Tag Archive | "bmi"

Good news: I’m healthy! Bad news: BMI still sucks!

Good news: I’m healthy! Bad news: BMI still sucks!

My company offered a complimentary health screening today, where employees could have their cholesterol, glucose (ie: pre-diabetic status), blood pressure & BMI checked. I decided to sign up because I am terribly behind in doctor’s visits, and wanted to double check that my cholesterol & blood pressure were the same as before (was tested last year).

I knew just from the description that I was going to be told by a medical professional that, according to my BMI, I am obese. Meh, whatevs. My all good takeaways!:

  • my cholestoral is good! (174)
  • my “good” cholestoral could be higher. Am looking into this.
  • my glucose level is normal (73 – no where near the pre-diabetic range, yay)
  • my blood pressure, as ever, is low and excellent (114/85)
  • and I’VE LOST TWO OF THE POUNDS I GAINED ON SATURDAY!!!

Can I just say, that last one supports my water retention theory :P But still, proof is in the WW scale — I’ll take even 1 pound loss on Saturday, frankly!

And my BMI is “obese.” I resisted the urge to pick a fight with the attendant about the validity of BMI, but did mention that I’m going to Weight Watchers and there is a new measure of body fat (BAI) that is currently being considered that is better.

Slightly depressing: overhearing the girl before me, a pretty wisp of a thing, being told she is 7 lbs away from an 18.5 BMI (ie: unhealthy) but she’s doing great! That means she is 122 lbs. I can’t even fathom weighing that. It’s just… an unreal number to me!

And, yes, I was the only fat person in the room (of the employees — several of the screening agents were my size or bigger).

 

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In the news: Schools including BMI on report cards?

The Huffington Post has published an article that discusses the trend of schools sending students home with report cards that feature their BMI. Plus nutritional and exercise tips.

All I gotta say is: WOAH.

First of all, BMI is problematic, for a number of reasons that we’ve previously discussed. It is NOT the ideal measure of health, though I suppose in children it’s better than nothing. But what will a school’s telling parents that their child is underweight, “normal,” overweight or obese actually *do*?

Apparently, American parents don’t realize their kids are fat. Quote:

…A 2010 survey from Trust for America’s Health found that 84 percent of parents believe their children are at a healthy weight, even though almost one third of kids are actually overweight or obese.

Well, for one — you can be overweight and be healthy. I was a fat kid. Like, 125lbs at age 8 (and maybe 5 foot 4). I know this because I remember this one awful day when they weighed us at school and I was the second heaviest, after the “fat kid” in our class (the one who got picked on a lot — generally, I was spared). I will always remember how the dial stopped at 125, and my embarrassment.

But I wasn’t unhealthy. I know that sounds CRAY-ZEE since obviously I was stuffing Doritos and Oreos into my mouth (um, sometimes), but the food that I was being given by my mother was, by and large, healthy — lots of salad, grilled chicken, fish, fruits & vegetables and very limited processed snacks. (I got my processed snacks elsewhere, thanks!) I wasn’t a sporty kid, but I was moderately active (walked to and from school, games of tag, hop skotch, etc). I count myself pretty lucky, especially compared to all the poor kids I knew (and know) who weren’t getting nutritionally sound food. I was — but I was also fat. (this said: portion control wasn’t my strong suit. It’s not like I got fat by magic)

My point is, parents with little fatties might respond to a survey and say their child was a healthy weight — especially if they have a bit of kid-pudge or puberty weight — and it’s not the end of the world. But of course, we’re not talking about these parents. BMIs on report cards are meant to reach the parents who, fairly, are probably massively overweight (or obese) themselves and have no perspective on what is a healthy weight for kids. People have no proper concept of what’s a healthy weight for their DOGS & CATS… so that they don’t get it with kids is no surprise. (srsly people: fat dogs & cats = NOT FUNNY OR CUTE).

Here’s the thing: BMIs, nutritional and exercise tips going out to parents of kids in impoverished, or even just lower middle class areas isn’t going to do any good. Nutritional tips are fine and dandy, but I’d reckon a lot of the parents of these obese kids are not financially or logistically able to implement them. And exercise tips? Um, school, how about you use that government mandated P.E. time that fat kids like me hate with a passion to, I don’t know, actually exercise children. Or give them proper recess time so they can run around like mad-men & women.

