I am an overweight American

I am 5’8″ tall and weigh 165 pounds, which puts my BMI at 25. Healthy normal BMI for men is supposed to be under 25, so my doctor tells me I need to lose weight. Or gain half an inch in height. Either way, really.

I reminded him that the body mass index is only a rough estimate of body composition, subject to a number of limitations and shortcomings, and that the estimate of body composition it provides is itself only a rough estimate of health. I told him I can run five miles at a stretch and that I lift weights regularly. He told me I probably ate too many fatty snacks.

Obviously I went to the gym and asked the fitness expert to measure my body-fat percentage. Her machine told me that it’s 18%. She told me 18% is fine. She also said I should fire my doctor because he doesn’t know the difference between BMI and body composition.

I don’t doubt that obesity is a serious problem. And I’m sure I could be in better shape – my body fat percentage was lower a few years ago, when I was in my 20s and single and exercising every day for an hour or more. But a blind adherence to inaccurate numbers is not going to help things.

3 thoughts on “I am an overweight American”

  1. Ugh, I hate doctors who rely on BMI. At 5’10” and usually around 165 myself depending on diet and exercise, I’m on the border between normal and overweight. But I also have the frame of a linebacker, not a supermodel. Any doc who doesn’t understand how muscle or bone mass complicates the BMI should indeed be fired. (Fortunately, not one has calculated my BMI recently – pregnancy tends to make one obese!)


  2. It does make you wonder if the so called obesity epidemic is at least marginally exaggerated.. and it is not my natural instinct otherwise to question the idea that Americans are too fat. Though a doctor has never lectured me on it, I’m BMI overweight at least half way between normal and obese despite being a pretty damn fit dude. You could argue 5 pounds.. but half way to obese? And what about small framed dudes with 15 lb belly/love handles who still end up within the normal range? Anyway, your doctor sucks.


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