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Where are you on the global fat scale?
July 13, 2012 7:36 AM   Subscribe


 
BMI of 19, most like someone from Somalia. Hard to know what to do with this knowledge.
posted by saladin at 7:38 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Humblebrag, obviously.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:41 AM on July 13, 2012 [33 favorites]


Good call.
posted by saladin at 7:42 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. Changing mine by just 10 pounds (the amount I've gained in the past year due to an ankle injury) changes the results considerably.

I wonder how much stock I should put into this thing, since my BMI has the potential to move between that of a Russian, and that of a Somalian in the time it takes to use the toilet....
posted by schmod at 7:42 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


BMI of 27, which isn't too bad but still a bit overweight, and I'm most like someone from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

So what's up with Micronesia? With the BMI averages over there, they should rename the place MACROnesia, amirite?
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:44 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


When do we start talking about how BMI is flawed measurement?
posted by VTX at 7:45 AM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


BMI of 25. I'm most like someone from Uzbekistan. My people!

(not my people)
posted by hanoixan at 7:46 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also BMI of 27 here, which, for my age and gender group, makes me most like a man from Uruguay. Apparently.
posted by owtytrof at 7:46 AM on July 13, 2012


It doesn't particularly matter if BMI is flawed on an individual level when comparing averages across populations.
posted by Justinian at 7:47 AM on July 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


If everyone in the world had the same BMI as you, it would remove 37,470,319 tonnes from the total weight of the world's population

No pressure, guys...
posted by hermitosis at 7:47 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a nice implementation but I'm puzzled by all the hot air on the "See it in action" tab. BMI calculators have been on the internet AT LEAST since "under construction" gifs and javascript water reflection effects. Why did the BBC choose to promote one right now?
posted by scose at 7:48 AM on July 13, 2012


It doesn't particularly matter if BMI is flawed on an individual level when comparing averages across populations.

What?
posted by polymodus at 7:49 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish my result was on the Global Fat Cat Scale. *sigh*
posted by NoMich at 7:50 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was really interesting to me, because I'm from Trinidad but go to school in France. It definitely has been kind of a mindfuck to go from having a lower BMI than (what I've just learned) is 72 percent of women in my age range at home to having a higher one than 77 percent of them in France, where I'm very often the fattest girl in the room.

Also, "Did you know? If everyone in the world had the same BMI as you, it would add 4,834,276 tonnes to the total weight of the world's population." That's... lovely.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:51 AM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I always loved Togo.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:51 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


You have a higher BMI than 100% of males aged 15-29 in your country

Something tells me there's a shortcoming in the methodology. I have a BMI of 27.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:51 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm 5'7 and weigh 133 pounds - per the calculator, "You have a higher BMI than 100% of males aged 30-44 in your country". Just looking around my particular office, I can tell this thing isn't accurate.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:52 AM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh wow, I was REALLY concerned to learn that my BMI put me in the obese range, and then I realized that I had used kilograms instead of pounds.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 7:52 AM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


My BMI of 20 puts me in Bangladesh.

But I don't want to go to Bangladesh :(
posted by griphus at 7:52 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I were to find myself in a room with many 34-year-old women from Bosnia and Herzegovina, odds are we could have an excellent clothing swap.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:53 AM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


BMI of 24. Morocco.

I do love me some cous cous.
posted by emelenjr at 7:53 AM on July 13, 2012


(Which, on preview, some of the previous commenters did, too.)
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 7:53 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


YESSSS

BMI EQUAL TO A MACEDONIAN

MY GENETICS SHINE THROUGH
posted by Greg Nog at 7:54 AM on July 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Last year Trinidad and Tobago; this year Singapore.

Next year..? The MOON, baby.
posted by marimeko at 7:54 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


BMI of 20

You have a lower BMI than 89% of females aged 30-44 in your country

You have a lower BMI than 74% of females aged 30-44 in the world

If everyone in the world had the same BMI as you, it would remove 39,607,606 tonnes from the total weight of the world's population

o_O

Oh, and I'm from Sri Lanka now.

Silenced Underweight all my life.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 7:55 AM on July 13, 2012


BMI of 24. One point away from obese.

FUCK YOU NUMBER! I'M WORKING ON IT.
posted by stormpooper at 7:56 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh wow, I was REALLY concerned to learn that my BMI put me in the obese range, and then I realized that I had used kilograms instead of pounds.

Ditto - I'd hate to know where I fall in the "ability to follow directions" index.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:56 AM on July 13, 2012


Well, this is awkward; the BBC says I am just a couple steps up from Ethiopian...
posted by polywomp at 7:57 AM on July 13, 2012


It doesn't particularly matter if BMI is flawed on an individual level when comparing averages across populations.

It's still flawed; it doesn't actually measure fat, just weight. Which means my gorgeous turgid deltoids are throwing me into "overweight" territory despite being a necessary staging ground for the flaring of my eyespots when predators approach.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:57 AM on July 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


My BMI = Democratic Republic of the Congo, and my BMI is less than 89% of females aged 30-44 in the United States. This is threatening to my solid belief that I should be a Medium in clothing.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:58 AM on July 13, 2012


Since I regulary gain 5 lbs, depending on the time of the month, I put in the higher range and lower range, which sent me from "Above Average" (related to an average Canadian woman) and "like someone from Honduras", to "Below Average" (related to an average Canadian woman) and "like someone from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Elly, please invite me to your next Bosnian and Herzgovinian clothing swap, but hopefully in will be when I'm not on my period.
posted by Kurichina at 8:00 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You folks with the strange 100% results need to change the meter from kilogram to pounds and meter to feet I think.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 8:00 AM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


What surprises me is that at 32 (yeah, fuck you seroquel. And cake.) I'm apparently larger than 80% of UK women in my age range. Given the headless fatties we see in the news here, either Britain isn't as fat as we think, or a lot of people are not entirely sure of their correct details. (I take the apparently average dress size for UK women, a 16, but that doesn't really mean anything. The debates on things like the Cosmo forum on 'what dress size makes a woman fat' is bollocks, as height makes a difference, and weight distribution - someone who is six inches shorter and an apple rather than an hourglass will look different, as will a man with the same height and weight.)

