Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bicycling magazine letter follow-up

Below is a reprint of the letter I wrote to Bicycling magazine (it's a year old) along with my annotations where I think it's necessary to provide some additional context for you since you don't have the benefit of the original articles that prompted my letter (though you could read those articles by picking up a copy of the September 2005 Bicycling issue).

July 28, 2005

Steve Madden, Editor
Bicycling Magazine
135 North Sixth Street
Emmaus, PA 18098

Steve Madden:

As a long-time avid cyclist and Lemond-inspired junior racer, I so look forward to reading your rag each month. But, “Who You Calling Fat?” (9/2005) missed the mark on the BMI and propagated poor advice supporting that our body types are preprogrammed.

It’s important to understand BMI in order to use it effectively. It is not, as Conrad Ernest suggests, a “predictor of fitness.” Rather it indicates the risk level of suffering from weight-related illnesses such as type II diabetes, based on the results of studying a sizeable population. An “overweight” BMI score of 25 – 29 simply indicates an elevated risk of suffering from a weight-related illness. The risk goes higher at the “obese” score of 30. Also, BMI formulators fudge these limits for bulky weightlifters, but not endurance athletes.

[Seth's Note: The following paragraph referenced a quote from an athlete named Tim Buese, who poo-poo'd BMI because he experienced lightheadedness at 184 pounds. I too experienced lightheadedness when I got down to a BMI of around 21-22. I solved it by adding a few pounds, but still remaining well within the normal BMI range for my height.]

Taking a closer look at Tim Buese’s numbers, at 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds he is only 8 pounds above the “normal” BMI range and 32 pounds shy of “obesity”. I imagine Tim could trim down to 195 – 200 pound range and improve his performance without the lightheadedness he had at 184 pounds (and a BMI of 23, which is on the low end of the normal range for men).

[Seth's Note: The following paragraph references a quote from Jim Glinn that perfectly embodied my attitude toward BMI before I understood and used it to my benefit.]

Also, I disagree with Jim Glinn’s notion that “body types are in many ways preprogrammed,” because it’s that exact thinking that kept me above normal on the BMI scale for years. However, once I understood BMI and a few other things I lowered my BMI below 25. I’ve maintained it at 23.5 for the past four years, without lightheadedness. Not bad, considering I once thought I was “preprogrammed” to be 10 pounds above the normal BMI range.

I wrote about my understanding of BMI and the other things I learned about healthy weight loss in a short book entitled, “A Few Bites a Day: My Weight Loss Success Story” (which is available on Amazon.com). I also write a blog at http://fewbites.blogspot.com . The unfortunate consequence of my book is that I’m not always the first up the hills on Saturday morning rides anymore.

I’ve enclosed two copies of my book, one for you and the other for Sam Wade (who was featured in the “XXXL Dreams” article). Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful. If you’d like more copies or would like for me to send directly to Sam, just drop me an e-mail at: smcmenemy@hotmail.com.


Seth McMenemy
Author of “A Few Bites A Day: My Weight Loss Success Story”

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