Writer’s Block: Working the numbers

We all hate going to the doctor and stepping on the scale.Tammy Sakry

Over the years, the Body Mass Index (BMI) has been calculated and used as a tool to determine if the patient is overweight or not.

I think this system needs to be reworked.

As a overweight woman, there is no question I need a little more walking time and less chair time, but for others the BMI is sending the wrong message.

A recent health screening program in our office got several of us out of sorts and got the jokes rolling.

Case in point, one of my fellow employees measures in at 5 feet 6 inches and has a 31-inch waist (yep, we measured it in front of the whole office).

According to the health screening, my co-worker is overweight with a BMI of 26.9.

Are you kidding?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), anyone with a BMI of 25 and over is overweight.

OK. Hmmm… I think this equation needs more data.

Working off the existing BMI, athletes with low body fat are also classified as overweight even if it is their muscle density showing up on the scale.

If they come in with a BMI of 30 or more, these athletes would be labeled obese. No one wants that label.

In 2009, the BMI scale came under fire in a study by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston, which was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

They considered the BMI scale to be faulty because it does not take into account gender, different body types, ethnicity or lifespan, according to an article posted on the Baylor College of Medicine website.

While the CDC believes the BMI is a reliable indicator of body fat, I really think it needs to go back to the drawing board.

How can you tell a dedicated athlete or someone with a 31-inch waist they are overweight, especially when they fall below the other health screening measurements, including a waist less than 35 inches for women.

While we were joking around about the obviously flawed classification of our svelte co-workers, it really got me worried what health screeners and doctors are telling teenage girls, and to a degree, boys.

The CDC has a BMI calculator for kids 19 years and younger that includes date of birth, date of the exam and gender as well as height and weight.

But not body style.

While my co-worker said she maintained the same weight during most of her life, except when she was pregnant, she clearly remembers being told she was overweight as a teen by a health professional.

To drop the pounds, she skipped meals or ate sparingly.

I fear that same message and result is happening still today.

Before school started many students had the annual trek to the doctor to be weighed, measured and poked.

Are they being told they are overweight because of their BMI alone? I hope not.

Teenagers don’t need another reason to have a negative body image.

I hope health care professionals take into account the person in front of them and not rely only on a chart alone.

Knowing your weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, pulse and blood sugar are important.

Having one number on the report labeling people overweight is bad.

The BMI scale needs to be reassessed to include whether the person is a tall and thin-framed ectomorph, thick and athletic mesomorph or thick and round endomorph.

It also needs to include what muscle mass these groups have rather than lumping people into one category.

There are too many healthy and trim people being labeled overweight by the BMI.