If you have seen “The Prisoner”, a TV show that was popular in the sixties, you may remember that the main character, referred to by his keepers as “Number 6”, was fond of saying, “I am not a number; I am a person.”
None of us likes to be reduced by mathematical calculation to a mere number that disregards our individuality and uniqueness. Yet, whenever weight loss and obesity are discussed, health experts always get around to talking about our Body Mass Index (BMI). This refers to a calculation that is used by health care providers to determine if a person is a reasonable weight for his or her height.
Your Weight (in pounds) X 703 divided by your height (in inches) squared
Example for a person weighing 150 pounds, who is 66 inches tall:
150 (lbs.) X 703 = 105,450; 66 inches X 66 inches = 4,356;
105,450 divided by 4,356 = 24 BMI
If this is just too much math for you or you are in a hurry, you can click on this link for a BMI calculator that will do the calculation for you.
What the numbers mean
It is generally considered healthy to have a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. If your BMI is below 18.5, you would be considered underweight and if your BMI is above 25 you are considered overweight. A BMI of 30 and above is considered obese, and a BMI above 40, morbidly obese. Notice that in the above example, the person with a BMI of 24 would fall into the “healthy” range.
What’s missing from the BMI calculator equation?
While this system of determining BMI may be useful in a general sense, it does not take into account body composition, which is the proportion of fat, muscle, bone and other tissue in your body. Since muscle weighs more than fat, if you are an athlete with a lot of muscle and very little fat, your BMI may fall in the “obese” range, even though you are in great shape and not over fat at all.
This system does not allow for differences in bone size or density, which can factor into the issue of whether you are overweight for your height. (You always knew you had heavy bones!)
The value of calculating your number
Having said that, there may be some real value in taking a moment to calculate your BMI number, especially if you are not an athlete, since it can be a piece in the puzzle of your overall health picture. When you add in your other “numbers” such as blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol, along with what you know about your lifestyle, you will get a sum total of your prospect for health and longevity.
Like the inmate in “The Prisoner,” you are not a number but a person, and each person has to individually choose to eat healthier, be active and reduce stress in ways that are uniquely suited to the place where they live and work. Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish these goals, and you can tailor a healthy lifestyle to suit your schedule and tastes. In this way, when you are reduced to your numbers, they will show a person with the ability to live long and well.
Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,