Apparently I'm on a par with Kuwait, which is odd given that I'm 5ft 10 and Arab ladies tend to be shorter than average.

On the plus side, losing 10 kilos will get me just about overweight, which seems a useable goal. I like kilos, they don't have the baggage that we attach to stones.

Stormpooper - It's over 30 which is obese (you can't feature obese people in diet product ads in the UK as it's classed as a medical condition, in the sense that your doctor should be giving you advice on what to do), not over 25.
posted by mippy at 8:02 AM on July 13, 2012


It doesn't particularly matter if BMI is flawed on an individual level when comparing averages across populations.

Comparing across populations highlights the way different ethnic groups tend to have different body types, a pretty compelling case for a strong genetic component to weight (which most experts agree about anyway). In other words, looking at average BMIs across populations shows that our weight is less under our control than we are told it is.
posted by latkes at 8:02 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's an illustrated guide to BMI here which is interesting.
posted by mippy at 8:03 AM on July 13, 2012


You're most like someone from Ethiopia.

Please explain why I can't zip up my shorts today then, smartypants calculator. They don't even HAVE burritos in Ethiopia.
posted by elizardbits at 8:04 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


BMI EQUAL TO A MACEDONIAN

Regular or Republic of?
posted by griphus at 8:05 AM on July 13, 2012


When do we start talking about how BMI is flawed measurement?

If I had a double masectomy I'd be bang on the correct weight scale (not for nothing did I laugh out loud at the Miranda Hart joke where she weighed her breasts to see how much they'd cost to post, and found they had to go by Parcelforce) so make of that what you will. Christ only knows what would happen if I got pregnant.
posted by mippy at 8:06 AM on July 13, 2012


As I was plugging in different countries to see how my BMI ranks, I switched from being "most likely" from Turkey, to being "most likely" from South Korea. Are they actually keeping track of what people enter and adjusting the report?
posted by cmonkey at 8:06 AM on July 13, 2012


Suprise! I'm fat. Apparently so are people in Kuwait?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:09 AM on July 13, 2012


Apparently, "Benin" is a place.
posted by gurple at 8:10 AM on July 13, 2012


saladin: BMI of 19, most like someone from Somalia. Hard to know what to do with this knowledge.

I can confirm this with firsthand observation. Eat a sandwich, dude.
posted by The Michael The at 8:10 AM on July 13, 2012


Wow; who knew Croatians were so, um, hefty?
posted by TedW at 8:11 AM on July 13, 2012


I'm most like someone from Afghanistan. But without the bombs and bullets aimed at me.
posted by rtha at 8:11 AM on July 13, 2012


WTF, Canada? I don't think I'm particularly small.

My BMI is 26, and it says my BMI is lower than 2/3 of all other dudes my age in my country.

Maybe my perception is skewed by living in a university town where most of the people I see are super skinny engineering students who just piss me right off with their easy hypermetabolic ability to devour anything and everything.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:11 AM on July 13, 2012


Way to put my recent 10 pound weight loss in perspective, Internet. A drop out of the bucket, anyway. The big ole fat bucket. Off to go cry into my low carb flax muffin. (Do not ask for the recipe. Blah.)
posted by artychoke at 8:11 AM on July 13, 2012


saladin: BMI of 19, most like someone from Somalia. Hard to know what to do with this knowledge.

I can confirm this with firsthand observation. Eat a sandwich, dude.


No, no; make every day Talk Like a Pirate Day!
posted by TedW at 8:12 AM on July 13, 2012


I never even heard of Comoros before, but apparently I'd fit right in.
posted by tdismukes at 8:13 AM on July 13, 2012


It doesn't particularly matter if BMI is flawed on an individual level when comparing averages across populations.

BMI also does a poor job accounting for people outside a "normal" height range. So if two countries have different average heights then BMI will do a poor job comparing them.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 8:13 AM on July 13, 2012


So what's up with Micronesia? With the BMI averages over there, they should rename the place MACROnesia, amirite?

No idea if you're bringing the snark, or if Micronesians are exactly like Polynesians, but they are often not small people thanks to genetics. Or Big-boned, if you like.
posted by Mezentian at 8:14 AM on July 13, 2012


You have a higher BMI than 100% of males aged 30-44 in your country

Great news, everyone! I am the fattest man in Canada!

My skepticism over the application of the BMI has been unbounded since I was a fit 22-year-old. I was at that point, biking at least 100 k a week, swimming for an hour or so almost daily and was in the best shape of my life. I wasn't scrawny, but you could count my ribs when I was shirtless... and I was at the top end of 'overweight,' about four pounds away from 'obese.' It is insane to look at a photo of me then and read that I could theoretically have lost seventy pounds and still been in the healthy range.

