Oh dear Mr. Chivers, oh dear

Britain is fat; about half of all adults are considered “overweight” – and nearly a quarter obese – by body mass index (BMI), the standard measure. I get called “slim”, from time to time, but my BMI (weight in kilos divided by the square of my height in metres: 1.8 metres, 82 kilos, BMI 24.8) is teetering just on the brink of “normal”, barely below the 25 cut-off for overweight. We’ve recalibrated our idea of what people look like.

And being fat is a problem, from a public health point of view. The fatter you are, the greater your risk of heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, infertility, high blood pressure, and so on and so forth.

No, not true. There is, as with so many things, a U shaped curve here. Being terribly thin (ie, BMI under 20) is dangerous to your health. Bring morbidly obese is dangerous to your health. Hell, being alive is dangerous to your health. But the weight which is least dangerous to your health is being overweight: a BMI or 25 to 30. It is a curve, not a straight line, here.

I could explain the risks in detail, but I like this explanation from the website Science and Rainbows: they looked at research on the impact on life expectancy of an HIV diagnosis, and of being diagnosed with obesity, at various different ages. If you have a BMI of 44 at age 30, your life expectancy is about the same as that of someone the same age being diagnosed with HIV at the same age, and in later years being obese is far the greater risk

A BMI of 44 is indeed morbidly obese. Not overweight or a tad fatty.


12 thoughts on “Oh dear Mr. Chivers, oh dear”

  1. Having a BMI in the high 20s can easily be achieved with muscle rather than fat — one of my colleagues has a daughter who swam for the county in the sixth form, and wasn’t carrying a spare ounce, but her school still sent the concerned letter about her BMI of 28!

  2. Of course, the presumption here is that a “safe” BMI is a measure that has been scientifically calculated and empirically proven.

    Needless to say, this is not true.

    A “safe” BMI has been reducing since the concept was created. Not that the original concept has any evidence behind it anyway.

    So, having had to attend hospitals regularly for the last 23 years, I have watched with amusement the red patch slowly and inexorably slither across the chart towards my own BMI.

    Unsurprisingly, I am now “fat”, with a BMI that was considered healthy 15 years ago and I now weigh 86 kilos as opposed to 88 back then.

    Perhaps the constant torment by these bastards has given me a resigned stoop which has reduced my height by a centimetre or so.

    The real problem is a “safe” level of IQ whereby we could test these wankers and stop them writing.

  3. The lower end of a healthy BMI is 18.5 according to the NHS website:

    “What is a healthy BMI?
    For most adults, an ideal BMI is in the range 18.5 to 24.9.”

    My BMI varies between 24 and 25 as a carry more muscle mass than normal.
    But as you say the risk this shows is a curve and so I’m not much different when my BMI is 25 to when it’s 24.

  4. Nice stat but thin type 2 diabetics die of heart disease both younger and more frequently than their waddling counterparts. Is obesity a protective adaptation which the skinnies are unable to mount? Discuss.

  5. I don’t know about the UK, but overweight and obese statistics for the U.S. are gathered by massive annual telephone surveys. No data is verified. Data is then “adjusted” by the people in the government who have a stake in the results.

    In the U.S., government published obesity data is not scientific. It may as well be made up.

  6. But you only disagree with Chivers because you’re a foolish, dim Ukipper.

    After all, he’s read a popular scientific book tangentially related to the subject, and agreed with it.

    Which makes him an expert on this, as well as everything else.

  7. Just you wait. When over seventy years of age and heavy – surgeons will look at you askance. Your joints will complain. People will treat you as a time bomb. That is if they can see you. The 70+ are invisible to youf. And buying clothes will not be easy.

  8. The real problem is a “safe” level of IQ whereby we could test these wankers and stop them writing.

    I suspect Tom Chivers, not the poet, has an IQ lower than his BMI.

  9. BMI is crap, and should be ignored. Example, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is obese under BMI.

    Tim is right is is better to be a little overweight and reasonably fit than to be skinny and unfit.

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