about YOU.

Only some number that attempts to QUANTIFY your health.

And formulas are limited in their capacity to do that.

There are many other numbers that are useful.
And any good physician is going to employ those numbers as part of the process of assessing your overall health.

Things like your resting heart rate.
And your blood pressure.
And the results of a blood panel.

Yes, your weight is a useful measurement.
And so is your BMI - which is, of course, based on your weight.

But it doesn't tell the WHOLE story.

And mathematical formula changes won't make you healthy or unhealthy.

ACTIONS YOU TAKE will do that.

So TODAY is a great day to take positive, healthy steps to improve your overall health.

Don't you think so?

Nothing's changed.

Eat in moderation.
Eat a diet that is varied and full of the nutrients your body needs.
Hit your daily net calorie target value.
And do a little exercise.
Eschew stupid things like fruit juice fasting and diet pills.
And focus on your long term health.
And be forgiving of yourself when you slip up.
But be mindful about what you put in your mouth each day and the decisions you make.

You can do this.

You are strong.
Strong enough.
Strong enough to succeed in reaching your thoughtfully determined goals.
Strong enough to overcome setbacks and doubt.
You are much much stronger than you might think.

Remember that.

And hey...

Make it a great day!


Member Comments About This Blog Post:
STONECOT 1/22/2013 11:37AM

    Also, BMI was originally formulated to measure whole populations. It was never designed to measure individuals, and as such is worthless. It's just another 'diet myth' that has been taken as gospel!

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FITNHEALTHYKAL 1/22/2013 11:35AM

    Matt, we are in the military and thus far this hasn't happened with our insurance but I have heard horror stories from people about insurance coverage and BMI. You are right - it's a # as is that on the scale really. What is more meaningful to me is the joy I find throughout the day in being able to go outside with the dogs and walk them without discomfort taking in the pleasures of the world, attending athletic events and not being fearful that I won't fit in my seat and the same applying to a plane ride. THOSE are the things that matter to me. The rest are just #'s until some bean counter tells me otherwise....Thanks for a GREAT blog!

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ITSMATT 1/22/2013 11:27AM

    @DOLLFACEDX - feel free! Hope it is helpful - that's the whole point, right? Encouragement.

Make it a great day!

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DOLLFACEDX 1/22/2013 11:19AM

    I actually celebrated the day my BMI 'told' me I had slipped from Morbidly Obese to Simply Obese. . .but I agree with your statements above.

We tend to get so caught up in the technology, the latest craze, etc. - getting back to the basics outlined in your blog is key and cannot be shared enough.

I borrowed a portion (eat in moderation . . .) of the above to share so that more may see your gem of wisdome....hope you don't mind.


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8THTIMEUP 1/22/2013 11:12AM

    I hate that Wii guy. emoticon

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CARRIEDD 1/22/2013 10:54AM

    I think sometimes we obsess way to much on the numbers and not the lifestyle change! If we focus on living our healthy life yes the numbers will go down and that is what we want but we need to stop feeding our obsessions and just live a good healthy fit life! Thanks for sharing I loved it! emoticon

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SHANTODD420 1/22/2013 10:49AM

    Thank you for sharing matt and you are so right it is just a number. Have a great day.

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BANDMOM2012 1/22/2013 10:36AM

    Great blog.

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FLGIRL1234 1/22/2013 10:28AM

    "Thank you, Wii.
I wasn't aware I was obese.
You've been most helpful."

emoticon I couldn't stop laughing!

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GINGERHAWK 1/22/2013 10:17AM

  It's so easy to get caught up in a number, isn't it? Thanks for sharing this - I wasn't even aware that there was a new BMI calculation under discussion - shows you just how out of the loop I am!

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LACIEKAY 1/22/2013 10:10AM

    BMI is something i use to give me an idea of where i should be. i can look in any mirror and tell you where i am right now.. lol.

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BARB5970 1/22/2013 9:59AM

    I can get very hung up on numbers so adding anymore numbers that will make me stress is not a good thing. Even the numbers on the scale make me neurotic, so I'm focusing on make healthy choices and getting exercise. The numbers will take care of themselves.

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CHOOSE2LOSE2014 1/22/2013 9:56AM

    I never really have paid much attention to BMI because I too know what its going to tell me..Im Obese..I really hate that word too..Makes it sound like we are these morbid freaks... I am taking my weight one day at a time and thats the only way I can think of this journey for now...Although I do look forward to being out of the Obese catagory Im more concerned with my choices from day to day...Yesterday was my official first day back and it went fairly well..I stayed active and ate rite..I did slip but I cant let that set me back. Ive learned to just keep moving forward...Another great blog, thanks Matt for all your Blogs they truly keep me thinking... emoticon emoticon

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MS_PERCEPTION 1/22/2013 9:56AM

    I enjoy your thoughts and how you express them. Thanks for sharing this. It's so true!

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    Thanks for sharing this!

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HEYNOW22 1/22/2013 9:45AM

    Thank you so much - I am struggling with a stubborn plateau that was beginning to get into my head - your blog has brought me back to focus - if I keep doing what I need to do to improve my health that is all that matters - I hope you have a great day!

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CATHEMARIE 1/22/2013 9:45AM


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    To me any measurement that doesn't take into account body composition is not telling the complete picture. When you're grossly overweight, probably into the obese category, BMI isn't bad because body composition is largely fat. Lowering BMI = losing fat = good. When you're in the "overweight" or "healthy" category, using the scale or BMI as a goal is a terrible mistake. Of course, this is a very scale focused environment, so I don't get a lot of supporters :)

You might find this interesting.


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MUSTANG_SALLY2 1/22/2013 9:28AM



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