If I understand the BMI correctly, it calculates weight against the square of height, but anyone who has ever played with blocks should realize that mass goes up with the cube of other dimensions -- if you out a die on the table, it forms a cube one height unit tall and weighing one mass unit. If you make that cube twice as big by adding more dice, you wind up with something two units tall and weighing eight units, not the four units the BMI would dictate. What am I missing here?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:18 AM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have an above average BMI for Canada, but below average (just) for the United States. I had no idea the two countries were so different.

That said, I had to wonder about the genetic aspects of BMI: some people are just built solider and wider than other people. I feel so gargantuan in majority Asian situations - whether East Asian or South Asian - but then I remind myself that if I were actually skin and bones, I would still be larger than many Asian women. I'm still above average for the country my ancestors are from, but not as far as in Canada. This is reinforced when I see that the "heaviest" countries are not all rich nations, but include many Pacific nations where people are just larger naturally.
posted by jb at 8:22 AM on July 13, 2012


Oh, just realised that they are using mean, not median. So the US mean may be skewed up by outliers.

Why do people use mean, when median is such a more interesting number? Median is so much more useful when you really want to know what "a middling" number is.
posted by jb at 8:24 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am very much enjoying being like a Tongan right now. This assessment made me feel jolly.
posted by Occula at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


So if two countries have different average heights then BMI will do a poor job comparing them.

That doesn't necessarily follow. The average height can vary between nations without significantly skewing the fraction of people in those countries for which BMI fails.
posted by Justinian at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It doesn't particularly matter if BMI is flawed on an individual level when comparing averages across populations.--Justinian

Not true. Muscle weighs more than fat. Societies that exercise a lot will tend to have higher BMI numbers.

And as I say in posts like this over and over until I'm as blue in the face as Metafilter, all long term, large population studies, such as the Harvard Nurse study, have come to the same conclusion that the flies if the face of what is considered common sense:

Your health and longevity are much more likely to be determined by how much exercise you get than how overweight you are (up to a certain level of obesity, of course). Since this sounds to most people like saying the sky is orange and grass is pink, I don't expect to be heard this time either.

In any case, nations that exercise more will be penalized by the BMI numbers.
posted by eye of newt at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


BMI also does a poor job accounting for people outside a "normal" height range. So if two countries have different average heights then BMI will do a poor job comparing them.

I wonder if that's one reason the Netherlands does so well on the chart. They are very tall.
posted by jedicus at 8:26 AM on July 13, 2012


I just don't understand BMI. So two guys are the same height...say 5'10". One guy is fat and out of shape. Say he weighs 200 pounds. Another guy weighs 205 pounds but is lean and muscular. So the lean and muscular guy is worse off (according to the BMI) because he is carrying around more weight in the form of muscle?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:28 AM on July 13, 2012



It doesn't particularly matter if BMI is flawed on an individual level when comparing averages across populations.

What?


Unless you have been weight training, doing power-and-strength-based athletics, or heavy physical labor for a number of years it is quite likely that BMI applies to you. "I'm not fat, I'm muscular" is the new "I'm not fat, I'm just big boned!"
posted by schroedinger at 8:31 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not true. Muscle weighs more than fat. Societies that exercise a lot will tend to have higher BMI numbers.

You're begging all sorts of questions here. Can you point to a few examples of countries you feel have artificially high average BMI numbers because they are all a bunch of weight lifters?

Note: Places where people tend to walk a lot more will be slimmer but will not have hugely more muscle.
posted by Justinian at 8:33 AM on July 13, 2012


Or, the people who do not need to worry about BMI have likely been involved in health and fitness long enough that they know very well they don't need to worry about BMI. Unless, as I said, they're freakishly buff construction workers. Few people not seriously involved in athletics will ever reach the level of muscle mass that renders BMI completely invalid.

Body fat percentage is always a better measurement of obesity, but BMI as a general indicator is good and a hell of a lot buggy to calculate for the general population.
posted by schroedinger at 8:33 AM on July 13, 2012


This thing reminds me of a comment one of my wife's friends made to my wife. Most people consider my wife to be quite small. She's a petite Vietnamese-American woman, slightly muscular but not bulky or tough looking, and has occasional trouble shopping in American stores for clothing that fits, since things marked XS or S are usually too big.

This topic came up with her Korean-American friend, known for being really blunt, who told her, "In Korea you'd be an extra large."
posted by MoonOrb at 8:34 AM on July 13, 2012


ALSO MUSCLE DOES NOT WEIGH MORE THAN FAT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THINK ABOUT THAT PHRASE BEFORE YOU SAY IT
posted by schroedinger at 8:34 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dude, next you'll tell us that a pound of lead doesn't weigh more than a pound of feathers.
posted by Justinian at 8:37 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think most people realize that what is meant is that muscle is more dense than fat, and thus, a volume of muscle weighs more than the same volume of fat.

If you look at it in volume, which people concerned with weight generally do, then the statement is true: per volume, muscle weighs more than fat.
posted by gilrain at 8:38 AM on July 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's probably better to just focus on whether or not you have a lot of intra-abdominal fat. Worrying about BMI is stupid.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:40 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you make that cube twice as big by adding more dice, you wind up with something two units tall and weighing eight units, not the four units the BMI would dictate. What am I missing here?

You're doubling all three dimensions of your cube and calling it "twice as big." If you took someone who weighs (for example) 100 pounds and scaled them up to "double size" in that same sense, they'd weigh 800 pounds and have the same BMI.

