BMI: Body Mass Index and the reification of a mathematical formula that makes health professionals look stupid and philosophically unscientific

Health professionals:  Please, stop using BMI as a means of assessing the health of patients and clients.  Everyone can look at a person and see if he or she is overweight, obese, morbidly obese, or underweight and in need of some muscle and fat on their bones.  But when you apply arbitrary numbers into a formula, you’ve created an abstraction, and when you use it to assess whether a person is underweight, normal, overweight, or obese, you are guilty of reificiation (for those professionals who have never heard this word, please, it is a logical fallacy).

My BMI is 32.  I am thus obese, as you can see from my recent photo:

slimmer me

Oops.  I am not supposed to look like that.  Here is what I’m supposed to look like (slightly smaller than the guy on the right):

It is time to dispense with BMI.  Stop using it because it makes you sound stupid, philosophically unsophisticated and intellectually lazy.  Is that what you want?

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2 thoughts on “BMI: Body Mass Index and the reification of a mathematical formula that makes health professionals look stupid and philosophically unscientific

  1. Here’s a great article on BMI: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439

    Here is the best line:

    It is embarrassing for one of the most scientifically, technologically and medicinally advanced nations in the world to base advice on how to prevent one of the leading causes of poor health and premature death (obesity) on a 200-year-old numerical hack developed by a mathematician who was not even an expert in what little was known about the human body back then.

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