Zumba Dale’s Birthday, A Scientific Explanation of BMI and the Further Adventures of Sheniqua

Buckle your seat belts loyal readers because I’m a little behind and we have a lot to do in our regular 600 words or so. It was Dale’s birthday today AND the end of my second trimester of Zumba. Actually, I told Dale on the actual day, the 24th, where she applauded my 6months attendance with appropriate motivational glee, until I pointed out my Zumba would come to full term on December 24. “I’m delivering a virgin Zumba, I said”. All the blood drained from her face.

Sheniqua is doing great, and is in line to be nominated for the “best new Zumberanian of the year” competition, held in Orlando Florida on April 1, 2014. I knew she was hooked a week or so ago when Dale played a Huey Lewis and the News song a SECOND time in the rotation. Shenqiqua went straight up in the air about 4 feet, and literally unfurled like an American flag in a beautiful breeze on late night Tv before there was cable and the local tv station was signing off for the night…. anyhow, I thought just for a second some first aid would be required then realized NO, Sheniqua has a favorite song and this is it. She’s definitely hooked now. If you happen to be out and about and run into Sheniqua and Huey Lewis and the News comes on…..back up and prepare to be amazed.

One of my readers found my layman’s explanation of “basal matabolism” from the last blog most helpful and put in a request for a similar explanation of BMI. Glad to oblige. First some historical context. Prior to the popularity of the BMI OR Body Mass Index or Bullshit Meaningless Incredularity, most doctors relied on the Metropolitan Life Insurance standard Height Weight Chart for Men/Women. Complied in 1943, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s actuary carefully studied people who ALMOST starved to death during the Great Depression, WWII, concentration camps and Siberian prison camps, and using a complicated algorithm, calculated how could they get you to pay off a policy, then collect the interest for the longest time without having to pay a death benefit so they would get the richest. This resulted in their definition of ideal weights, which bore no actual reality to what people really weighed. (A good basic description of this process and the actual charts can be found here. http://www.halls.md/ideal-weight/met.htm). For example, according to this chart, I should weight 135 pounds. I got down to 147 once in high school, but I could only eat twice a week, every third day. This didn’t seem normal to me.

As the country recovered from war, and in the 1950’s actually began completing grades beyond the 6th grade, most people learned to hate insurance companies and hence, their charts. Also, around the 80’s this chart was co-opted by the AAA. (The Anorexic Association of America, not the automobile association) so docs started looking around for another chart to point to to chide people into loosing weight. For a short period of time, they used the YAFA scale, or, You’re A Fat Ass chart but this was not well received by the rich people who spent a gazillion dollars in weight loss centers AND, ran head on to the beginning of political correctness so they went back to the drawing board.

“The body mass index (BMI), or Quetelet index, is a measure for human body shape based on an individual’s mass and height.
Devised between 1830 and 1850 by the Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet during the course of developing “social physics”,[2] it is defined as the individual’s body mass divided by the square of their height – with the value universally being given in units of kg/m2.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_mass_index. And is represented by the formula:

image

You can immediately see the appeal of this new approach: 1. it was invented by someone with no qualifications. 2. It was invented almost two hundred years ago, also when people were starving; and 3. It was based on a mathematical formula which we all agree is why we all hated math in school. Here is one last reason if you’re not convinced: “BMI can be calculated quickly and without expensive equipment. However, BMI categories do not take into account many factors such as frame size and muscularity.[22] The categories also fail to account for varying proportions of fat, bone, cartilage, water weight, and more.” Id, Wikipedia. Translation: even though the scale is meaningless, we like to use it anyway.

Here’s a better method: if you’re headed to walmart or Costco for some shopping, and you need to ride around in a scooter because your ankles can no longer support your weight, which you don’t know what that is, because your bathroom scale stops at 350 and your clothes have more than 4 xxxxs in the size AND your doctor has begged you, in tears, to lose weight – you might want to take that to heart and consider some reasonable exercise and more fresh food and vegetables. If, you’re looking at some chart to figure out if you need to lose weight to drop from your size 4 dress to a size 2,: you need a psychiatrist and you need to buy the new DSM-V book on psychiatric disorders. And a milkshake.

“I am the walrus. Goo goo gachoob”.

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