Government’s BMI chart hard to swallow, but here’s trying

Published 5:20 pm Saturday, June 3, 2017

The surprised look on my wife’s face was startling.

She had just logged onto a medical web portal for me a couple of years ago, to check out records updates from a recent office visit.

A physician had just diagnosed me with cancer, and his nurse had explained that the website is a good place to monitor updated vital statistics and other records in my medical file.

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My wife’s inhaling gasp and wide, concerned eyes made me wonder if the cancer was not worse than the doctor had already told me.

“Great. I’m going to die.”

“No,” she said, perhaps with an eye roll. “It says you are obese!”

I’m a male about to have a breast removed for cancer learning from a web portal that I am officially obese.

They had weighed me during the office visit but nobody said anything about this dual diagnosis. Besides, the doctor commented on my “significant” muscle tone when my shirt came off.

But maybe that was just the bedside manners talking.

I had also played hours of full-court basketball days before, and days before that, with friends suggesting I seemed closer to the age of 30 than 50.

But that was friends talking.

“Maybe it is wrong,” my wife said, recognizing the obesity discussion prompted more angst from me than the cancer did.

Perhaps that was because I had already figured out the cancer thing before the diagnosis, so it was no surprise by the time I arrived at the doctor’s office. But while I knew I was overweight, with more than an inch to pinch around the midsection, I never considered obesity.

So I waited a few days until the next office visit to ask the nurse it.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m officially obese, too.”

The nurse looked fit to me, so that was comforting — sort of.

“It’s all about the BMI chart established by the government,” the nurse said. “It calculates height, weight, sex and age. Muscle weighs more than fat. And everybody is different.”

But Uncle Sam calculates us all the same?

I plugged in the stats online just to make sure: Male, 6-foot-1 tall; weight, 226 pounds; age, 50.

Result: obese.

It was barely, by a fraction of a BMI point, but barely counts that made me obese by the government’s standards, with the calculator revealing a body mass index of 30, the official standard for obesity.

Never mind that I had clothes and shoes on when I stepped on the scale, and had probably eaten an entire salty pizza the night before from a restaurant named Post Office Pies, because it was that good.

The obesity showing up on the medical record got my attention.

That’s why within just a couple of months I weighed 208 pounds, dropping down to the moderate overweight category. I got there by going to the gym a couple of mornings a week, playing more full court basketball, eating fewer Post Office Pie pizzas, and was feeling better than ever before.

More than year later, I’m still officially overweight by the government’s standards, though I haven’t let obesity make a comeback to the medical records. I have learned, though, that losing weight at the age of 51 is difficult.

I’ve tried running for miles each week, for months, and now spend two to three days a week in a gym doing some theoretical fitness workout that I hope ultimately delivers applied results.

There’s also a recent Whole 30 diet experience, which helped a little, and cured a craving for sugar, which could ultimately help a lot.

I want to eventually reach a weight considered normal by government standards, so I can be a good citizen, even though the BMI chart says I must reduce to 189 pounds or less to get out of the overweight category.

When I’ve lost that much weight in years before people thought I looked too skinny, like Uncle Sam.

But everybody needs something to work toward.

David Magee is Publisher of The Oxford Eagle. He can be reached at