This is a very personal post and one that I hope strikes a chord with many of you. As you know, I’m a career trainer, I write for a few major companies, and make my living in the health and fitness industry.
So it was quite a shock when my younger son Kyle came home from school with a paper from his gym teacher saying that he was overweight! Please trust me, I don’t force either of my children to exercise, or eat a certain way. I’m very careful to teach them what I know by setting an example. And of course, if he were overweight I’d love him just the same. But he’s not – the kid is a rock of solid muscle. Take a look…
Does Kyle look ‘overweight’ to you?
So what could lead to this result? The flawed BMI scale, that’s what. If you don’t know, BMI stands for body mass index, and correlates a person’s height and weight. Based on standards built into the scale, you either end up normal, under, or overweight as a percentile of the population. There are different scales for children and adults, but neither of them are accurate.
You can imagine my dismay and concern when my son started asking me if he was fat, or unhealthy. The problem with the BMI measurement is that it’s heavily flawed for one simple reason – every body is different, literally. In other words, there are multiple different body types; ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph, as well as combinations of all three. They range from tall and skinny, to average, to stocky and well muscled. Additionally, different ethnicities may have different bone density, which will also skew the results because they’ll have heavier bones. I can almost certainly guarantee you that depending on your genetics and which body type you have, I’ll predict what the BMI scale rates you at.
Adding to the inaccuracy is the fact that body-fat, and consequently muscle weight, are left undetermined. How can you tell a person they are overweight without knowing either of these? In my opinion it’s a terribly misleading tool that I’m sure has confused many parents and adults as well. My son came in the 85-94 percentile, which when referenced on the BMI scale, is a number that supposedly puts him at risk for serious health issues.
Due to my occupation, I can decipher this “finding” and state it’s BS, but I bet it scares the hell out of many other parents. I calmed Kyle down and told him exactly what I just explained. I also shared that on the BMI scale, I’m rated near obese! We all know that’s not true.
I’m all for giving accurate ways for people to gauge their health, but to me the BMI scale is like a doctor looking at the color of your blood and making a diagnosis. It’s just too incomplete, inaccurate, and I don’t think serves as an informative tool. Parents know what their kids are eating because they feed it to them. And one look at your child will let you know if they have a bit of baby fat, or are headed toward adult obesity. We don’t need scales, weights and measurements to tell us that.
Truthfully, with the junk they serve in school cafeterias, I think the administration has a set of brass using this “test” and sending my child home with a document that says he’s overweight. You can bet your butt I’ll be contacting the superintendent.
But what do you think? Have you been told you’re overweight when you know you’re not? What do you think of BMI measurements?