Does This BMI Chart Make Me Look Fat? - Tucson Personal Training Group Fitness Blog

Personal Training in Tucson - The Protocol Strength & Conditioning, Llc

By: Jerry Trubman, Owner & Founder

Over the course of my training career, very few things have stirred up more controversy than the infamous BMI chart. Although I’m not generally one to say that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem, it seems as though this seemingly innocent chart has become a one-size-pisses-off-all.

I’m not usually one to use my blog as a means to ruffle feathers. I prefer to take a more moderate and philosophical approach that allows one the space necessary to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions. Please understand that this is the spirit of this post. 

If you’ve never seen the chart (or haven’t looked at it in a while), here it is…

(photo courtesy of www.businessinsider.com)

You can determine your exact BMI by using the calculator below...

Supplied by BMI Calculator USA

So... You may have just said to yourself,

“Hmm… it looks like, according to this chart, I’m too short!”

Haha.

I have to admit that I’ve recently come around full circle on the BMI… sort of. This post may not be popular with the BMI bashers, but before you hit the “back” button on your browser, I challenge you to let a few things swirl around in your head… and if you have the patience to last through the end, I extend an olive branch and offer two even better (and easier to calculate) options that I feel are superior to the BMI. Let’s proceed…

I questioned the validity of the BMI for many years… but mostly back when I was fat...

Yup, there I am… All 185 pounds of me. 40 pounds heavier, and 10 years younger than I am today. Like most Americans, when I looked at the BMI back then, I quickly discovered that I weighed more than I was supposed to… ESPECIALLY for a guy who worked as a trainer.  

I remember the barrage of excuses I used to make, too. Listed below are some of them, along with the response that 2018 Jerry would have responded to 2008 Jerry with…

2008 Jerry: “This chart doesn’t take into account muscle mass. I’m totally jacked, bro!”

2018 Jerry: “Nah brah, you’re just fat.”

 

2008 Jerry: “I’m in great shape! Why am I still ‘obese’?”

2018 Jerry: “Although ‘round’ is technically a shape, no. You’re still just fat.”

 

2008 Jerry: “This chart is stupid!”

2018 Jerry: “Nope. You’re just fat.”

 

2008 Jerry: “I’m not fat, I’m big boned. Doesn’t this chart take into account that people are built different?”

2018 Jerry: “Dude, look at your wrists, ankles, and pictures of you when you were a kid! C’mon man, you’re just fat.”

 

2008 Jerry: “In his prime, Arnold Schwarzenegger was obese. What about that, smarty pants?”

2018 Jerry: “Arnold was a genetic, and chemically altered, anomaly. You’re just fat.”

 

2008 Jerry: “This is fat shaming… I’m triggered!”

(Ok, I never said that. But still… no. Just fat.)

Just like the social media comments today, I had every excuse in the world.

Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, maybe we should think about this for a bit. The size of the average American a few generations ago (1960 to be exact according to this studywas 166.3 pounds for a male and 140.2 pounds for a female.

Today the average American male is 195.7 pounds and the average female is 164.3 pounds. Did you catch that? The average female weighs about as much as the average male in 1960. Does that concern you?

As far as the current BMI chart taking into account muscle mass: I’ve been training with weights my entire adult life, and even with the extra muscle mass from 20+ years of lifting, I’m still on the upper end of ‘normal’ on the chart.

Perhaps we should look at other biomarkers too. If I had the necessary humility back then, I would have also taken account that my blood pressure was high, and so was my cholesterol. But no. I had nifty excuses for those things too.

Maybe, just maybe, could it be possible that people have just gotten fat?

And the reason this chart is so controversial is that it rubs our noses in it?

So, let’s say the excuses we discussed here resonate more with you than the defense of the BMI chart. That’s fine. As promised, here’s another, much simpler and concise way, to determine if you’re at a healthy weight for your body: The string test.

<click here for a video of me demonstrating>

The string test consists of taking a piece of string, stepping on one end and taking the other end to the top of your head. You now have a string that is as long as your body is tall. Now, fold that string in half. What is left of the length is 50% of your body height. This should be able to fit around your waist at the belly button. If it can, you’re probably at a healthy weight… even if you’re all jacked, bro. If you’re nowhere close… well…

If the string test is far too complicated, here’s an even easier one… this is for those who use the ‘I’m way too jacked for this BMI chart, bro’ types: Once strict pullup for women and 10 strict pullups for men. No swinging, no kipping, no cheating. Strict reps. Enjoy!

As I mentioned earlier, this post was not aimed at folks who realize there is a problem, and are on a good sustainable path to a solution. You are aware that you're in middle of that journey, and you’re working towards a goal. Awesome! For the rest of you, I hope this post, at the very least, made a few things swirl around in your head. Maybe it's time to take some action...

Until next time,   

Jerry Trubman is a coach, clinician, author, blogger, and powerlifting state champion. With over two decades of lifting experience, he has devoted himself to seeking out better answers, and distilling them into practical programs that produce great results. Jerry has coached "Team Protocol" to 4 National Powerlifting Championships in the 100% Raw federation. He writes the internationally-read blog, “The Healthy Addiction” and lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife Marie and dog Sadie. To subscribe to his blog, click here.

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