Saturday, July 31, 2004

Fat Facts

I got my hair cut and colored this morning, and as the most recent issue of National Geographic was the only magazine not specifically marketed for seventeen year old girls or people who are so obsessed with hair that they need to read an entire magazine devoted to haircuts that no human would willingly sport were they not under contract or getting paid to do so, I flipped through the pages of it (Worst. Sentance. Ever).

I came across an article, The Heavy Cost of Fat. It made some good points about health and excercise, and how America got to be so big (it basically boils down to not what we eat, or how much we excercise, but the fact that we eat 220 pounds more food per year than we did in the 1970's, or at least that's what they're claiming). More interesting, however, was the neat little Body Mass Index chart that they had on one of the pages (it's not in the online version, but here's a BMI Calculator that they link to at the bottom of the page, and it uses the same formula the grid in the magazine uses).

Now, keep in mind that the article states that 1 in every 3 Americans is overweight. I found that number a bit staggering, not because it might necessarily be true, but because I can look up and down my street and see a lot of people who look pretty darn average to me. Sure, we could all stand to lose a few pounds (or 20 in my case), but I would say that the 1 in 3 thing would be more like 1 in 6 or 1 in 8 maybe. Sure, it's anecdotal evidence, but let's look at the BMI Calculator for a second.

I input my height (5' 11"), and my weight (I think I'm about 215 lbs right now), and got a BMI of 30. 30 is the cutoff for obese, and while the cutoff is a bit fuzzy, I'd hardly call myself obese. Since when did losing 20 lbs to get back to a "normal" weight qualify as obese? So I decided to see if this thing thought 200 lbs for a guy who's practically six foot tall would be "normal."

Nope. That still falls in the "overweight" category, by a good three points. To get to a weight that would define the edge of normal and overweight, it tells me I would have to weigh 178 lbs. Folks, I haven't weighed below 180 since high school, when I had nearly zero percent body fat, and please keep in mind that this is borderline overweight for this chart.

So of course I decided to push it even further, and see what the bottom rung for normal (pushing the "underweight" limit) was. Turns out I'd have to weigh in at 132 lbs for this thing to consider me too skinny. I wouldn't even be alive at that point, but at least it would have caught that I might be in need of a sandwich or at least some intravenous glucose.

I'm not sure if it's in the online article or not, but they posted what Dr. Atkins height and weight were at just 2 months before he died: 6 foot 198 lbs. So basically, the father of the modern weight loss solution (no really, click the link for visual reference to his fat assed picture) was overweight (BMI of 26.9) just before his accidental death. (I'm hoping the irony here is thick enough to coat your eyeballs).

I know I'm rambling on and on here about the obvious obsurdity of this calculator, but what I'm getting at is that if you want people to stop having eating disorders, or binge eating, or start excercising more, maybe what we need more of are some realistic data points before we go stating that "1 in 3 Americans are overweight." If this is what we're using to say that Americans are too fat in general, I think there's a larger problem than people eating too many burgers.

Shit, according to this scale, Callista Flockhart is probably overweight.


Comments:
AmenAmenAmen. According to the BMI calculator I'm overweight...and gee...I thought I looked and felt ok...Amanda
 
oh, yeah. My daughter is a DIV I college athlete, and has a %body fat comparable to that of a very fit male runner. The BMI says she's obese. Makes no difference to the chart whether your weight comes from muscle mass and high bone density or fat.
 
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