HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M FAT?
A patient asked me the other day if I thought he was fat. I smiled and almost brushed his question aside but quickly realized he was serious and looking for an answer. He had been skinny all his life and had an image of what his body should look like. On the other hand, culturally in the African American or Hispanic communities we are a little more tolerant of body weight and often get defensive when the topic of weight comes up.
So what should your ideal weight be, what the heck is a BMI & who came up with that calculation? Well, let’s discuss that a little bit. The BMI is a ratio derived from your weight and height. Introduced by a Belgian mathematician over 200 years ago, much has been written about its potential inaccuracies but until now, it is still the best guide we have and certainly the most referenced indicator for obesity. Another good (some say, better) estimator is the waist-to-height ratio. Either way, the idea is that for a given height, there’s an ideal weight. Given that the BMI is the reference we are most familiar with, let’s use it for this discussion.
According to the BMI scale,
BMI under 18.5 is underweight
BMI of >18.5 - 25 is normal
BMI of >25 - 30 is overweight
BMI of 30 - 40 is obese
BMI greater than 40 is morbid obesity
Leaving all the disagreements aside, let’s take a normal BMI of roughly 18.5 to 25. This range easily accounts for a host of normal weights we see across all ethnicities and body types. Therefore a normal BMI, across its full range, can vary by 30 lbs or more. That means that whether you are a little Asian woman or a “big boned” African American woman or Latina, this range of 18.5 to 25 covers almost everybody. There are obvious shortcomings for instance - fit, strong athletes have well developed & lean muscles which obviously weigh more than fat and they may have a higher BMI than regular folks like you and I.
According to the CDC, 42% of Americans are obese and 9.2% are morbidly obese. And these numbers are rising. A healthy lifestyle, which includes a healthy diet, regular exercise and cutting out junk food is essential, not only to maintain good health, but also to keep us within our desired weight, regardless our cultural or ethnic background.
Obinna C. Oriaku, MD MBA
Dr. Oriaku is the Founder and CEO of Crown Clinic, P. A. a primary care practice
based in Charlotte NC. He recently founded SocratesMD, a telemedicine platform delivering world-class healthcare to sub-Saharan Africa. He is a physician executive with strong communication and analytic skills leading to effective change management. His special interests include healthcare delivery in resource-challenged populations, and bridging gaps in healthcare disparity in target populations. He is available as a speaker on issues that are of interest to him.
SocratesMD email: support@socratesMD.com