Last Saturday, I came home to a very surprising envelope in our mail… It was from our insurance company, and it declared that our 4-year-old son was OBESE. I looked twice because I wasn’t certain they had the correct family, but they did and I was amazed.
So, my 4-year-old is in the 98th percentile for height and the 95th percentile for weight… If it was the same this wouldn’t be a problem. His BMI is considered above average. So, the insurance company offered to set up – at our cost – blood testing to test his cholesterol and a nutritionist… I was still stunned. I reached out to my fitness and professional friends and asked for their opinions on what should be done. They all laughed and told me to ignore it. Except for my kettlebell trainer, who agreed to test my son’s body fat and offered more suggestions on what I should do, and this is what we did.
First, I had my son’s body fat tested. It came out really really low which wasn’t surprising, but even lower than we had anticipated. So, we will just say he has less than 8% body fat. While I was at the gym, he did some extraordinary strength things that other 4-year-olds could only imagine doing. Hence his BMI being high… The kid is one big muscle. I then took his picture to send to the insurance along with his body fat documentation. If this kid is the image of obese, then there are a TON of children in this world who are in big trouble.
OK, so this isn’t about me whining that my kid’s BMI is high and that our insurance is picking on him, it is about BMI itself. So, you take the height and weight and determine BMI. The trainers at the kettlebell studio, who may have 6% body fat, are considered obese because their weight is more than it should be according to their height on the BMI chart. But, again they have 6% or less body fat. Again, if they are obese then the rest of the general population should be very very concerned. BMI is an OK judge of obesity for a population who sits at a desk all day and does nothing. However, for those with any amount of muscle mass, the BMI will be flawed and it will give you a very bad reflection of your health.
In short, don’t trust BMI. Get a reputable person to do an extensive body fat test on you. Find out how much lean-mass-to-fat you have on your body and let that be the determining factor of health. BMI is broken. Also, if you happen to get this letter from your pediatrician, don’t freak out. Investigate yourself. Talk to your pediatrician, have your child’s body fat measured and then if you believe the insurance is incorrect send documentation and a picture of your child for their files at the insurance company. You are in charge of your health and your children’s health… make sure you are protecting it.