In the real world, someone who weighs 800 pounds does not have thumbs that are twice as long, eyeballs that are twice as wide, etc. as the 100 pound person; not even if they are twice as tall.

Really the metaphor doesn't apply. If BMI didn't square the height, it would still work but the way the number scales would be different.
posted by Foosnark at 8:40 AM on July 13, 2012


Well, in the last three years I've gone from Micronesia to Austria.

But...

If everyone in the world had the same BMI as you, it would add 39,229,903 tonnes to the total weight of the world's population

That's a downer.
posted by Huck500 at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2012


This thing reminds me of a comment one of my wife's friends made to my wife. Most people consider my wife to be quite small. She's a petite Vietnamese-American woman, slightly muscular but not bulky or tough looking, and has occasional trouble shopping in American stores for clothing that fits, since things marked XS or S are usually too big.

This topic came up with her Korean-American friend, known for being really blunt, who told her, "In Korea you'd be an extra large."


My dad was over 6ft as a teenager and when he lived in Singapore in the 50s he had to get clothing made. I wondered if that was because people have generally got larger over time, but my SO tells me his very slender and short ex-gf took an extra-large when they lived in Japan.

I have trouble shopping here in the UK, but that's mainly because of extra height and designers seemingly thinking all women can wear an empire line without looking like they're pregnant with heptuplets. Though a plus-size friend of mine loves going to the US because the range out there is far, far better than in the UK (I think there's two chains here that go past a UK18 and one specialist store for the larger lass).
posted by mippy at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2012


I'm most like someone from the United States.

Shit. That's a blow to my self-esteem
posted by criticalbill at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unless you have been weight training, doing power-and-strength-based athletics, or heavy physical labor for a number of years it is quite likely that BMI applies to you. "I'm not fat, I'm muscular" is the new "I'm not fat, I'm just big boned!"--schroedinger

Well, this is kind of my point. Isn't it a good thing to encourage people to do more power and strength training? It is hard to do this when the system penalizes you for it.

"Penalizes?" you say.

Let me give you a personal example. I belong to an HMO that tends to be a bit bureaucratic. They are all about BMI. My BMI has always been pretty good. Then I started weight training. I watched my weight go up even though, by more complicated measurements than BMI, I knew my body fat percentage was getting lower.

Even though my doctor could see that I was getting in better shape, she was required by the system to inform me that if my BMI got any higher she would recommend obesity programs.

Utter maddness!
posted by eye of newt at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never knew how average I was.

ALSO MUSCLE DOES NOT WEIGH MORE THAN FAT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THINK ABOUT THAT PHRASE BEFORE YOU SAY IT

Well, the fat at least floats better.
posted by Forktine at 8:45 AM on July 13, 2012


Even though my doctor could see that I was getting in better shape, she was required by the system to inform me that if my BMI got any higher she would recommend obesity programs.

BMI is meant as an aggregate statistical measure, not an individual one, your HMO just sucks
posted by theodolite at 8:45 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're begging all sorts of questions here. Can you point to a few examples of countries you feel have artificially high average BMI numbers because they are all a bunch of weight lifters?

Well, there was this Seriously, if Jessica Ennis is fat we might as well go full Wall-E and have done with it.
posted by mippy at 8:45 AM on July 13, 2012


schroedinger, I don't know how you can dismiss "big boned" if you've looked at this chart. Micronesia and Tonga aren't full of fat people--the population there is, literally, big boned. Some folks in this world are born with wider frames than others. This is a genetic truth that BMI doesn't acknowledge.

NPR on why BMI sucks.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:46 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


BMI is meant as an aggregate statistical measure, not an individual one, your HMO just sucks--theodolite

Yes, and it is one of the largest in California. Really, any system that uses BMIrather than looking at how much exercise people are getting, sucks, including the 'Global Fat Scale' website.

People! It is All about exercise. Stop obsessing over weight!

(Goes back to his corner when no one even looks up, much less hears him.)
posted by eye of newt at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


For a long time I was from the Congo, then I went up to Sweden, and now I fluctuate between Myanmar and Papua New Guinea. Whatever the fuck all that means.
posted by Beardman at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2012


ZeroAmbition: "You folks with the strange 100% results need to change the meter from kilogram to pounds and meter to feet I think."

Nope, I did that. We're just that fat (or at least I am)...
posted by symbioid at 8:53 AM on July 13, 2012


Micronesia and Tonga aren't full of fat people--the population there is, literally, big boned.

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia:

Tonga is notable for its high obesity rates with over 90% of the population being overweight.
posted by Forktine at 8:56 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I'm not fat, I'm muscular" is the new "I'm not fat, I'm just big boned!"

It's also possible that both are true. I am a triathlete and I know a lot of fat triathletes. They're still fit (and they're generally better swimmers than I am, since they're less worried about buoyancy). Hell, I'll pretty much all muscle below the waist and carry a fair amount of fat above the waist, yet because I'm tall people often don't believe I'm overweight ("Armenian"), which I (somewhat) am.
posted by psoas at 8:59 AM on July 13, 2012


Jesus, Mary, and parentheses, that is convoluted.
posted by psoas at 9:01 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


schroedinger, I don't know how you can dismiss "big boned" if you've looked at this chart. Micronesia and Tonga aren't full of fat people--the population there is, literally, big boned. Some folks in this world are born with wider frames than others. This is a genetic truth that BMI doesn't acknowledge.

NPR on why BMI sucks.