So I’m healthily skeptical of this. If I got a BMI on my kid’s report card, I’d roll my eyes and tell the school to stop parenting my bloody children. But that’s just me. Maybe it’ll reach some parents…

But can you imagine being that kid? I know we played games where we’d peek at others’ report cards to see who got what — I would DIE if kids saw my BMI. Especially if it said I was obese.

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In the News: New measure to replace BMI?

In the News: New measure to replace BMI?

I’m hardly the biggest fan of BMI, so ABC’s news that a new measure may replace the Body Mass Index is intriguing. According to the report, this new index, the Body Adiposity Index, uses hip-width and height to determine obesity, as opposed to height and weight.

First thing’s first: so who thought of that Doctor Who episode? I know, right?! XD

Relevant info from the article:

BAI offers a potential advantage over BMI because it gives a clearer snapshot of how much unhealthy flab a person carries on their body and eliminates much of the guesswork of whether or not a person is truly carrying too much excess weight. It seems to be able to differentiate how much of a person’s weight is fat and how much is muscle and fat-free mass — although like BMI, it still doesn’t reveal anything about where an individual’s fat is deposited.

Richard Bergman and a team of researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles derived their BAI calculations from a database of about 1,700 Mexican-Americans. When they analyzed an extensive series of physical characteristics they found that hip circumference and height correlated strongly with body fat percentage as measured by a highly reliable but expensive scanning method known as DEXA, or dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. They reported their findings in the March issue of the journal Obesity.

Interesting that the study apparently was composed entirely of Mexican-Americans. One could certainly make arguments where hip-width to weight is NOT a proper correlation of health in other ethnic groups with different base body types. However, the article goes on to say the measurement needs further testing among ethnic groups, and that a recent sample of African Americans carried consistent findings.

But I don’t know. I’m a skeptic — labeling people as “obese” and unhealthy based on two bits of data seems over-simple, just as with BMI. I know a lot of “hippy” but healthy women who might take exception (um, myself included).

You can test your BAI vs. BMI via this online calculator (they use the scary metric system, conversion calculator here). I tried it out, and while I don’t think their rough calculation of my body fat percentage is correct (it’s higher than mine was a year ago when I started regular exercise — surely it’s gone down?!?!), BAI DOES class me as “overweight” and not obese, as BMI does. So that at least is more accurate.

I’d be curious to see what it spits out for others, especially those who are super athletic and/or don’t have much by-way of hips. What if you don’t carry your weight in your hips? OR if you carry *all* your weight in your hips, but are small on top/otherwise “healthy”?

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Debunking Weight Watchers myths

There’s been a lot of Weight Watchers hate on Jezebel recently, which brought into focus some of the common misconceptions about the program that I’ve heard repeatedly. I’ve blogged plenty of times about various elements of being a Weight Watchers, but always with the assumption that my audience “got it” the way the I do. I think it’s time to address some of the largest misnomers about Weight Watchers, based on my experience. Take a look before you dismiss it… or diss it (*coughjezebel*)

Biggest misconception: WW is NOT a diet!

1) Weight Watchers is a diet

Nooooo. Weight Watchers is not a diet. Atkins and South Beach are diets. Nutrisystem, despite having “system” in the name, is a diet. Weight Watchers is a program, and a lifestyle, that teaches you healthy habits, helps you with proper daily food intake/activity and coaches you through the realities of food and body issues, and long-term weight loss.

2) Weight Watchers uses a BMI chart and tells you what you need to weigh.

Ok, they used to, but they don’t anymore. When I was 14, in 1998, this is how my “goal weight” was determined. I was told that, at my age and height — 5 foot 9 — I should be between 135 and 145 pounds. It was a scary target, and felt pretty unobtainable. I got down to 160. I’ll tell you, as a sensible adult who has since ballooned way higher than 160, let alone 135 – there is NO WAY IN HELL I ever want to be that thin. 140 on my frame is a size 4/6. Noooooo. Weight Watchers was CRAY-CRAY.

Weight Weighters no longer tells members what their goal should be. You can set your goal anywhere you like. You can use BMI as a guide, and set your goal within that range if you like, but for some people – including me – it makes more sense to set a goal that will put us at a size 8, 10 or 12. Or, your *goal* goal may be too daunting — you can set up a mini-goal. Your first 20 pounds. Or your first 50. You could make your goal inches. Or dress sizes. It’s up to you.

3) You can only work for Weight Watchers if you’re thin

Not exactly. You can only work for Weight Watchers — as either a leader or a receptionist — if you have successfully completed the program, ie: hit your goal/become a Lifetime member.

