I am obese. I don’t feel obese, and I don’t think I look obese, but according to the BMI scale I am indeed a fatty-fatty two-by-four. I always thought that obese meant those people who can simultaneously look like they’re sitting back and leaning forward in a chair; who couldn’t walk normally, because their massive thighs forced their legs apart and made them waddle; shut-ins; people in the Guinness Book.
But no. Obese means someone with a BMI over 30. I’m 5’10” tall, and I weigh about 234lbs, so I have a BMI of 33.4. I’m obese. Sure, I’m overweight…I’ll own that fact. But obese?
I wasn’t always. I was a skinny kid – knees bigger than my legs and elbows bigger than my arms, that kind of skinny. I ate like a horse and stayed skinny all the way into my early twenties. Heck, when I graduated from high school I was the same 5’10” I am now…and I weighed about 136lbs. I was skinny. I was picked on because I was so skinny. But according to today’s BMI scale…I was normal. I would’ve had a BMI of 19.5 on today’s scale, and the ideal range is from 18.5 to 24.9. That puts the top end of “normal” for me around 166lbs – a weight I haven’t been since my mid-twenties. Realistically, if I could see 199.5 lbs – just under 200 is all I’m looking for – I’d be over the moon. But according to the BMI scale I’d still be flirting with obesity with a BMI of 28.6.
And that is the problem I have now. I say the BMI has lost touch with reality, and it hasn’t been recently, either. My wife is a registered dietician, so I hear about all of the developments in nutrition and healthy weight, and even she feels that the BMI hasn’t been “real” in years.
See that picture? That’s the MetLife Ideal Weight Chart. It was the basis for ideal weight, based on their studies into longevity, from 1942 until the 1980’s. It calculated ideal weight based on height, weight and frame size. I remember those “frame size” things – we all have one, you know? My shoulders are wider than some guys’, and no amount of dieting will shrink those bones. I remember the tip to circle your wrist with your thumb and middle finger, and if they overlapped, you were small framed…if they just touched you were medium framed, and if they didn’t touch, you were large framed. It added some reality to things. On those charts, my ideal weight jumps up to a top end of 174lbs…still a weight I haven’t been since I was in my late twenties, but not so far away.
So, that’s gone. No frame size. Just height and weight. And even that’s changed. In the initial BMI calculations in the 1980’s, the ideal weight range was a BMI of 21-25. 20.9 and under was underweight. So when I graduated from high school, I was officially underweight. In 1995, though, they changed the calculation — or just changed the scale – and extended the ideal weight range down to 18.5. I could weigh 128lbs – at 45 years old – and still be considered “normal.” That’s about 100lbs of weight loss – I think I’d look like an Auschwitz survivor, but nope…I’d be “normal.”
The scales don’t even differentiate between men and women. I could picture a 128lb, 5’10” woman who’s not grotesque like I’d be. Further, my wife used to use age as a component in calculating ideal weight – each year over 30 adds a point, or something. Neither is there anymore. Just height, and weight. You could be 13, or 40, or 72, male or female, doesn’t matter. Height and weight are all that matter. You could be a bodybuilder, or a gymnast, and not have an ounce of fat on you… but still be considered obese.
So yeah…I’m “obese.” Watch out or I’ll sit on you.