As regular readers will already know, we are gourmands, and not necessarily gourmets. [For those of you who aren’t sure of the technical differences between these two terms, a gourmet is a connoisseur of fine food and drink, a gourmand is a person who is fond of good eating, often indiscriminatingly and to excess.] And, because of these proclivities towards caloric overkill, we’re edging towards what until recently I had considered to be a pleasant roundness in places, a sort of cherubic rubicundity, if you will. I say I felt this way until recently because I was tempted earlier this week by the sage words of none other than the great Jeffrey Steingarten to calculate my BMI.
BMI, or body mass index, is the standard way that doctors calculate a person’s total amount of body fat vs. the ideal weight for their height. It’s quite a simple calculation of weight divided by height, but its outcome has great importance for ones’ health. Apparently, the ideal BMI is 21 which, I suspect, was the age at which my BMI was last at that number, and at which age I accurately resembled the hollow-cheeked, lank-haired student that I was. A BMI above 28 means, among other things embarrassment & shame at the beach, in clothes stores, and when faced with stairs, but more sinisterly, a greater likelihood of heart disease, strokes, kidney and liver disease, diabetes, and therefore, premature death. Chilling stuff, eh? Well, here’s the interesting thing, a BMI of 31 will have you officially categorized as obese, meaning that you can be some way shy of obesity and still be destined to cark it at an early age, which actually sucks quite badly when you think about it.
Anyway, if that hasn’t scared the sh!t out of you, and you still wish to put yourself through the frankly terrifying ordeal of calculating your BMI, the first thing you have to do is weigh yourself — something I hadn’t done in at least four years, owing to the absence of a set of scales in my home, you see, not because I didn’t want to know how much heavier I had become. I want to be clear on this point.
So, on Monday of last week – after a reasonably active weekend, fortunately – I weighed myself in the locker room at the gym sporting nothing but a towel and a furrowed brow as I tinkered fruitlessly with the slider thingy to shave off a couple of extra ounces. 194lbs. Exactly nine pounds heavier than the last time I was weighed, showing an average weight gain of 2lbs per year.
I wasn’t exactly overjoyed with this, but decided to proceed with the BMI experiment all the same. Here’s how it’s done:
- Take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 703.
- Divide the result by your height in inches.
- Then, divide the result again by your height in inches.
- My weight in pounds: 194 x 703
- The result: 136,382 / 73 (my height in inches)
- The 2nd result: 1,868.25 / 73 inches = My BMI is25.
Yes, it was anticlimactic in the end, I’ll admit. But, as with anything to do with health, it’s a great relief to find out that you’re not about to drop dead like you might have feared – at least, it seems, not from being overweight… yet. That said, there are a lot of scientists who dispute the usefulness of BMI in indicating a person’s ideal weight because it makes no consideration of an individual’s build. For instance, a heavily-muscled, yet ripped, man of medium height might have a BMI exceeding 30 but is unlikely to be at as great a risk of a heart attack as a taller person with only light muscle mass and a large gut.
And, here is the point, or at least I think so, because four years ago when I last checked, I weighed in at 185lbs. At that time, I was pretty skinny – it’s true, just ask my wife, but using the method above, my BMI would still have been 24.5. To achieve the ideal BMI of 21, I would have to weigh 165lbs or less. I stand six feet and one inch tall and am of medium-build (typical British build, if you will). So, I ask you, is 165lbs an ideal weight for someone of my height? I’d be nothing but skin and bones at that weight, some thirty pounds lighter than I am currently, and 20lbs less than when I was actually skinny. It all kind of sounds insane to me. What do you think? Should I attempt to lose those 30lbs? Should I even care about my BMI? Or, is it, in fact, just another potential source of paranoia in a world where everything you eat has some sort of warning or health risk? Being alive is starting to seem like a recipe for a sticky end…