Almost Everyone Is Overweight, Obese, Or Borderline

Healthy weight?
The ideal figure?

What's concerning in America is that almost everyone is overweight, obese, or borderline overweight. The pandemic has greatly highlighted how dangerous it can be to be overweight or obese.

If you have debt and/or dependents and are overweight or obese, I highly recommend you get an affordable term life insurance policy. You can get free quotes from Policygenius, where both my wife and I got matching 20-year term life insurance policies during the pandemic.

As I grow older and now have two kids to raise, I've found myself slowly gaining weight as well. As a result, I'd like to use this post as motivation for all of us to get in better shape!

Besides going through my new year financial checklist every year, I also like to see a doctor at the beginning of the year as well. I figure worst case, if I get extremely unlucky and get cancer, the most I'll live with the disease untreated is 364 days.

I also spend about $9,120 a year on insurance premiums for a “silver plan.” $760/month seems like a lot for a guy who is relatively healthy. So I figure I might as well get at least something out of it while helping subsidize some of my brothers and sisters who pay less.

Most People Are Overweight, Borderline, Or Obese In America

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 35.7% of adults are considered to be obese. 6.3% have extreme obesity. While 74 percent are considered to be overweight or obese! These statistics are crazy and have me worried about my own weight.

One of my goals is to get down to 163 lbs from 168 lbs. I've always felt that 163 lbs or less was a reasonable weight for someone 5'10”. 163 lbs makes me look and feel good. After all, isn't how you feel what matters most?

163 lbs isn't exactly light, but I'm athletically built given my legs and calves are larger than average due to playing so much tennis. Lighter weight means better performance on the court and less stress on the knees. I discovered I had a torn left meniscus about six years ago.

So imagine my surprise when my Ear, Nose, & Throat doctor told me nonchalantly during our conversation about sleep apnea that I could lose a few pounds!

I asked her whether there was a strong correlation with sleep apnea/snoring and weight gain, and she said absolutely. “The typical profile of someone who snores and has sleep apnea is a 50+ year old male who is overweight. Left untreated, sleep apnea is linked to heart disease, cancer, and memory loss. There's no direct link between sleep apnea and such problems, but there is definitely a correlation.

The percentage of American adults who are overweight or obese

Borderline Obese

Concerning! She asked for my height and current weight to punch into a BMI calculator. I came out at 24.2. She said a BMI above 25 = overweight. And anything above a BMI of 30 is obese.

I was shocked! She went on to say that I should shoot for a BMI of 20. We went through the calculator to figure out how much a 5'10” male should weigh with a BMI of 20, and it came out to 140 lbs! WTF? I haven't been 140 lbs since I was in the 7th or 8th grade!

When I told her that 140 lbs sounds ridiculous, she responded, “The problem with living in America is that we have a warped sense of what looks like healthy weight. Most Americans are overweight.

I agreed with her about perception equaling reality, and told her that instead of trying to shoot for 163 lbs, I'm going to try and get down to 155 lbs (22 BMI) instead per her suggestion. I remember being ripped in high school at 155 lbs, so why not unwind 20 years of fat accumulation to help cure sleep apnea and all its associated problems!

She sardonically responded, “Good luck! You've got to change your lifestyle, and that's no easy task.

For those wondering, my doctor was female, and around 5'3″ tall, 125 lbs = 22 BMI.

Everybody Check Your BMI

If you care about your health, you should check your BMI index by punching in your height and weight in this BMI calculator from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

What I realize from the chart is that my doctor misspoke. 25 or greater is characterized as Overweight, not Obese. But I'm not sure being “borderline overweight” makes me feel any better because being called “borderline obese” makes me more motivated to lose weight.

BMI Categories:

Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
Overweight = 25–29.9
Obesity = 30 – 39.9
Morbidly Obese = 40+

For a healthier life, my doctor recommends everybody shoot for a 20-22 BMI.

Shooting for a 20 BMI is particularly important for those who suffer from, or have a history of, or don't want to get:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (excess fat and inflammation in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol)
  • osteoarthritis (a health problem causing pain, swelling, and stiffness in one or more joints)
  • some types of cancer: breast, colon, endometrial (related to the uterine lining), and kidney
  • stroke
  • memory loss

Besides all the health benefits of being thin, here are the financial benefits I've thought of:

  • No need to buy an economy plus, business class, or first class airplane ticket
  • Sitting in an economy car will feel like sitting in a S550 Mercedes
  • Health insurance premiums are cheaper
  • Life insurance premiums are cheaper

Ideal Weight Chart For Men

For those who are too lazy to click on the BMI calculator and punch in two digits, here are two ideal weight charts for men and women based on a BMI of between ~21-25.

Ideal Weight Chart For Men

Definition of medium-frame: Your middle finger and thumb just touch when you hold your wrist. You are large-framed if your fingers do not touch. You are small-framed if your fingers overlap.

Ideal Weight Chart For Women

Ideal Weight Chart For Women

Need To Hear The Truth To Change

It's hard to face the truth that I'm borderline overweight/obese, but I had to hear it straight from the doctor's mouth. We weren't even talking about my weight when she slipped it in that I could lose a few pounds.

The difficulty of getting to a 20-22 BMI in America is that life is way too easy here. Food is cheap. We are bombarded with sugar and diary products. An easy life is also another reason why so many of us don't bother to save or invest as much for our future. We wait until it's too late to create our mid-life crisis fund or save for retirement.

I'm not sure all our medical advancements can bail us out when we start contracting diseases related to obesity. I surely don't plan to find out. I've revised my 2016 weight loss goal to 155 lbs from 163 lbs. I don't want to die young!

