Thursday, July 10, 2008

Day 112, The BMI Is Whack

A few weeks ago I played Wii Fit for the the first time. The first thing you do in the game is set up your character, by providing your height and letting the board weigh you. Then it will spit out your BMI.

(Note: This isn't my screen, it's just a screencap I got off the internet. You can tell because that rough polygon lego character looks nothing like me!)

Now, what is the BMI? You probably know it stands for Body Mass Index. Ooh that sounds so scientific, it must be good right? Your Body Mass Index is the following equation.

That equation gives you a number somewhere between 13 and 60. This number puts you in a field that's classified as "underweight," "healthy weight," "overweight" or "obese."

So where exactly did this BMI system come from? Surely some fitness and health experts got together and figured it all out right? Wrong-O! The BMI was invented by a Belgian mathematician named Adolphe Quetelet in the mid 1800's as part of his plan to take all kinds of social phenomena and quantify them into numbers so that he could break us pesky, unpredictable humans into easily processed equations. Actually he was just trying to measure Belgians. From the 19th century.

So, I found out my BMI... and guess what? I'm on the borderline of being "overweight." Yep. Me. The guy wearing shorts from the boy's department. So the damn game is like scolding me and telling me I need to watch it or I could slip into the red zone. It really pissed me off. The BMI also has no way of figuring out your cardiovascular health, so a marathon runner will get the same score as a couch potato if their weights and heights happen to be equal.

Why did this happen? Because the stupid BMI can't tell the difference between weight from muscle and weight from fat. So for someone like me, with minimal body fat and a lot of muscle, it thinks I must be on the heavy side. This glitch basically bars me from playing Wii Fit, because the exercise plan they give me is designed for the fat guy I'm impersonating.

So, don't pay any attention to the BMI. Or any numerical evaluation or your health. Instead, go back to the simple things that we don't need a calculator for. For example:

How do your trousers fit?

How do you look in the mirror?

Can you touch your toes?

Do you get winded going up stairs?

Can you do the things you want to do without feeling crappy?

These are much better questions that "what's your height divided by your weight?" Give me a break. It should stand for the Body Mass Inanity.

1 comment:

miranda said...

Wow, thats such an obvious flaw of the BMI, yet it had never occured to me. Obviously, though, for a sedentary person who does little exercise, it may be more accurate, because they wouldn't have much muscle.