Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Study: Obese Have More Sense Than CDC

BMI strikes again. The Body Mass Index, which is one of the crudest possible metrics for gauging physical fitness but which is constantly used as a bludgeon to demonstrate how grotestquely obese Americans are, features prominently in this story (h/t: Human Nature) in which the obese are shown to have difficulty identifying themselves as obese (even though they correctly estimated their height and weight).

This is taken as some kind of a sign that the obese are in mass (and massive) denial about their condition.
Denial as well as skewed perceptions of what constitutes obesity may make people reluctant to define themselves as obese, she added. "Just the term obesity has a lot of negative images associated with it. People might just not want to put that label on themselves."

However, the researcher said, it is important for a person to recognize if they are obese, because being obese carries a higher risk of health problems than being overweight.
An alternate (and rational) explanation might be that the CDC's BMI rankings make no objective sense. Under the BMI's metric, a man who's 5'11" and weighs 225 lbs is classified as "obese". Ignore for a second the fact that the notorious non-butterball Shaun Alexander is thus technically obese according to the geniuses at the CDC. The fact is there are lots of people whose bodies contain some idiosyncratic combination of fat and muscle that pushes them over the BMI's 30.0 threshold into the world of undifferentiated obesity who aren't, by any rational definition of the word, "obese". Is a 6'0" guy with a generally athletic frame and a spare tire who weighs 225 lbs "obese"? Technically, yes, but I doubt anyone would class him as such.

This bothers me (you'll no doubt be shocked to discover) because I am myself caught in this asinine trap. I hover in the border zone between overweight and obese, and while I acknowledge that I'm overweight, I find the idea that I'm almost obese silly and insulting. I'm also peeved by the notion that to get down to a "normal" weight (which for those 6'0" tall tops out at approximately 183 lbs - an amount I last weighed when I was a cross-country runner in high school) I'd need to lose something on the order of 40 lbs, just under a fifth of my current body weight. We hear a lot about the mass media promoting unhealthily slender body image, but in all honesty MTV's got nothing on the CDC when it's come to telling me my body is disgusting and unhealthy and exhorting me to shed a drastic amount of weight.