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Real World Results

Monday, July 16, 2012

Spark friend 4A-Healthy-BMI posted this link over the weekend comparing BMIs with people across the globe.


My results:

25BMI - Normal (upper range)
National Average - Below Average (lower than 76% of females age 30-44)
Global Average - Above Average (higher than 58% of females age 30-44)

I'm most like someone from Hungary.

Playing with the sliders, I'm just above the threshold of the 24BMI global average for my age group.

More women in my age group are overweight or obese than I am. I am on the high side of 'normal'. That means the 'average' is overweight or obese. 'Normal' weight is below average.

Playing with the tool some more, I put in my starting weight of 160lbs.

31BMI - Obese
National Average - Above Average (lower than 62% of females age 30-44)
Global Average - Above Average (higher than 91% of females age 30-44)

I knew the global average was going to be bad. The national average, though, is still startling. Even obese, there are a staggering number of US women who are morbidly obese. I had 44% bodyfat at 160lbs, and that is just in the 60th percentile. I had to push the weight in the calculator to 200lbs in order to reach the 90th percentile with 39BMI.

I put in my husband's info, and he was mortified. I'm not going to share the specifics because it's his personal info. But needless to say, it was a wakeup call.

If we're going to turn this around, we're going to have to admit there is something flawed about the advice we've been given in the past 30 years.

I looked up statistics from the CDC to see if Americans were following the advice of "exercise more, eat less".


Since 1974, Americans have increased their net average calories.

1971-1974 Average calories (age adjusted):
Men: 2450
Women: 1542

2005-2008 Average calories (age adjusted):
Men: 2656
Women: 1811

How about composition?

1971-1974 Carbohydrates|Protein|Fat:
Men: 42.4 | 16.5 | 36.9
Women: 45.4 | 16.9 | 36.1

2005-2008 Carbohydrates|Protein|Fat:
Men: 47.4 | 15.6 | 33.6
Women: 49.5 | 15.8 | 33.8

The general dietary advice starting back in the 80s was eat less fat and more grains. While the numbers may not seem huge, the general trend is that Americans tried to follow this advice. Carbs went up, fat and protein went down. Thus the general increase in calories is primarily coming from carbohydrates.

The next piece is whether Americans followed the advice to exercise more.

1998 Met aerobic guidelines:
Men: 45.4%
Women: 35.1%

2010 Met aerobic guidelines:
Men: 52.1%
Women: 43.7%

Again, general trend is Americans are attempting to exercise more. At least half the population meets the minimum guidelines for regular exercise. This exercise should be compensating for the general calorie increase, and thus slowing the trend. But this isn't happening.

Healthy weight Americans (18.5-24.9BMI) 1960-1962
Men: 48.3%
Women: 54.1%

Healthy weight Americans (18.5-24.9BMI) 2007-2010
Men: 25.8%
Women: 33.6%

Wow. The number of healthy weight Americans has dropped at a staggering pace. Let's look at this again. If at least 50% of Americans in 2008 are meeting regular exercise, then why isn't at least 50% of the overweight/obesity rate dropping? Obesity and morbid obesity are still climbing. There is no sign of it leveling out or dropping, despite aggressive campaigning.

Let's stop blaming compliance. Americans have shifted their macronutrients, and are exercising more. There are enough people complying that it should have shifted the national statistics. If it were working, the trend for obesity should slow or trend down. If this was all to the story, then this should have resulted in a slight general decrease in overall body weight, or at least a halt.

I see people working their butts off at the gym week after week who seem to never lose weight. I used to be one of those people, so I understand the story all too well. Do everything right, and there's no reward.

At what point do we admit the strategy for the past 30 years isn't working as a cover-all blanket, and we need a new solution? Or multiple solutions? One diet does not rule them all? While most of human history has been about surviving starvation, Americans are now tasked with surviving being crushed under our own body weight.

I was only able to break out of being a statistic when I looked at my own results and said, you know what? My real world result said this wasn't working.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I avoid grains, but I sure still love my sugar. And I don't mean all that processed crap, I mean like HONEY, maple syrup, REAL stuff. That is my vice! The sweets! Crazy thing is I actually eat LESS sweets than I ever have in my life yet the weight is still slow to come off. Must be that old age!
    2163 days ago
    If you haven't read Gary Taubes "Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It," you might enjoy it - I don't agree with 100% of what he says but it sure made a lot of sense to me - and heck, I don't agree with 100% of what anybody says [probably including what I say, haha!] - either way, it was a well-written book and includes a ton of similar research.

    Great blog - thanks!
    2164 days ago
  • BOB240
    It's not just Americans.. it's the West. There is far too much easily available food around.

    For the decades around the second world war the UK had limited food. The government rationed food to what could be produced locally on farms. As a nation we were all on 2000 calories a day (approx) and filled up on vegetable, fruit,milk and meat. The result?

    Well it's well known but as an example my grandparents died when they were 83, 85, 91 and 93. My grandfather who died at 93 smoked 60 of the worst cigarettes a day from the age of 14!

    We are now at a stage as a nation where thoser born today - desite advances in medical care, have a lower life expectancy than those born in the 1960's.

