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Is BMI BS?

November 01, 2013 4 min read

BMI or Body Mass Index has been used for a long time to determine if a person is within a healthy weight range for their height or not. But, it is accurate or is BMI just BS? BMI is calculated using the height and weight of a person. The formula is this:
English BMI Formula
BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches x Height in inches ) ) x 703
Metric BMI Formula
BMI = ( Weight in Kilograms / ( Height in Meters x Height in Meters ) )
  Since I am not so great at math, here is the chart to make it easier. At 5'6" and weighing 149 pounds, the BMI chart says I am on the brink of being overweight, coming in with a BMI score of 24. According to bmi-calculator.net, BMI can be used to indicate if you are overweight, obese, underweight or normal. A healthy BMI score is between 20 and 25. A score below 20 indicates that you may be underweight; a value above 25 indicates that you may be overweight. This is where things get tricky. BMI merely calculates your overall mass. It doesn't separate muscle from fat nor does it consider bone mass or age. It just calculates your overall weight and height. So, men who are say, 5'9" and muscular, weighing 182 pounds are considered to be overweight with a score of 27. Muscular women can score into the unhealthy range, even though they eat right, work out, and have a healthy body fat percentage. We have to ditch this old idea of BMI. It just isn't accurate. Body fat is a much better indicator of overall health when compared to height, weight (fat and lean mass) and age. We all know that healthy eating and exercise (in that order) leads to a person being healthier. BMI can't provide this picture because it only looks at part of the whole. And, wielding this highly ineffective tool in schools is even worse! But, that is exactly what is happening. Although I feel this  article is a little one-sided, it brings up the point that, what are being called "Fat Letters" are being sent home from school to parents. Even children who are clearly not unhealthy or overweight, and who are athletic and involved in sports are receiving these letters. Elementary aged school children are impressionable as it is; this is the age group that bullying and self-esteem issues begin to blossom. These "Fat Letters" may only increase their problems and create complexes for them as they move into adolescence and adulthood. Now, I am not saying that there are probably some children who do fall into the overweight/unhealthy category. In fact, I know there are. And, I do think it is partly the school's and teacher's responsibility as civil servants to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of the children in their care. I do think that health and proper nutrition should be taught the 5 days a week kids are in school. So, for that, I commend the school system for employing dietitians. But what real benefit is it for the children? What are they learning? Why are typical school lunches still so unhealthy? However, the real responsibility falls on the parents to teach their children healthy eating habits. The sad thing is, many parents really don't know what is healthy and are probably sending their children to school with good faith that the food they are being provided will nourish their growing bodies. This lack of knowledge regarding healthy food was painfully clear at an event I attended recently with girls in this discussed age group. They really had no clue as to what healthy meals looked like. Many of them were disgusted by vegetables and couldn't name more than a few anyway. But meals typical to school lunches were a favorite! Unfortunately, children who are spending an average of 30 hours a week at school are consistently consuming meals like this:

nachos-1This meal is all starch and sugar with a little bit of fat and "protein" from the cheese (if that is what you want to call it) sauce on the nachos.

typical-school-lunchHere we have a low quality protein accompanied with starch and sugar.

schoollunch[1]Starch and sugar galore.

school-lunchMore of the same.

There are no vegetables on these plates. Tater tots, french fries, and corn don't count. Those are starches. Fruit cocktail doesn't either - it is packed in syrup for crying out loud.

Why can't lunches be more like this?

HEPApr2013-1024x800

If school lunches were more balanced and proper nutrition was regarded with an importance parallel to not smoking or doing drugs, then I think we would be seeing a different type of article.

As far as schools sending home "Fat Letters", well, I think it is irresponsible mainly because the method they are using to determine health is so inaccurate. It also makes the child a target for ridicule, whether they are in fact overweight or not.

I think that schools and parents need to work together when it comes to kids. I think parents should push for healthier lunches and more accurate nutrition training in schools. I think the schools should provide healthy lunches and ample time for physical activity during the day.

I think parents need to take responsibility for their children's overall health and well-being and educate themselves on what is healthy for their family. I think the school should support the effort of their school's families.

What do you think? How would you feel if your child came home with a "Fat Letter"?

I would love to hear what you have to say! Please leave your comments below!

XO,

Kara Sign Off

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