As another poster said, it's an aggregate statistical measure. It is one number in a whole host of numbers that can give a general picture of health. If it says you are overweight or underweight, then it is worth saying "Gosh, let me think about my lifestyle and how much body fat I'm carrying and my blood pressure and whatnot and see if things don't need to be changed." And if on giving it a thought you figure out your blood pressure is perfect and you have abs all over the place and deadlifted 600lbs yesterday, then you can go "Haha, silly BMI, guess that doesn't apply to me!"

But most people do not fit into the category, and it is completely disingenuous when fat activists try to claim BMI is invalid by co-opting the physical accomplishments of a small percentage of the population and claiming they fall into that category.

The article you linked is a ridiculous bunch of babble. The points are either "But what if you have the muscles??!!!one" (hint: most Americans don't!) or the guy essentially complaining about the use of aggregate statistical measures in the first place. I'm sorry the aggregate statistical measure does not account for your very specific and insanely unique circumstances!

Frankly, the fat activists should be happy BMI is used, because apparently when you go by body fat percentage we are so much worse off than we could have ever imagined.
posted by schroedinger at 9:01 AM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's also possible that both are true. I am a triathlete and I know a lot of fat triathletes. They're still fit (and they're generally better swimmers than I am, since they're less worried about buoyancy). Hell, I'll pretty much all muscle below the waist and carry a fair amount of fat above the waist, yet because I'm tall people often don't believe I'm overweight ("Armenian"), which I (somewhat) am.

I compete in strongman and yes, there are a HELL of a lot of people who are fat and muscular. That doesn't mean they aren't carrying around too much body fat. I am not dying on the hill of "BMI is the only accurate indicator of health EVAR" but I'm pointing out that most of the people I know who freak out about it sure as hell aren't members of the "Athletic and muscled and all other indicators point to their supreme healthiness" category. People use the outlier categories that do not apply to them as reasons to excuse the reliable statistical measures indicating their lack of health.
posted by schroedinger at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2012


I'm only three inches above the national average and have a BMI of 23-- but I am almost always the "heftiest" woman in a room full of my age group. It's a little demoralizing until I remember I'm the only one who can lift a oil drum fairly easily.

I just really do have a large frame. Damn my highlander ancestors!
posted by lineofsight at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2012


I loved clothes shopping in Paris because I could find stuff that actually fit well... according to this I'd love India and Vietnam for the same reason.
posted by desjardins at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2012


Pakistan. Not good. Better eat a few more cookies and knock my BMI up to a safer country.
posted by maryr at 9:11 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're doubling all three dimensions of your cube and calling it "twice as big." If you took someone who weighs (for example) 100 pounds and scaled them up to "double size" in that same sense, they'd weigh 800 pounds and have the same BMI.


No, you are missing the point rather grandly. The BMI would go double for someone with exactly the same build who is twice as tall, because the BMI calculation uses the square of the height, not the cube. The BMI would say that 400 pounds is the right weight for this tall, cuboid person.

This is trivial to demonstrate: let us say there is a cube that is six feet tall and weighs 200 pounds. Any BMI calculator will tell you that the BMI is 27.1. Doubling all three dimensions leads to a cube 12' tall and weighing 1600 lbs: new BMI is 54.2

Obviously, no one is twelve foot tall nor cube-shaped, but the further away you get from some imaginary median height, the wonkier it gets. At 6'2", I am about 10% taller than the median height of adults in the USA, so my numbers start to skew. Here is a much taller and quite overweight man.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:21 AM on July 13, 2012


Damn thing resets to kilograms, even if you pick pounds on the front. (Thank god it doesn't automatically set to "stone".) Those two minutes at the 100th percentile sucked.

So hooray, I'm no longer obese, merely overweight. A big hello to all my new Lebanese brothers. I think I'll go a have a felafel to celebrate.

But that bar graph is bullshit, right? Extending from zero up to the mean BMI? I'm not asking for a full box-and-whisker, maybe just ±1σ around the mean?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:28 AM on July 13, 2012


BMI 22, most like Algerian men 15-29. Slightly thinner than a Pole, heaver than a Japanese man in my cohort.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:29 AM on July 13, 2012


I always ask for the full box-and-whisker, if you know what I mean.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:30 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, I'm not a weightlifter by any means, and I wouldn't want to co-opt anyone's athletic acheivement; it's true that I'm a fat person, and I don't have muscle mass that would make BMI wrong for me. But BMI is still wrong for me, according not only to me but also to measures like waist/hip ratio. If my shoulders are half again as wide as those of a slim woman my height, should I really weigh the same as her? Really? Varying body shapes are NOT "very specific and insanely unique circumstances," they are just a fact of human life.

Also I clearly don't know anything about Tonga and shouldn't have pretended to.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:31 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fuck it, Imma vacation in Micronesia, be a skinny guy on the beach.

But that bar graph is bullshit

Pretty much everything about the output and the interpretations attached to it is bullshit.
posted by nanojath at 9:38 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Argh, "half again" obviously not the right thing to say, but I hope the point is clear. Different builds DO make a difference in weight regardless of body fat.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:39 AM on July 13, 2012


jedicus: BMI also does a poor job accounting for people outside a "normal" height range. So if two countries have different average heights then BMI will do a poor job comparing them.

I wonder if that's one reason the Netherlands does so well on the chart. They are very tall.
No hard data here, but I've worked with the Dutch in the US & the Netherlands: they're a skinny, fit people, fond of biking everywhere.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2012


Also yeah, my BMI is somewhere in the 25-26 range, and it's true that I am somewhat fatter than I was when my BMI was more like 20 a few years ago (obviously), but by most measures, I'm in better shape (and certainly in better shape than I was at almost every point in between).

