Sunday, July 30, 2006

1. Recognition of Problem

It took me two years from the time I first calculated my BMI that showed I was overweight until I finally admitted or realized that I was overweight. I wasn't severely overweight, but according to the BMI, I was overweight nonetheless.

I tried to rationalize my BMI score as being an outlier. Since the BMI (Body Mass Index) is a statistical model based on a sample of humans, I figured all statistical models have outliers and I must be one of those outliers. Thinking that, though, didn't get rid of my love handles and stomach pudge.

Part of my problem was that I simply didn't want to admit that I was overweight and the other part of my problem was that I simply didn't understand the BMI. Admitting that I was overweight meant that I might have to do something about it. That meant that I might have to change my habits. That was scary.

However, had I understood the BMI, I might have had an easier time admitting I had a problem. I think the BMI turns off a lot of people because it has three basic ranges: "normal", "overweight" and "obese". Leading with those blunt categories creates a barrier for people, like myself, from understanding what it says.

I think it's because of our typical reaction to the "you are" vs. "I" communication techniques. People automatically become defensive when you tell them "you are not doing something right", in the BMI's case it's telling them that "you are fat". When we become defensive we tend to put up a barrier that protects our feelings from becoming mangled.

The "I" technique is supposed to be better. Leading constructive criticism with the "I feel bad when you react this way" softens the blow to our egos enough for us to consider our actions without putting up the barriers. If the BMI had an "I" communication, I think it would have caught my attention earlier.

The BMI's "I" communication could be: "As researchers we discovered that people with a BMI range of 25-30 have a higher risk of suffering from a weight-related illness such as Type II diabetes." That sounds better than "you are overweight (ie fat)."

Furthermore, "our studies show that the risk of suffering from a weight related illness substantially increases with a BMI score of 30 or above." That sounds much better than "you are obese (ie really fat)."

So, do you want to know your risk of suffering from a weight related illness? Then calculate your BMI. Here's how to do it (it's simple, but grab a calculator):

1. Start with your weight in pounds. Mine is 134 pounds (this morning).
2. Divide by your height in inches. Mine is 64 inches (yes, I'm short!).
3. Divide by your height in inches, again. Mine is 64 inches, again.
4. Now muliply by 703.

My BMI calculation looks like this: 134 pounds / 64 inches / 64 inches x 703 = 23.

My BMI this morning was 23.0. At my peak I was approaching 30 and for years before that I was hovering in the 25-28 range. Just for laughs, the difference between a BMI of 23 and 24 for my height is 6 pounds. So, if I weighed 139 pounds, my BMI would move up one point to 24.

What's your's?

If it is under 25, you're doing well. You have a low risk (but still some risk) of suffering from a weight related illness).

If your BMI is higher than 25 and less than 30, you have an elevated risk of suffering from a weight related illness at some point in your life (moreso while you are above 25).

If your BMI is 30 or higher, then you have an even higher risk of suffering from a weight related illness at some point in your life.

There. I made it through without saying that you are fat or really fat.

So, now you know your risk of suffering from a weight related illness. The next question is whether you have the desire to do anything about it.

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