BMI doesn’t tell you much, but it does tend to show a bell-style curve over a large population.
The chart at right, showing population distribution of BMIs from Mississippi in 2003, (source) gives you a rough idea.
My BMI is about 60. That chart? Doesn’t even show anyone of BMI 60.
The official definition of “obese” used to be based on height/weight tables, which roughly corresponded to
- Overweight is BMI of 27 or more for women, 28 or more for men;
- Obese is BMI of 32 or above
In June 1998 the definition was changed:
- Overweight is BMI of 25 of more;
- Obese is BMI of 30 or more.
Remember that chart? The mean, or average BMI in that population was 27.73. This is not all that abnormal for the US; most “officially obese” folks have a BMI under 40.
Want to know what a person with a BMI of 25, 30, or 40 looks like? Check out The BMI Project’s slideshow and Flickr set. Those are typical obese people.
If you are wondering how this looks in pounds, the following table is from the CDC (PDF):
Table1. Body mass index (BMI) values for healthy weight, overweight, and obesity
|Corresponding weight in pounds (approximate)|
|Weight||BMI values||Man 5’9’’ tall
|Woman 5’4’’ tall
|Obese||30 and above||196 and above||174 and above|
|And, getting out my calculator to add:|
|Morbidly Obese||40 and above||270 and above||232.5 and above|
Many news stories about weight illustrate with pictures of extremely fat folk such as myself. The reality is that most “obese” people are not extremely fat. Most obese folks can buy clothing at department stores. They may not even need to go to the “plus” size department!
All this is to make it clear that when I say my body is not typical, I’m NOT KIDDING. K?
Note: The “Healthy Weight” category description is verbatim from the CDC. Data from the Health and Retirement Survey (PDF) shows that “[a] low ‘normal weight’ results in a higher mortality rate than overweight does.” See also “Association of All-Cause Mortality With Overweight and Obesity Using Standard Body Mass Index Categories,” Journal of the American Medical Association.
Note 2:Apparently some references use “severe obesity” for people whose BMI is greater than 40. They also divide that between “morbid obesity” (BMI of 40-50) and “super obesity” or “super obese” (BMI greater than 50). But again, most people’s BMI is below 40.
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