I'm not a muscleman by any stretch of the imagination, but I've got pretty thick legs and trunk because the only thing I want to do in the gym is squat and deadlift (which was all I wanted to do when my BMI was 20; I just eat better now and am less likely to want to die after a set).
posted by uncleozzy at 9:47 AM on July 13, 2012


I guess they're talking about strain on the planet more than "health" or fitness, which makes what I'm about to beside the BBC's point, but:

Current Individual male Frontrunner of the World Crossfit games: Australian Chad MacKay: BMI of 31, higher than 80% of his countrymen, 93% of the world's men. If everyone were like him, it would add 82,222,479 tonnes to the weight of the world population. Which is to repeat the BMI isn't very meaningful for individuals.

However, I guess a world full of Chad MacKay's would still put a strain on the food system just as much as someone who is the same height and weight with no exercise (probably more, actually). I don't particularly care, although I try to live in a manner that doesn't impact the earth too much. I have a sufficient survival instinct to appreciate my rare moose steaks, grilled fish, bbq chicken and salads in the quantities I need to climb ropes, lift things, cartwheel and run to my pleasing. This world is for living in.
posted by Kurichina at 9:47 AM on July 13, 2012


I find some of the pushback here really odd. Some populations are just fatter than others, whether you measure by BMI or by body fat percentage or some other way. Now, does knowing someone's BMI tell you if they are a weightlifter or just weighty? No, of course not. And I guess theoretically you could have a population where everyone in the country was a weightlifter, and they would be the crazy global outliers. If you know of such a place, please tell; I would love to visit.

As a population-level metric, you can look to see how BMI tracks with disease, or lifespan, or self-reported happiness, or car ownership. I suspect it's less useful at an individual level (like in the HMO example someone gave above) than things like body fat percentage or waistsize or just plain health indicators (blood pressure, etc).
posted by Forktine at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


The extreme variation in human body type that is getting some of you up in arms about BMI meaninglessness is obviously not possible to take account of in a worldwide survey about obesity and body type.

So we can either never have any sort of sweeping large-population statistics about obesity and body type, or we can have flawed statistics.

It seems a worthwhile issue to try to discuss, so I vote flawed statistics. I got a whole box of salt if anyone needs a grain.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:54 AM on July 13, 2012


If my shoulders are half again as wide as those of a slim woman my height, should I really weigh the same as her?

Man, I'm not trying to talk about your body or whatever. But when you lose weight the width of your shoulders go down. It's not like the width of your shoulders as they are now remain the same. Part of the reason your shoulders are broader would be because you're fatter.

Anyway, BMI does not say you need to all be the same weight. For a 5'6'' woman the range is somewhere from 120-160. 40lbs is hardly "everyone weighs the same" and more than makes up for natural variation in bone and muscle mass outside the outlier.

I'm saying all this as a 5'6'' woman who does a lot of lifting and was pretty damn lean when she was last 160lbs*. So I am pretty well aware of the variations available to the human population. But as someone who's in the "fitness industry" or what have you I'm also pretty well aware of how much of that variation is due to genetic variation and how much is due to extra fat making us thing our bones and muscles are bigger than they actually are.



*visible abs, though still cursed by cellulite on my legs (thanks Mom!)
posted by schroedinger at 9:58 AM on July 13, 2012


I guess theoretically you could have a population where everyone in the country was a weightlifter

Kleenanjerkistan?
posted by yoink at 10:04 AM on July 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Apparently I don't even exist.
posted by fleacircus at 10:15 AM on July 13, 2012


Apparently I don't even exist.

It's a common misconception that fleacircuses are an urban legend. You'd think the BBC would know better.
posted by yoink at 10:22 AM on July 13, 2012


Can't speak for anyone else, but the reason I feel up in arms about this is that these statistics are frequently used as an individual shaming tool. "If everyone in the world had the same BMI as you, it would add X tonnes to the total weight of the world's population"? Come on. Things like this use weight/fat as shorthand for greed and over consumption of resources--problems that don't actually track to personal bodyweight at all.

And I feel that calling out BMI as bullshit every time I see it is a worthwhile thing to do because of cases like the HMO example above. The problem is that it's used all the time on individuals. In fact, this BBC page is at its core all about BMI at the individual level. If it only ever came up at the population level, I wouldn't have a problem with it.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:29 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]




The pushback is because while the numbers might some relative rankings of whether this person is more overweight or underweight than that one, or how you today stack up against you five years ago, the benchmarks they choose are ludicrous. This is me at 22. Overweight, according to the BMI, and needing to lose at least fifteen pounds to be healthy. Of course, dropping 65-70 pounds would have put me at the bottom end of the healthy range. Colour me skeptical.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:31 AM on July 13, 2012


Sorry, that was in response to Forktine's puzzlement about the pushback.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2012


Things like this use weight/fat as shorthand for greed and over consumption of resources--problems that don't actually track to personal bodyweight at all.

At all? That seems far too sweeping a claim. Don't track in simplistic ways, sure--but they surely do track to a considerable extent at the level of populations. Look at the distribution of the countries on that world average BMI list on the site. The correlation between relatively wasteful consumption of resources and high BMI is by no means perfect, but it's pretty strong.

