BMI Index Myth

One great way for me to stay focused on my healthy diet plan is by scheduling my annual physical with my doctor.

Yes! Done! Now what is the first thing to expect when the nurse starts leading me down the hall to my private exam room?


Coming face to face with the medical scale immediately gets my blood pressure soaring!

I take a deep breath to relax as I am removing everything possible that could be adding to my actual true body weight!

Understanding why the nurse has to document my weight and height does make it just a tiny bit easier to suffer through. Once the weight is documented in my file, and if I ever return, the doctor will be able to compare any weight loss or weight gain changes that may have occurred since my last visit and determine if this is any alarm for concern to my overall health.

What does not make me comfortable about this part of the office visit routine is that the doctor will use this information mainly to make sure I fall between the healthy guidelines according to the standards set by the BMI Index of experts.

The health and medical field focuses on the BMI Index using only height and weight measurements and by doing this falsely groups us all into one calculation to determine if we are healthy or not.

Fat is not calculated in this equation!

In truth our bodies are uniquely complex and when looking at diet and weight loss we need to look at our body composition or what our body is made up of.  We need to look at the ratio of lean body mass (muscle) vs. fat as well as our body water content. Some of us are thin boned while others are medium to large boned.  And there is the amount of lean body mass each person has in comparison to fat stores that needs to be considered. In other words two people can have the same BMI but a different percent of body fat. A body builder with more muscle mass and a low body fat percentage may have the same BMI as a person who has more body fat because BMI is calculated using height/weight only.

The BMI Index is only “one” small piece of a person’s health profile in determining if someone is overweight or unhealthy

As a Boise State University student in 1993 our physical education class  visited the Human Performance Laboratory at the Kinesiology Department. I was most interested in the presentation of the hydrostatic weigh tank -internationally known as the most accurate form for calculating body fat percentages. If a student wanted to use the tank they needed to get down to almost naked and then be lowered into this tank of water. The machine would be able to calculate a reading of fat percentages within the body based on the assumption that density and specific gravity of lean tissue is greater than that of fat tissue. Thus, lean tissue will sink in water and fat tissue will float. By comparing the individual’s mass measured under water and out of the water, body composition may be calculated as well as a recommended calculated total body weight.

This “Gold Standard” of body composition is a mathematical prediction.

Since most people are not real keen about being lowered into a tank of water another accurate way to test an individuals fat percentages is by way of bio-impedance analysis testing.  This type of Body composition testing has been helping to determine individual lean body mass to fat percentages successfully for over 30 years.

Human Performance Laboratory Testing is still encouraged today for students as well as the general population to receive quality health assessments.

From 1986 to 1995, I had the opportunity to work as a fitness instructor and trainer for Nautilus Swim and Fitness in Boise, Idaho. Immediately upon entry into the club and before starting any fitness program I would make sure the new member scheduled a computerized body composition test. From the test results I would then be able to help the member set realistic fitness and health goals. This approach was also very successful in helping to set positive expectations for the new member.

The computerized body composition testing used then is very similar to the ElectroLipoGraph (ELG) / (HMS) I have been using for the past several years. It is more advanced with up to date technology along with solid documented studies and research behind it.

When used in my practice clients and physicians have also agreed this lean mass to body fat percent way of testing really helped motivate as they can see the results by way of the computerized read outs.

So bottom line?

The accurate calculation of percent body fat is the true definition of fitness and obesity.

Research on your own. You will be amazed!

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Sandi :)

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