BMI Flaws

More data is always better, right?

The answer is actually somewhat complex when it comes to your weight loss journey.  For example, as we pointed out in last week’s blog post, weighing yourself more frequently isn’t always better than weighing yourself less frequently.

Another important example is related to your Body Mass Index – more commonly known as your BMI.  Though it’s a widely-used measure in the world of bodily health, it is fundamentally flawed as a tracker for progress in your weight loss journey.  We recommend replacing BMI with better, more accurate data.

BMI Flaws

Looking back at its history, the Body Mass Index was created by a mathematician – not a scientist – as a quick and simple way to measure bodies across a broad swath of populations in order to determine how to allocate resources.  These measurements were never meant to be correlated with health, so the idea that we utilize BMI as a proxy for obesity and associated health risks today is flawed.

The BMI calculation also only takes two factors into account – height and weight – ignoring the other critical components of obesity.  While the Body Mass Index can, in some cases, track healthy weight loss over time, it can also be deceiving.  BMI can move down based on fat loss (a good thing), or for less desirable reasons, including muscle loss, dehydration, etc. 

Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, the mathematician who created the Body Mass Index 200 years ago, also utilized his calculations to set out to find the “ideal” body type.  His studies primarily centered around white European men, skewing his data and excluding the varying body types that undoubtedly existed back then (and certainly exist today).

Finally, the cutoffs between the “underweight,” “normal,” “overweight” and “obese” categories for BMI are somewhat arbitrary, have changed over time and differ across varying medical institutions.  This may be due to the flaws in the Index, though the NIH and CDC continue to refer to BMI in their documentation.

Our Recommendation: What to Look at Instead

At Sound Medical Weight Loss, we focus on your health holistically.  That means we are fundamentally biased against any metric that favors short-term results over long-term lifestyle changes. 

Our recommendation?  Come into the Sound Medical Weight Loss office, or schedule a telemedicine appointment.  We do a full body composition analysis at every weight check-in. 

Our analysis includes the data we do recommend tracking: fat mass, fat-free mass, skeletal muscle mass, and more.   Our providers will also support you in analyzing your results, helping you make sense of your progress and creating or adjusting your plan to amplify your success.  You’ll also work with our medical providers to focus on your habits, mindfulness, food sensitivities, your health and lifestyle, and on your body composition over the longer term.

Curious to learn more?  Set up an appointment with us online!  We’d be happy to help!

Mariel Ilardi  Mariel became a weight loss coach with SMWL after being a patient herself -- having lost 65 pounds through the program! In addition to coaching SMWL patients, Mariel is the founder and CEO of Haven Coaching, an executive and career coaching company.

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