Here's the lowest ranked nations on the scale:
Papua New Guinea
Gambia
Congo
Niger
Guinea-Bissau
Liberia
Cambodia
Pakistan
Chad
Mali
North Korea
East Timor
Ethiopia
Burkina Faso
Somalia
Cote d'Ivoire
Namibia
Burundi
Bhutan
Afghanistan
Mozambique
DR Congo
Sri Lanka
Indonesia
Zambia
Vietnam
Central African Republic
Kenya
Uganda
Rwanda
Nepal
Eritrea
Bangladesh

You really think it's just chance or some odd cultural quirk that puts these very low resource-consuming nations at that point on the scale?
posted by yoink at 10:38 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please explain why I can't zip up my shorts today then, smartypants calculator. They don't even HAVE burritos in Ethiopia.
posted by elizardbits at 8:04 AM on July 13

Addis is a big city, you know.
posted by mykescipark at 10:41 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, this is awkward; the BBC says I am just a couple steps up from Ethiopian...
posted by polywomp at 10:57 AM on July 13


And they think I am most like an Ethiopian. I will be sure to tell this to a family member who told me I have too much fat above the waistband of my pants. (Then she told me that it happened because I gained a whole lot of weight too quickly!)
posted by bilabial at 10:46 AM on July 13, 2012


...don't track to personal bodyweight at all.

Sure, national averages say something. At the population level, I suppose we have to use BMI, because that's the statistic that's available to us, and because at that level it does make sense. But whether an individual person's BMI is more like a Tongan's or a Bangladeshi's doesn't tell you anything about how he or she lives and what resources he or she consumes.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:47 AM on July 13, 2012


And I think that if you have a look at the top ranked nations, you'll notice that nations with high BMIs are not necessarily high resource-consuming nations, in any case.

Tonga
Micronesia
Barbados
Samoa
Jamaica
Trinidad and Tobago
Belarus
Mongolia
Kuwait
United States
Qatar
Solomon Islands
Bahamas
Egypt
Cyprus
Lesotho
Chile
Grenada
Saint Lucia
United Arab Emirates
New Zealand
Bolivia
Panama
Belize
Libya
St Vincent and the Grenadines
Nicaragua
Mexico
Dominican Republic
Guatemala
El Salvador
Suriname
Argentina
Ecuador
Iceland
South Africa
Australia
Slovenia
Venezuela
Slovakia
Paraguay
United Kingdom
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:53 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


AYO did anyone else get Gondor?
posted by samofidelis at 10:54 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Didn't read all the comments so forgive me if I'm repeating someone else.

I got a BMI of 23 - below average in the US and globally (and it put me in Rwanda - huh?). Which I found really confusing since I am still fighting 15 extra pounds after the birth of my son (now 3 - ack). I've gained a whole size and it's making me nuts - and I wasn't a rail to start with.

So then I though AHA! and redid the calculation - same height and weight, but said I was only 22. And there it was - still under for the US, but heavier than 56% globally (also now it put me in Uzbekistan).

So I guess I'm in good (pear) shape - for my age? Either that or everybody else is just as bad at losing the baby weight as I am?

I dunno. I still don't like it.
posted by Mchelly at 10:59 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyhow, thank God for small favors. At least it didn't also compare me to other New Yorkers.
posted by Mchelly at 11:01 AM on July 13, 2012


And I think that if you have a look at the top ranked nations, you'll notice that nations with high BMIs are not necessarily high resource-consuming nations, in any case.

"The correlation between relatively wasteful consumption of resources and high BMI is by no means perfect, but it's pretty strong."
posted by yoink at 11:01 AM on July 13, 2012


Actually, looking at the top and bottom of the chart, one of the interesting (and somewhat disturbing) things that stands out is that the top of the chart has quite a few poor nations but the bottom has few or no wealthy ones. That suggests that it is possible for a poor nation to so prioritize high-calorie consumption that they can rise to a statistically improbable place on the charts for BMI, but that in a resource-rich nation it's extremely hard to avoid a general tendency towards over-consumption. In other words, it's easier to establish cultural norms of overconsumption than it is to establish cultural norms of general restraint. Troubling.
posted by yoink at 11:10 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well now that my Friday is ruined, I'm out to go buy a muumuu.
posted by stormpooper at 11:28 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Malawi. I had no idea! I still have no idea.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:42 AM on July 13, 2012


Finally I can go to just one place to get both body-shamed and hoodwinked into thinking world malnutrition has more to do with my diet than major neoliberal policies!
posted by threeants at 11:44 AM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Tonga doesn't really prove high BMI is usually down to muscle. Wikipedia:
Tonga is notable for its high obesity rates with over 90% of the population being overweight. Consequently, many Tongan islanders have an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and other obesity related diseases which place the nation's health service under considerable strain. Much of this is related to the nation's cultural love of food and eating as well as the modern influx of cheap and high-fat content meat, with cornbeef and lamb belly remaining firm favourites in Tongan cuisine. Despite being a highly obese population, there is little stigma attached to being overweight as one might find in many Western civilizations. Like a great number of South Pacific cultures, large bodies are often revered, though there is growing acknowledgment of the health risks involved.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:01 PM on July 13, 2012


Well, my BMI comes out as obese, and while I carry it well, and would probably (due to my frame and substantial muscle) still be overweight in BMI if I got lean and ripped again, it has me pegged at the moment.
posted by bswinburn at 12:15 PM on July 13, 2012


Most like Zimbabwe now. In high school, most like DR Congo. I've gone from an estimated BMI of 17 to 22. Does this unlock a new level?
posted by davejay at 12:22 PM on July 13, 2012


For someone of my advanced years, my height/weight puts my estimated BMI at 22. Apparently I am most like someone from Burinka Faso, a country about which I probably know the least of any of the others on that list. I know feel oddly compelled to learn more about it.
posted by kaybdc at 1:01 PM on July 13, 2012


"You have a higher BMI than 100% of males aged 30-44 in your country"

"You're most like someone from Micronesia".

