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BMI – Is it All That?

Following on from my recent childhood obesity blog Obesity in Children it got me thinking about a method used in measuring both adults and children’s health. BMI, and is it really all that?

Without teaching you to suck eggs, BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It consists of calculating your weight over your height. That’s right weight over your height. It may be ringing some bells with some of you already but if not, here lies my main point regarding BODY MASS index……it doesn’t take in to account AT ALL someone’s body mass. By body mass I mean how much lean weight they have and how much body fat they carry. This calculation cannot give you that information. Yet it’s dubbed the be all and end all in tackling obesity.

Here’s a thought. The BMI calculation has been used for decades and has been used as the tool to tackle the obesity epidemic, but obesity continues to rise and a frightening rate. It becomes quite clear that it is not the calculation to fix such a massive problem. I do not have a problem with the philosophy of it being used to give a general reading in to someone’s lifestyle etc. what I do have an issue with is how it is promoted and pushed on people as a science that is the absolute answer.

For example, if a person 5ft 10” tall and 40 years of age weighs 16st, this person would be deemed obese. But what if this person plays a high impact sport or workouts regularly and carries a lot of lean body weight, or just generally has a low level of body fat? That’s right, they certainly wouldn’t be obese. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m totally aware that this doesn’t apply to some of the population but it does apply to a lot of people, myself included. Luckily I don’t take any notice of it as I know it’s a flawed concept. But some people do and get hung up on it too.

This brings me on to the link between this blog and my previous blog on childhood obesity. Because not only do we use a very vague and misleading calculation on adults, we now promote and push it on to children in schools. And scarily in my opinion, on children from as young as 4 years old, yes 4 years old! And it is still promoted as the tool to tackle childhood obesity.

I’ll make the same point as for adults, childhood obesity is rising fast, even after the introduction of the measuring of children. Does it have a positive impact? In some cases, possibly but a lot of the time it is totally inaccurate with so many children coming out as obese when in fact they are nowhere near. Not only is it totally flawed, especially in children, but should we really be measuring young children’s weight and BMI? There’s no getting away from a childhood obesity epidemic but I just don’t see the need to weigh and measure young children. There is a fine line between positive approaches for children and those that risk damaging self-esteem and confidence.

I believe the focus should, specifically for children, be centred around fun exercise activities and making food choices fun too. BMI should not be the first point of call. For adults, BMI can be used as a generic marker but should, in my opinion, never be used as the main form of measurement or the only form. Waist measurement and body fat percentage measurements are more accurate ways to measure.

I get asked this a lot and will leave my answer here. What is an ideal weight for me James? There is no ideal weight, especially based on height, weight and age! I work with my focus on the individual and do not operate a one size fits all approach. I don’t believe other professionals and organisations should either.

Eat Well. Move Well. Live Well.


James Brereton

Author James Brereton

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