The idea is pretty simple: it ensures that anyone working on the “public facing” side of the company knows the program inside and out, because they’ve lived it. It provides an authenticity to the proceedings, and you know that the thin person weighing you in, seeing your deepest, darkest moments on the scale has been where you are. And they’ve made it through the journey.

4) Weight Watchers makes you weigh in at meetings, in front of everyone!

Yes, you weigh in at meetings; no it is not in front of everyone. I don’t know where people get this impression — the Little Britain “Fat Fighters” sketch, perhaps? (dust, anybody, no?, dust?) Weigh-ins are private – between only you and the receptionist. No one but the receptionist sees your weight; they don’t say it out loud (unless it’s a loss — they may tell you the good news, ie: “you lost two pounds!”) — it is recorded in your member book and handed to you.

Now you see why you want your receptionist to be a successful Weight Watcher? Would you want Susie Always-Been-Skinny to see your 350 lbs, or your 2 pound gain, etc. etc.? No way. There’s a level of comfort knowing that the person who records your weight knows where you’ve been, and isn’t judging you.

Jennifer Hudson is the new WW spokesperson -- she is young, fun and happy

5) Weight Watchers is for my mom — old, overweight, suburbanites

Weight Watchers can be for your mom, but it’s not just for your mom. WW has undergone a branding transition over the years, and honestly I think the plan is more targeted to the Millennial/Gen X set than anything now. Some meetings, especially in the suburbs and that take place during traditional work hours, will be majority older folks with a lot of weight to lose. But meetings in the city very often have younger, relatable members and leaders. It can also work for teenagers — I joined at age 14, with my mother’s written permission. It was a life-saver!

If you’re really gun shy, or can’t connect to your local meeting, consider Weight Watchers online, where age is irrelevant!

6) You have to need to lose a lot of weight to join Weight Watchers.

Definitely not. It’s actually most common for people to need to lose between 20lbs and 40-50lbs. There are people who have a lot to lose — 100lbs or more — and for those individuals, WW is a wonderful program and support system for a long journey. Now, we all know I’ve talked about the “skinny bitches” clogging my meeting before (a term I try not to use anymore). Here’s the thing: if you don’t need to lose weight (medically), Weight Watchers will not let you join — this is to prevent those with eating disorders like anorexia being enabled by meetings and the program. I’m a bit skeptical that my former at work meeting held the same standards. There were incredibly thin, fit people in my meeting with less than 10lbs to lose.

That said, don’t think Weight Watchers can’t help you take off that pesky 10-20lbs. It can. If you have this amount to lose, the online program can be particularly effective — for a small chunk of change, you can be use the program tools for a few months and figure out how to drop that weight.

7) I can lose a ton of weight fast on Weight Watchers

You could, but you probably won’t. You also shouldn’t. Again, Weight Watchers is not a diet. It is a program and a lifestyle plan. You have daily points to eat, plus a weekly allowance, and the numbers are calculated to effect a healthy, gradual weight loss. It is common and recommended you lose 1-2 pounds a week. If you’re looking for a crash diet, WW is not for you. But if you’re willing to give it a proper go and lose weight the right way, WW is a good idea.

8 ) You have to attend meetings. I don’t have time for that.

You don’t *have* to attend meetings. As I’ve said before – to be truly successful, you really need to attend. But there’s no one at Weight Watcher’s twisting your arm, forcing you to sit and attend meetings. You do have to go to a WW center to weigh in, but you can just stay for a few minutes for that and leave if you want. Plus, WW has an online only program for those for whom going to a center just isn’t practical. You can read all the program material and use WW’s awesome eTools, for a lower price than “regular” members. That format would never work as well for me, but if you’re strapped for time or freaked out by “AA for fat people” (lol), you don’t have to go.

Weight Watchers has a whole, new ad campaign just for young people doing WW online, like this one:

9) Weight Watchers is expensive. I can’t afford it.

You have to prioritize what you’re willing to spend money on, obviously, but WW is not cost prohibitively expensive. The best deal, the Monthly Pass, is $40 a month and gets you everything — meetings, online and eTools. You can have it either auto-debited or charged to your credit card each month. You can pay ala-carte each week, at meeting centers — ie: only pay when you attend. This one will end up costing you more than just subscribing. If you really need to scrimp, you can always consider the online program — since you don’t go to meetings, you’re only paying for eTools and website access. This option is only about $20 a month. Eating out one less night a week or not grabbing your morning Starbucks every day will cover WW (and help you lose weight!).