Oh yeah? I've seen the micronesians out here, and none of them that are my height and weight are at 10% body fat. SUCK ON THAT, BABY!

But seriously, BMI fails to take such things (% of body fat) into account. Take this with a grain (or perhaps a tablespoon) of salt.
posted by KillaSeal at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2012


But I don't want to go to Bangladesh :(

But they are very friendly!
posted by ersatz at 1:36 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did anyone mention that BMI is a really flawed measure at the individual level? Because there are a lot of big-boned bodybuilders out there? I haven't seen that covered yet and I was hoping someone would mention it.
posted by desjardins at 1:42 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


BMI 18; I must be some sort of freak of nature, because at 41 I take the same jeans size I did when I was 16. Can't squeeze my waist in between thumbs and forefingers any more though, which is a pity. Apparently I am most like a person from Eritrea, which would make sense because I walk everywhere.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:15 PM on July 13, 2012


> Even though my doctor could see that I was getting in better shape, she was required by the system to inform me that if my BMI got any higher she would recommend obesity programs.

You might want to plug your numbers in at this BMI website which has one workaround for the fit v. fat variable hidden in one single BMI number.
posted by bukvich at 2:21 PM on July 13, 2012


Apparently I belong in Saudi. Who knew they were round and short under those burkas? It also said I was smaller than 75% of women in my American age group, which I find difficult to believe. I have seen the trophy wives.
posted by dejah420 at 4:12 PM on July 13, 2012


> I am most like someone from Burinka Faso, a country about which I probably know the least of any of the others on that list. I know feel oddly compelled to learn more about it.

My knowledge of that country comes from the excellent autobiography of Dr. Malidoma Some. He was basically kidnapped from his village at age four to be raised in a French Catholic boys school, and then escaped back to his village when he was 20. Then he underwent the Dagara people's coming of age ritual, with lots of hallucinogenic-fueled strangeness and all sorts of physical trials and then emerged as a kind of citizen of both worlds.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:27 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apparently, I'm fatter than 100% of men in my age bracket, which means I better damn well get an entry in the Guinness Book and a minibike to ride with my imaginary twin in rust-colored stretchpants. I'm in the realm of Micronesia, which is okay, though I find burly Samoans a bit hotter, so I'll have to play up the Daddy Micronesian angle when I'm down at the bouncy bar.

Seriously, though, BMI is an absurd measurement when you're six feet tall, have a 29" inseam, and have the musculature of a sturdy oak tree when you peer around the gut. Five years ago, when I was gearing up for a diet, I got weighed in a floaty tank and both I and the floaty tank operator were awfully surprised by my muscle-to-fat ratio after years of having a chart cluck at me for my atrocious obesity. If I lose the weight I'm working on losing at the moment, I'll still be "obese," despite being healthy as an ox.

Bodies vary. Sheesh.
posted by sonascope at 5:57 PM on July 13, 2012


Yup, I'm Samoan!
posted by octothorpe at 7:18 PM on July 13, 2012


BMI 23, which is overweight, according to the cutoff point we use here in Singapore, because apparently Asians have higher % fat than Caucasians, given the same BMI and all.

If I were in primary school here that many years ago, I might consider running away to Mauritania, where I would be average, and I wouldn't have to spend recess exercising. (Fear not: the dreadful scheme linked to has been replaced.)
posted by undue influence at 7:32 PM on July 13, 2012


This is really a complicated issue. It seems that BMI is a good indicator for statistical purposes, but not for individual purposes.
12 years ago, I was buying clothes size 12 *years* at the childrens' department in stores, and worse, I seemed to be entering menopause at 36. I went to the doctor, and she said I couldn't have a problem because my BMI was 24+ and I should actually watch my weight. Obviously, she was an idiot, and I was a former athlete, who was still training. I also had a very late puberty because of training. I made my own decisions and tuned down the training, and sadly, I did become overweight (because I was used to eating at least 7000 calories a day), and found it hard to find a balance, though happily, my hormonal system went back to work. Now I am at BMI 27 like several others here, and I can see and feel it is not a good thing. But I am not aiming for BMI 20, ever. I am looking for a balance, where I can get back in shape, and my new doctor is helping me find it.
However, training 3-4 hours a day is an outlier. It's nice, but it's not what most people do; we all have jobs and other obligations that make it difficult to spend so much time on physical training.
My experience is: one needs to find a doctor who understands the complexity of BMI related to other factors, and can give good holistic advice towards a balanced system.

(aside: it seems that my former intensive training has given me a huge advantage on the whole cardio-thing, whatever weight issues I have now. So if you have kids: force them to work out, it is like money in the bank...)
posted by mumimor at 1:34 PM on July 14, 2012


BMI is an absurd measurement when you're six feet tall, have a 29" inseam

What's the difference with inseam? I'm five ten but mine is 33". I'm not under any delusions that I'm not overweight, just wondering.
posted by mippy at 3:34 PM on July 14, 2012




What's the difference with inseam?

This is a late late late response, but it comes down to short stocky legs + a long long muscular torso = a BMI figure that's meaningless because BMI is predicated on normative body types.
posted by sonascope at 10:50 AM on July 25, 2012


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