No,. just not getting it, just not getting it

But it seems ridiculous to suggest that we refrain from giving parents critical information about their child’s health for fear of upsetting them. One in five children leaves primary school obese. That’s one in five who faces a lifetime of increased risk of serious health issues and premature death due to dietary and lifestyle choices they had little control over in their childhood. That’s cruel.

Some parents have written off the warnings, chalking it up to puppy fat or their child’s “solid frame”. Yes, the BMI measure the government uses isn’t perfect; someone very muscular and carrying little fat can show up as obese. But that’s far more likely to be a problem for the Olympic cycling team than a four-year-old.

It’s really not cyclists who are likely to fall foul of BMI mismeasurements.

Just really not cyclists.

23 thoughts on “No,. just not getting it, just not getting it”

  1. Swimmers, that I could believe — one of my colleagues in years gone by had a daughter who swam for the county in highschool, very definitely toned, but so much upper body muscle that the school tut-tutted about her BMI.

  2. Bloke in Costa Rica

    If you’re using kg·m⁻² for anything other than designing the floor loading in a warehouse you’re probably being a twat. BMI is a fucking nonsense.

  3. So Much For Subtlety

    Obese people are aesthetically displeasing (and lower class – weight based dislike is the last socially acceptable form of snobbery), but are they unhealthy?

    We are getting fatter and fatter but we are also living longer and longer.

  4. @BICR, indeed. The volume of similar bodies is proportional to the cube of the height not the square, and hence so is the weight.
    One effect of this discrepancy is that tall people get a higher BMI than short ones without carrying more fat.
    Are children perhaps getting taller- well yes they are.
    Not to say that there is no problem, but the extent of it is wildly exaggerated.
    Especially when one remembers that a BMI of 27 used to be the centre of normal, it has now been redefined as overweight.

  5. I’ve mentioned before that Martin Johnson was obese by these measures when he played 120 mins of rugby in the 2003 World Cup final. I wouldn’t be surprised in Chris Hoy was in a similar boat, being a power sprinter.

  6. BiCR

    “BMI is a fucking nonsense.”

    If you want a simple fat measure that works, your waist circumference should be half or less than your height.

  7. The front row of any professional rugby team would have been a better example.

    Any forward these days, and probably the centres. Chuck in the odd winger. Though I’d be surprised if any track cyclists even would meet the definition.

    Over 28 used to be the definition of overweight. Now it is over 24.9 and over 30 is ‘obese’. The goal posts have widened so much that practically anyone gets in.

    We now have the weird situation where people who are overweight (but not obese) live longer than the underweight of those with a ‘healthy’ BMI, yet ‘overweight’ is routinely and dishonestly conflated with ‘obese’. Anomalies like this tend to be good signs that the people in charge of the science are political activists and not experts.

  8. Given the amount of cycling and training professionals do (200+ miles/day), the muscle build up could very well but them in to at least the overweight category on the BMI chart. Mine’s 23 and I cycle a comparatively modest 100 or so miles/week.

    It’s still not the best analogy though. As others have said, a member of the front row would be better.

  9. “If you want a simple fat measure that works, your waist circumference should be half or less than your height.”

    Pretty much what the quack said to me after my health check last month… after the physiologist had tried to convince skeptical me that BMI was actually useful.

  10. Here in the US, we had 23andMe, a service in which you’d send a genetic sample and they’d run tests on whether you had genetic markers for a whole range of things. The FDA shot it down, presumably because they want people to go through the doctors’ lobby rather than doing it themselves.

    BMI, on the other hand, gives the state more chance to be the bullies they are, which is why they want to let everyone know about that.

  11. I’m pretty sure track cyclists do exceed BMI – although road cyclists probably don’t. Back when I was a mountain biker, I was way over – almost all in my bum and legs.

    “BMI is a fucking nonsense.”

    No, treating BMI as anything more than the first line in a dialogue is nonsense. The whole flipping point is that you have to adjust it for your height, your musculature, and so-on, so to make any sense of it you have to think about the whole picture. The headline number is just a starting-point.

    Of course, let’s be realistic about this, the primary purpose of BMI these days is to serve as a euphemism when telling the few parents who need telling that their kid is fat. It’s a lot easier to say ‘you child exceeds the recommended BMI for his/her height’ than ‘your sprog is a lazy porker, your lifestyle is chavvy and disgusting, pull your finger out’.

  12. @Pat,

    Actually tall people are not proportionally wider. So we shouldn’t be using the cube of height. Arguably a bit more than the square.

  13. @ BiG
    The original idea was height^2.5 to account for that. But certainly NOT the square as BiCR points out.
    Secondly BMI is an average which takes no account of whether you are ectomorphic, mesomorphic or endomorphic.
    Thirdly, you are likely to be deceived by the fact that those who are less-than-proportionately wider *look* tall.

  14. “If you want a simple fat measure that works, your waist circumference should be half or less than your height.”

    That buggers me coming and going. As I’ve got older I’ve shrunk and inevitably that means my body mass pokes out around the middle. 20 years ago I was 5’11+3/4″ with a 38″ waist. I’m now 5’10” with a 42″ waist.

    (Yes, I’ve also put on a stone in that time, but that can’t be relevant can it?)

  15. Bloke in Costa Rica

    “BMI is a fucking nonsense.”

    “No, treating BMI as anything more than the first line in a dialogue is nonsense. The whole flipping point is that you have to adjust it for your height, your musculature, and so-on…”

    Any measure that requires that many caveats is, ipso facto, a fucking nonsense. It’s deferents and epicycles all over again.

    I’m only little (173cm) but 36″ trousers are loose on me, so I’m pretty close to the halfway mark.

  16. Presumably this writer and the rest of the Graun are happy that Walkers are raising their prices and will be thanking Brexiters for what they’ve done? Right?

  17. BICR>

    You misunderstand me. The point is to get people engaged in a conversation about it. At which it works splendidly, as demonstrated here.

  18. The modern adjusted BMI is 1.3 * mass / height ^ 2.5. Which gives the same answer as BMi for those 1m69* tall (1.3 squared); pushes the BMI up a bit for those shorter and down a bit for those taller.

    * 5’6½” for those on Imperial

  19. The Olympic cycling team is mostly track.

    Half of those are track sprinters, and they’re generally over the BMI. Chris Hoy, for instance. Not massive upper bodies, but thighs that make tree trunks look thin.

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