    What a legacy emoticon
    2165 days ago
    ...oh wait.....it's not that I didn't listen to reason.......All reasonable arguments for low carb were censored. I vow that I will do my part to never make it that way.
    2165 days ago
    V, have yur hubby check out Peter Attia. His blog is great, and I think it appeals to guys.
    2165 days ago
    I believed the low fat line completely and blamed non-compliance on my lack of willpower. So, I did not listen to reason, and would not have done low carb except that I backed into it accidentally. Now I can't believe that it took me so long to do it. I continue to brave the main message boards because I wish that I had read comments like what I write 20-30 years ago. It would have saved me from so much mental and health anguish.
    2165 days ago
    GETSTRONGRRR: I'll have to make him read your blogs! Maybe other people having success with this will convince him I'm not really crazy! Well maybe I am, but not about this!

    CATLADY52: It would be great if people would start backing away from the pizza box, one household at a time!

    SALONKITTY: You have an excellent point about BMI being a better indicator for populations, rather than individuals. I don't hold high hopes that the industries around healthcare will reverse course soon, though in order to have things happen on a mass scale, it is necessary. The thing I am trying to do as an individual is to make a lot of noise and make things uncomfortable for them.

    That really bugs me about the comments from people on the general boards: 'it's only a small percentage of the population'. I've been here 5 years. To see the number of blogs from desperate people crying their eyes out because they can't understand why it's not working doesn't suggest it's a small part of the population. The way that it is said shames some of these people from speaking out. As though admitting the low-fat diet doesn't work for them makes them some kind of genetic malfunction. It's very wrong, and it prevents people from finding what might work for them. I'm particularly bitter about this because, well, this was a contributing factor in my case. I was warned away from it, and never given an objective pro/con discussion. I happened to stumble on a thread where JustBirdy was arguing with the conventional wisdom that made points I researched further. That finally gave me a start point on what I should be looking for.

    NEILITHICMAN: I'm not sure a race based BMI scale would work any better for me since I'm half Korean and German! Which one do I chose? I'm short stature like an Asian, but broader build like a European. I prefer to keep track of my bodyfat, for sure. But on the other hand, there is something psychologically comforting that I'm no longer "overweight" on the BMI scale, even if it is flawed. Just one more thing off my list.
    2165 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/16/2012 8:41:40 PM
    LOL I guess not.

    I was a little suprised to see New Zealand so high on the table. But I suppose that part of that could be the make up of our population with quite a high percentage of our population being pacifi islanders. Tonga, Samoa, Micronesia and the Solomon Islands are all in the top 10 countries in the world for average BMI.

    I did read somewhere that someone had proposed a sliding scale depending on race. With a healthy BMI being 18-23 for asian races as their frames tend to be lighter whereas it would be 22-27 for pacific Island races who tend to have larger frames.

    I guess I'll just have to find someone who can measure my body fat percentage so I can use the FFMI (fat free mass index)
    2165 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/16/2012 7:42:27 PM
    Great post, Vhalkyrie. I had a friend who posted this same link on Facebook, proudly crowing about his BMI (he should have been Costa Rican, according to his numbers) and pointing out the terrible averages for Americans. It is interesting, and while BMI isn't necessarily an accurate picture for individuals, I do think it's valuable for assessing populations. Like you said, the high BMI isn't due to the bodybuilding population.

    I agree, it's definitely time for everyone, but especially the health professionals amongst us, to wake up to the realities of USDA food pyramid, USDA approved school lunches, the ADA's whole weird agenda, etc. Time to start helping people learn to be healthy instead of keeping them miserable and fat. It's high time they admitted their "one size fits all" diet just doesn't work for a whole lot of the population. It's not just a "very small percentage of the population" who can't lose weight on those sorts of diets, as I've been told here at SP.

    Something I really like about paleo/primal/low carb is that there is SO MUCH free information online that anyone can look up, providing they know it exists in the first place. Tons of great recipes, as well.

    2165 days ago
    Agreed. BMI has plenty of faults. However, I don't think the nation has above average BMI stats due to bursting muscles. ;)
    2165 days ago
    Again I find the BMI to be a misleading figure. Since muscle weighs a lot more than fat if you are in decent shape as a male you're likely to have a high BMI.

    If you have a man and a woman who are the same height according to BMI they should be the same weight, but male will always be heavier since on average they will be more muscular than the female.

    According to my height of 1.8 metres my BMI recommends a healthy weight range of 65-79 kilos. When I was 17 I weighed 78 kilos and I hardly had a shred of fat on me, I've definitely put on a lot of muscle since I was 17. My goal is to get to 85 kilos and according to BMI I will be over ideal weight by 6 kilos, but I bet I won't look it.
    2165 days ago
    Quite interesting stats there. It seems that there have been enough warning signs, and now is the time for us as a nation to practice our "won't" power. emoticon

    "I won't have that second slice of pizza"
    "I won't sit back and do nothing"
    "I won't be complacent"

    Just a few thoughts. emoticon
    2165 days ago
    Ahhh, if only science were as pure and simple as we were led to believe in high school. But there are so many competing interests at play, that until demand changes or something catastrophic happens, we may never get objective analysis

    I ran numerous marathons, have worked my ass off lifting heavy weights against gravity for years...my flattest belly since my 20s is just now starting to appear 3-4 weeks after cutting carbs....go figure!

    Have DH give me a call!
    2165 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/16/2012 3:43:09 PM
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