With the impending New Year and the number one New Year’s resolution being weight loss, have you ever considered your weight based on the current standards set?
Do you ever wonder how the standards have been set and why you may or may not be within “healthy or ideal” range?
The actual terminology of “ideal body weight” was originally recognized by the life insurance industry, specifically Metropolitan Life in 1943, for the purposes of setting the standards for life insurance. The charts were created based on populations that were between the ages of 25-59, and were not specific to gender. The numbers were revised in 1983 based on the lowest mortality rates and newly labeled “desired” standard weight.
Unfortunately, the standards of these weights do not take into consideration those who are very tall or very short. Also, it should be noted that the heights are set based on the assumption of one wearing one-inch heeled shoes and three pounds of clothing, which is not noted on the charts themselves.
However the most recognized and used standard of today is the body mass index or BMI, which was previously called the Quetelet Index, dating back to the 19th century, created by Adolphe Quetelet. He is known for developing the concept of the “average man” and established the theoretical foundations for the use of statistics in social physics or, as it is now known, sociology. Thus, he is considered by many to be the founder of modern quantitative social science. The very creation of the Quetelet index was created as a statistical analysis of the general population.
The popularity of BMI dates back to a paper published in the 1972 July edition of the Journal of Chronic Diseases by Ancel Keys. Keys indicated in his paper that BMI was “the best proxy for body fat percentage among ratios of weight and height; the interest in measuring body fat being due to obesity becoming a discernible issue in prosperous Western societies. BMI was explicitly cited by Keys as being appropriate for population studies, and inappropriate for individual diagnosis.”
The standardized usage of BMI, by the Centers for Disease Control, health professionals and the general population is due to the ease of the simple calculation, only requiring height and weight and there is no cost associated with this assessment. The usage of BMI is intended to be used as an assessment tool, as Keys stated that BMI “was appropriate for population studies, and inappropriate for individual diagnosis”.
The CDC also confirms that, “at an individual level, BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.” The CDC recommends seeking a trained health professional to perform appropriate health assessments in order to evaluate an individual’s health status and risks.
The CDC wants to remind individuals that the weight is calculated from both muscle and fat. In other words if an individual should have a higher percentage of overall muscle compared to fat the BMI calculations could qualify the individual as overweight based on the current BMI standards between 25 to 29.9.
However, those individuals that qualify at 30 or greater on the BMI scale are considered obese and have been found to be obese even with a higher percentage of muscle mass.
The true key to finding your desired weight should be as the CDC recommends in finding your “Healthy Weight.” With the help of a health professional and various other assessment tools, you should set your standard based on your overall health.
If you are currently in poor health and your BMI or “ideal weight” is within range, then that should be an indication that weight is not the standard by which you set your health. While evaluating your New Year’s weight resolution, remember to take into account your overall health as well.