BMI Leads to Unrealistic Goals?

March 7, 2010 · 13 comments

Enough has been written about the shortcomings of using Body Mass Index (BMI) to gauge fitness levels and I’m not going to rehash that here. If you want to learn more about the history of BMI as well as some of the concerns about it, check out the BMI article on Wikipedia.

I do think about BMI occasionally however, particularly as I review my own weight loss goals. As a 6’0″ man the BMI chart would tell me that I would still be overweight at 184 pounds and obese at 221 pounds. When you are at 296 pounds those numbers are extremely depressing. I’ve been as low as 177 as a young adult and spent a year or so between 185 and 190 and I have to tell you that at 177 (where BMI would have me at the upper end of normal) I felt too skinny and I felt just right at 187. Is that a realistic goal for me now almost 25 years later? I don’t think so, for a variety of reasons.

But to even be thinking about 187 right now is folly, frankly I should be focused on a goal of 287. Then 277, etc. But then I think of that 187 goal and realize I would still be categorized as overweight and it is totally demotivating. Lately I’ve been thinking that I should be shooting for 220, not because it gets me out of the Obese BMI range but because it just feels so much more manageable. Maybe I can reassess when I get there. Wishful thinking, right?

Muhammed Lawal

I was reminded of all this today after reading a post by Zeusmeatball in which he mentioned he had lost a total of 219 pounds to date (how awesome is that!?) and showed this picture of MMA fighter Muhammed Lawal at 219 pounds. I checked his Wikipedia page and if it is to be believed he is 6’0″ like me. That’s right, but 2 more pounds on Mr. Lawal and BMI would have him categorized as obese. See a problem there? Why should anyone put any stock in this index when it is calculated in this fashion? It seems to me that the best measurement is a true body fat% measurement but of course that is not so easily calculated.

So I’m not going to let the BMI charts drive my goals and so I have set what I believe to be a realistic long term goal of 220 pounds, at which time I will reassess my fitness. My short term goal is 289 pounds, which seems silly but I haven’t seen the 280s for awhile and it’s time to be thinking about taking those baby steps again.

How do you feel about BMI?

Like This Post? Give me the thumbs up 


Dr. Kal March 7, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Don’t use BMI as your gauge. Use your waist size. At 6’0″, your waist should be less than 36 inches (half your height). That should be your long-term goal.

A great short term goal is losing 10% of your weight in the next 6 months. For you that would be to lose 30 pounds in the next 6 months. With your focus, you can definitely do it.

Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit March 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm

My doc told me to take my “ideal” weight recommendation of 178 and then add 20 pounds for “reality”. That puts me at 198… or right where I currently am. I think the +20 is a good rule of thumb in this case.

TB-Milwaukee March 7, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Honestly, the charts are right on, but how realistic are they for most of us is another question. I wouldn’t worry about 184 for a while. Like you said go for 284 first.

Evy-Milwaukee March 7, 2010 at 9:21 pm

You are so right about BMI. There are a lot of assumptions made. Mine would have me at 10 pounds MORE than I feel my best at. Like Dr. Kal said - better to use your waist size and measure your percent body fat as you get closer to your ultimate goal.

I’m gonna disagree with some of the others. I think that you should focus on that 184 - think about it all the time as where you are going to be. Note that I didn’t say “want to be,” but “going to be.” The other weights on the way down are milestones to celebrate, but you are going for 184! You’ll make it too, if that is what you believe.

Have you done a vision board? I noticed that you had MMA artists’ pics on your post and wondered if you’re a fan.

Aaron March 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I think the only practical use of the BMI is for life insurance companies for basing their policy rates. And even then it can be to the disadvantage to someone like myself that is overweight according to the chart. I am not over-fat, but someone only reading the numbers wouldn’t be able to see that. As for the average person, you know whether or not you have too much fat on you or not, just like you know if the majority of your mass is lean tissue. There are many ways to measure your fitness, health, and exercise results. In my opinion the BMI is not a good measure and in many cases I think weighing in on the scale is not either.

Metroknow March 8, 2010 at 12:00 am

I generally completely dismiss BMI as a useful means of measuring health. However, it is increasingly common for insurance companies to use it as a means of establishing premiums…Frustrating considering how well-documented the inaccuracy is.

Greg March 8, 2010 at 6:22 am

BMI + % body fat. BMI tells you how much mass your heart can safely support. Body fat analysis tells you what the composition should be. Bracket those values and you’ll be good to go.

seth@1010in2010 March 8, 2010 at 9:37 am

this is a good post John. The comments are helpful too! I never really set a weight loss goal just because I knew weight loss would be a byproduct of all of my eating and activity. THanks - def. gives me a better idea of where I should be at.

Frank Dobner March 8, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Thanks for the link to BMI on Wikipedia. Here is an excerpt that I found very revealing and to me it makes sense.

“BMI provided a simple numeric measure of a person’s “fatness” or “thinness”, allowing health professionals to discuss over- and under-weight problems more objectively with their patients. However, BMI has become controversial because many people, including physicians, have come to rely on its apparent numerical authority for medical diagnosis, but that was never the BMI’s purpose; it is meant to be used as a simple means of classifying sedentary (physically inactive) individuals with an average body composition.”

It is not intended to really relate to any one individual but more for statistical studies of populations of people as has become more and more of a concern because of the increase in general well-being

Thanks for this

Steffi March 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Ick, BMI. I don’t rely on it. It’s all about how I feel, if I’m able to breathe at the end of a run, and whether or not my jeans zip. End of story.

seth@1010in2010 March 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm

@ Steffi — nice comment! I like it. end of story

Twinkie March 16, 2010 at 9:18 am

My BMI is “too skinny”, but when I look at myself…I dont think thats it at all! And…apparently my “healthy weight”, is 30 lbs more than I am now (sorry, but I am not buying into that as “healthy”).

I think bone mass, how physically active you are, etc all play a role as to what your healthy weight should be. As we all know…muscle weighs more than fat!

Keep it up! :)

leah March 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I’ve noticed that most men can get away with being over the recommended bmi than the average women. I suppose it’s because men build muscle easily and tend look better bigger. Athletic/muscular men and women shouldn’t pay much attention to the bmi chart.
I’m a women and not really muscular so the bmi chart has been accurate so far.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post:

© 2007-2012 John Is Fit - Personal Weight Loss Blog. Powered by Wordpress, theme by Thesis, and hosted by Dreamhost.