If you are looking for ways to measure your health, scrap the BMI. It is outdated, and frankly astonishing, that it’s still used by healthcare professionals. Here are much better BMI alternatives.

Is BMI outdated?

We live in a world where we’re constantly told that we need to weigh less or have a perfectly flat stomach in order to be happy, acceptable and healthy.

Part of that misguided advice is the now outdated tool – BMI.

As an accredited practicing dietitian I’m telling you, the measure of height versus weight to indicate health is incorrect and astonishing really that it’s still in use. 

Who invented BMI?

History lesson alert: The body mass index was invented by a statistician, not a medical professional, Adolphe Quetelet nearly 200 years ago.

He developed an equation of height (m)2/weight (kg) to assess population health trends, not individual health and as such BMI doesn’t take into account muscle mass, age, sex, fitness, race or any other metric.

In other words, it’s a Euro-centric, gendered, pretty arbitrary and flawed measure that has absolutely no way of measuring your health.

Numbers are comforting, until they're not. Image: Unsplash
Numbers are comforting, until they’re not. Image: Unsplash

Does BMI matter? The problem with BMI

People who use BMI to assess health need to catch up with the scientific literature – and common sense.

According to BMI, a slim person who takes drugs, smokes, drinks too much alcohol, avoids exercise and eats unhealthily is assumed to be healthier than someone with a larger body who takes care of their body.

Being underweight also has a higher mortality rate than being overweight. Plus, if you’re from any non-Anglo culture, BMI isn’t going to work for you. 

It’s important to find an alternative to BMI measurements, instead of relying on this outdated tool to measure health.

Why do we still use BMI?

One thing that fires me up more than any other when it comes to health is how many scientifically incorrect myths are pedalled as fact. The sad reason is that the diet industry wants to make money off you hating yourself, and won’t let the truth get in the way of a profitable ad.

We put a lot of trust in healthcare professionals. To do the best for us and always have our best interests at heart.

But guess what?

They aren’t immune from diet culture. 

They may not have experience in dealing with disordered eating.

They may not actually be healthcare professionals… remember a big following on social media does not equal qualifications or clinical experience.

So what are the signs to be looking out for so you can make sure your health care professional is staying away from wellness wankery?

Listen to this podcast episode to find out: Red flags: Signs it’s time to swap health care professionals

Podcast No Wellness Wankery

So why do we still use BMI?

We tend to rely on numbers and data as measures of our hard work. Numbers can be comforting, until they aren’t (my blog post Unhappy With Your Body Or Weight? might help). 

With the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers growing with our body mass index, BMI has been considered the most effective tool to calculate our health based on our bodies.

But truly? The only reason it’s still in use is that a more effective and just-as-simple alternative doesn’t exist.

You can't compare apples to oranges, just like BMI can't tell your whole health story, so why are we still using it? Image: Unsplash
You can’t compare apples to oranges, just like BMI can’t tell your whole health story, so why are we still using it? Image: Unsplash

But it can also put people in a very unhelpful healthy and/or unhealthy box – and encourage weight loss when not actually required. Real health is measured by so many things such as energy levels, biomedical markers, mood and plenty more. 

It’s important to be healthy to feel good but don’t give up 95% of your life to weigh 5% less (my blog post The Best Diet To Lose Weight might help here. 

But what if my weight isn’t healthy?

The alternative to trying to define health by a single number is focusing on positive healthy habits and taking the microscope off of body weight and size.

The best way to look after your health is to ditch the wellness wankery, forget your BMI and to learn to tune into your body instead. It’s the real health expert. 

Much better BMI alternatives

Find the BMI alternative that’s right for you. It could be:

  • How much energy do you have?
  • Your blood pressure and a blood test
  • Do you like yourself and feel at peace?
  • Can you move your body freely, without getting puffed out easily?
  • Are you free from aches and pains and feel strong?

These are only a few ideas of what to use instead of BMI. Of course, health is different for all of us including those with different abilities. So a good doctor will take into consideration you as a whole person instead of looking at a measure as arbitrary as height and weight.

If you’d love some non-BS recipes to eat for actual health and help you ditch dieting for good, check out Back to Basics. Try it free for 7-days. It’s health info but without the calorie counting or BMI nonsense – pinky promise.