10) I don’t want to talk about being fat. Meetings are too embarrassing.

Weight Watchers meetings aren’t school. Or like Little Britain. Your leader will never “call on you” and ask you to talk about anything you don’t want to. Participating is completely voluntary! I find that sharing is helpful, but there are definitely “wall flowers” at every meeting who just absorb information. It’s totally ok.

And no one is judging you at a Weight Watchers meeting. Most people are there for the same reason: obsessive, abnormal food behaviors, bad relationships with food and body issues. And, of course, healthy, long-term weight loss. You can lurk for as long as you like, and speak up when you’re ready (or not at all). I find that sharing is really cathartic. Plus they give out GOLD STARS! :)

No worries - Weight Watchers doesn't hock a line of knock-off foods you have to eat/drink

11) Weight Watchers is going to try and sell me their crap.

Yes, Weight Watchers is a business, but there are no “required” meals or merchandise. Every center sells Weight Watchers products — PointsPlus calculators, scales, measuring spoons, pedometers, magazines, books, meal guides and snacks. You are not required or expected to buy any of them. I will say, however, some of their products are worth it.

Two tips – wait for free samples (they do them for crackers and snack bars periodically) and wait for SALES. My absolute favorite, the mini snack bars are way over price — $7.50 a box! That’s insane. But when they’re on sale, you get two boxes for $10.  These mini bars are tasty, filling, great dessert supplements and my LIFESAVER at work. I always keep 2-3 boxes of mini bars in my desk for emergencies. I also recommend the Eating Out Companion if you eat out a lot. I haven’t needed it for years, but if your reality involves chain restaurants and fast food, get it — better to go in knowledgeable than blind! When the cookbooks go on sale, they’re also a steal.

12) I’m going to feel deprived on Weight Watchers, and not be able to live my life.

Again: Weight Watchers is not a diet. The program is designed to let you live your life while getting healthy and losing weight. You can eat ANYTHING you want on Weight Watchers. Now, that doesn’t mean you should. But if you want to or need to, you can. Just count your points, and keep with the other tenets of the program – fruits and veggies, protein, fiber, fitness. A piece of cheesecake won’t kill you. Neither will a wedding or a night out with the girls. That said, you can’t do anything you like, all the time, and expect the program to work. But Weight Watchers can give you guidance for navigating your life and coming out the other end sane, and fitter.

Those are the big ones I can think of. If there’s anything else you’ve heard about Weight Watchers or have questions about, please comment!

Posted in Featured, Weight WatchersComments (3)

BMI & obesity: calling BULLSHIT on the standard measure of fat

BMI doesn't take into account muscle, or even gender

Let’s talk about obesity. Well, more specifically, let’s talk about the common tool for measuring and determining obesity: BMI (Body Mass Index).

Obesity is a lot like obscenity: you know it when you see it. Going by the hard and fast numbers, like matching up height and weight on a chart to determine how healthy or unhealthy someone is, is limited and, to some, insulting. Score above a 30, and you’re obese. But what if you’re heavily muscled? Or a curvy lady with a prominent backside/hips (hello birthing hips!)? BMI doesn’t care, fatty.

According to the BMI scale, I am obese. BULLSHIT. Some numbers for you: I wear a size 16, 18 on a bad day, but can honestly still fit into a lot of my 14s. I am 5 foot 10 and about, well… I’m over 200 (CRIES AND HIDES IN CORNER), however when most people try to ballpark my weight, they tend to be off by 20-30 pounds. Why? Because I am not obese, nor do I look that overweight. Yes, I’m fat, but I am actually less fat than most Americans (slightly sad for America, but oh well). I can still shop at normal stores (albeit I have to get the tall sizes online)…. and while I have some annoying as hell back fat, I’m not a jiggly hot mess.

But according to the Body Mass Index, I am obese. Really? My blood pressure is perfect, my heart rate is normal and my cholesterol is tip-top for someone my age. I walk 1-2 miles a day, every day, I eat whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. I only eat fast food 3-4 times a year. Do I have a lot of muscle? Not yet, but what if I did? Muscle weighs more than fat, so BMI might call me obese anyway.

The BMI scale does not take into account any of these factors, let alone my gender or age.

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Posted in Body Issues, Fat Identity, Health & FitnessComments (6)



Before & During

Weight & Inches