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What Does Body Mass Index (BMI) Really Mean?

You have your BMI number? Great! Now what?

The spectrum of BMI, body fat on different parts of the body
Jordan Spano |

5 min read

Your body is a mystery, a careful craft of bone, flesh, and more–but when you don’t take care of it, it becomes much less than what it could be. Because there are so many variables in determining how healthy you are, like the food you eat, how much you exercise, your genetics, etc., you need a meter, a ruler to measure how you’re doing.

Your BMI is essentially that: it tells you how you how your body is doing, at least in terms of its composition. The BMI number you’re given doesn’t depend directly on your diet on your exercise: it’s an aggregate result of your diet and exercise. It’s like the score you get on a test (but let’s not talk scantrons, please).

Want to take that BMI “test”? You can do that below.

What is BMI?

Body mass index, or BMI, is a ratio-based measurement of your body that factors in your height and weight. It’s simple; it applies to both male and female; and it’s an excellent tool for you to use to track your body’s health.

Some call it the Quetelet Index, named after its inventor, Adolphe Quetelet. He idealized a measuring method that would relate one’s weight and height to an ideal or standardized weight. In other words, he wanted to codify the system of body mass measuring, to make it easier for people to know how “normal” their body mass is compared to others.

Why does BMI matter?

Your body-to-weight ratio is extremely important, because there has over and again been a correlation between a high BMI and a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes II, high blood pressure, gallstones, and more. Measuring your body mass is also an excellent predictor of what your health may be in the future, especially when applied to children. You can track the pattern of body mass acquisition to take action early and prevent unhealthy habits later in life.

(If you’re taking the BMI of minors, please consult the growth chart for more accuracy, as children’s body mass better correlates with standard growth charts.)

Credit: ib.bioninja.com.au

Your body mass index is on a rough spectrum from under weight to obese, though these parameters vary. For instance, there may be person A and person B who both have BMIs that mark them as “under weight,” but person A’s BMI may be 10 and person B’s BMI may be 17. Clearly, person B is healthier than person A. The same goes with your BMI related to obesity.

Should I even care?

Now, don’t take BMI as gospel. An unfortunate part of your BMI calculation is that it doesn’t factor in muscle.

Let me iterate: if you actively lift weights and have a more muscular composition than someone who better resembles a couch potato and hasn’t heard of a guy named Gym, you may have the same BMI than she, but one of you looks drastically different.

Take, for example, the following chart. Each of the figures is, surprisingly, 5′ 7″, weighs 145 lbs, and has a BMI of 22.8. Does that look true?

It is true, because again, BMI is not a panacea for measuring your body status vis-a-vis other bodies.

You should still care about your BMI because there is one thing it highlights: your excess fat, which, unless you’re pregnant or are facing the most inclement conditions and tend to be out of food for long periods of time, is just that: excess. Excess, of anything other than those cinnamon Poptarts (kind of joking), is usually bad.

(Read more about general excess here.)

Address your body mass

Now that you know your body mass (or if you don’t, click here); and since the national obesity level (your BMI being 30+) is around 37, we need a solution to high body fat–or to losing weight healthy, effectively, and [it would be nice if it’s] quickly.

Have you ever typed in “how to lose weight” in a search engine? We did, and what we saw immediately was not surprising.

Notice the top and bottom “People also ask” questions. These are of the commonest questions asked on the internet when it comes to address your body weight.

Apple cider vinegar doesn’t work: it just makes you more acidic and have some not-so-fun times on the toilet. Surgery? No. Please, love your body as it is. You don’t need to take a needle to it.

The real solution to addressing a high BMI and losing weight is controlling what you eat: it’s putting your foot down on your appetite. And if you’re normal like everyone else, you may need some help with your appetite. You can find that here.

 

Now that you know your BMI, what will you do with it?

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