Body Mass Index (BMI) is lame

For a long time, body mass index (BMI) has been commonly used to evaluate a person’s health status. It’s a very simple calculation that uses your height and weight to determine “body fatness.”

The categories for BMI are as follows:
<18.9     underweight
19-24.5          normal
25-29.9     overweight
30-39.9          obese
> 40   morbidly obese

The only problem, which is a big problem, is that it doesn’t take into account a person’s muscle mass. This picture does a great job of showing how calculating a person’s BMI really means nothing:
Both guys are the same height and weight, which means their BMI is the same and puts them in the category considered “obese.” I wouldn’t have considered the guy on the left ito be obese. Muscle weighs more than fat, and he has a lot of muscle. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s BMI was also 33 when he was body building.

There are many skinny people whose bodies are not healthy, and many heavier people who are very healthy. If you want to see where you lie, enter your data in the widget provided by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (

A better indicator is a hip-waist ratio. It gives a much better idea about how much fat a person has in the abdomen area (abdominal adiposity). You can’t hide a beer belly in a hip-waist ratio like you could in a BMI calculation. While hip-waist ratio is a little more accurate than BMI, it’s best to view a person’s health status from a variety of factors. Diet, physical activity, exclusion of tobacco and moderation of alcohol, lab tests, and many others can collectively give a better picture of healthiness.

What do you think of using BMI?

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Author: budgetforhealth

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget for Health!

5 thoughts on “Body Mass Index (BMI) is lame”

  1. If you get up in the morning, look in the mirror and are happy with how you look, the calculators don’t matter. I had a goal to get down to 8% body fat at one point in my life. I got down to 10% and my face looked like it was caved in. No thanks. Don’t care what the calculators said. It’s all about what the mirror says.
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    1. I have a few friends who have thin frames and don’t eat healthy or work out because they just stay skinny. From the outside they look great, but fat can accumulate around organs & sometimes cause worse problems than your visible abdominal fat.

  2. You have made some decent points there. I checked on the internet
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    your views on this web site.

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