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BMI is wrong. See how to measure your weight correctly

Sitting all day long, and you have the perfect BMI? Or maybe you exercise every day and your BMI tells you that you are overweight? Do not trust the BMI – it’s not a proper way to measure the true state of your body.

BMI is wrong and we all should stop using it

Probably if you are interested in health you what BMI stands for, so we won’t explain what “BMI” means and what are the correct values. Instead, let’s take a look at the concept of BMI and why it’s useless for most of us.

Contrary to what you can find on the Internet, BMI which is commonly used today, was not created in the nineteenth century. It is true that between 1830 and 1850  Adolphe Quetelet formed the basis of the BMI, but his work has not a lot in common with the modern BMI.

Modern BMI dates back to 1972 when Ancel Keys described it in his paper. Keys used the BMI to compare height and weight in populations, and on this basis, he concluded which weight is correct (population-wise).

So why BMI is lying? Here are some facts:

  • Keys himself in his work claimed that the BMI is unsatisfactory as an indicator of normal weight
  • BMI was designed to work on populations and not on people
  • BMI was designed to measure a population of low physical activity and a typical body fat level

Each of us is different. We do not grow exactly the same in all 3 dimensions. Often athletes with muscular physique will have a high BMI, even though they are healthy. And some people with excess fat around the waist (the most dangerous fat) are within a healthy BMI. Although the BMI is easy to calculate, its usefulness is rather negligible. Sometimes it can even be dangerous, giving a false image of being healthy.

What are the alternatives?

There are many ways to calculate your weight. Some are even easier to calculate than BMI:

  • Waist circumference measurement:

Simply measuring your waist can tell you if you are overweight or not. To measure your waist use a measuring tape. Start at the top of your hip bone and measure your waist all the way around (see the image below). Place the tape just above your belly button. Remember to stand straight, don’t hold your breath and don’t measure your waist just after eating. Your waist should measure no more than 40 inches if you are male and no more than 35 if you are a female.

  • Waist to hip ratio (WHR)Waist to hip RatioImage credit: Mikael Häggström

 

WHR provides information whether you are likely to develop high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

To check WHR simply measure your hip with a tape and compare it with your waist. Then, compare the result with the table below:

 

Men

Women

< 0.90< 0.80normal weight
0.90 to 0.990.80 to 0.84over-weight
1.0+0.85+obesity

The data is from the German Society for Sports Medicine and Prevention (DGSP). This method is not perfect and gives you more an idea of a type of obesity you have, than your overall proper weight.

  • Waist to height ratio (WHTR)

Another much more effective way to check if you are not overweight is the waist to height ratio. To get the result just divide your waist circumference by your height and then compare it with the table below:

Women

RATIOBody type
Less than 35Abnormally Slim / Underweight
35 to 42Extremely Slim
42 to 46Slender and Healthy
46 to 49Healthy
49 to 54Overweight
54 to 58Seriously Overweight
Over 58Highly Obese

Men

RATIOBody type
Less than 35Abnormally Slim to Underweight
35 to 43Extremely Slim
43 to 46Slender and Healthy
46 to 53Healthy
53 to 58Overweight
58 to 63Seriously Overweight
Over 63Highly Obese

This is probably the best way to check if you are obese.

  • Other ways

There are more ways to check your proper weight. You can use many of the internet calculators, use hydrostatic weighting or special clippers to measure your body’s fat. But a simple measure tape should be enough for most of us to find the correct weight.

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