What Is Your BMI? Go here to calculate:

View Results

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146 thoughts on “Almost Everyone Is Overweight, Obese, Or Borderline”

  1. Your ENT doc is wrong, Obesity is 30 and up, not 25. Your weight is normal under 25 and 25.1-29.9 is overweight. You’re not fat.

  2. Just a reminder for anyone reading this article and worrying: BMI is an archaic, BS metric that nobody should take seriously. It does not account for enough factors

    I am 6’2 195lbs which gives me a BMI of 25 – Overweight.

    What that “overweight” BMI doesn’t tell you is that at 6’2 195lbs I have 10.7% body fat, 120 over 70 blood pressure, and perfectly normal cholesterol levels. I’ve also had pulmonary testing done and had very positive results.

    BMI is absolutely nonsense and is not a solid indication of your overall health.

    If you are male and have anywhere from 8-24% body fat, good blood pressure, decent cholesterol, and good pulmonary function you are perfectly healthy. For women that body fat percentage should be between 20-35%.

    1. Yup BMI is a horrible metric of measuring obesity. If you are perfectly average shape and athleticism it is directional but that is about it. Body fat % is a much better metric. Every single NBA athlete measure obese by BMI

        1. When the most fit athletes in the world all measure obese it doesn’t work, sorry, it’s always been a horrible metric. Someone with long legs and short torso will weigh less than the reverse. Muscles will weigh more than flabby skin. BMI works fairly well for average body shape and average athleticism and that’s about it

          1. There are also metrics out there that are just as simple as BMI that are better.

            Mind you, these are not perfect, but things like RAI (Relative Adipose Index), Hip-to-Waist Ratio, and RFM (Relative Fat Mass) can give you a quick and better idea of the health of your body composition than BMI.

            For the best results I would suggest using a body fat calculator that uses multiple body measurements such as hip, waist, neck, wrist, and ankles. Then do a caliper test for body fat. And finally, if you want to really go for it – spend $50-120 to get a dexascan.

            If you average out the results of all three of these you will have a solid idea of your BF%.

            And body fat percentage, as well as the other metrics I mentioned (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc…) are much more important in determining overall health.

            You can also try determining BF% by eye if you are male. It is harder for women because it’s hard to determine the amount of fat naturally stored in the breasts and butt.

            But for guys here is a simple rough guide to knowing your body fat percentage.

            35+ Large gut with no muscle definition in any part of the body even when flexing.

            30-34.9% Some gut, same lack of definition. Might show some definition in specific areas if flexing.

            25-29.9% Noticable belly, but nothing that makes finding shirts that fit hard. You will likely be able to see a noticable bicep when you flex, but your back, chest, shoulders, and legs will not show any definition. This is where most guys fit.

            20-24.9% Back may begin to show definition when flexing, but not much.

            15-19.9% This is where your muscles will begin to show definition even when you are in a relaxed state.

            10-14.9% Below 15% is where you begin to have visible abs. The closer you get to 10% the more shredded you look. 10-12% is right around where you see most fitness models. You will have visible veins when you hsve a pump from the gym and the closer you get to 10% the more likely you are to gave the visible bicep vein even when not pumped.

            Below 10% this begins to be body builder territory. 8-10% you can find in a few top end athletes. Muscle definition is off the charts and you can begin to see the striations in individual muscles such as the chest and shoulders.

            At 5-8% you are ready to step on a stage, or just a few weeks out from being contest ready.

            The lower the percentage in this brscket the more striations you will see in more places. You begin to see striations in the back, and legs, and you can even see the “graininess” of the muscles. This is NOT a healthy body fat percentage. Most people feel like they lack energy once they dip below 10% and it is difficult to maintain. Professional Bodybuilders even only hit those 5-7% ranges the week of the shows and they have all sorts of crazy methods to do so. Usually within the week after a show they are back up over 10%. Oh, and because of their lean muscle mass, every IFBB pro is more than morbidly obese, even at dangerously low BF% according to BMI.

            Hope this information helps.

    2. I (respectfully) disagree. I am a former US Navy Officer and understand that the BMI may not adequately capture a true health picture. However, there are a number of medical reports that identify a strong correlation between Body Mass Index Metrics (Overweight & Obesity) as a precursor to a number of preventible illnesses. Case in point, I am 5’9″ and previously weighed 177 pounds. By reducing my weight to 155 pounds (via exercise and a modified diet), a number of my personal health markers improved significantly, including the elimination of the hip pain I was experiencing. Personal accountability is key.

  3. Re: “She asked for my height and current weight to punch into a BMI calculator. I came out at 24.2. She said a BMI above 25 = obese.”

    As flawed as BMI is, it sounds like she simply gave you faulty info. BMI over 25 is generally considered to be overweight, not obese. BMI over 30 is considered to be obese.

  4. Rachel Frampton

    My brother has gained weight ever since he started his graveyard shift, his height is 5’9 and he weighs 160 pounds, but we always thought that his weight is average. I’m glad that I’ve read your article, I never knew the importance of checking BMI to determine whether your weight is reasonable for your height, therefore I’ve concluded that there’s a huge possibility that my brother is a borderline obese. If that’s the case, I’ll encourage him to look for a program that will help him lose a couple of pounds.

  5. Eileen Benson

    It made sense when you shared what your doctor said about how most Americans are overweight, which can make it hard to quantify our own health due to warped perceptions. Ever since my last birthday, I’ve been wanting to take better care of myself to ensure I can have a long and healthy life. I’m glad I read your article because now I can check my BMI and start looking for some healthy lifestyle hacks to improve it!

  6. It’s really amazing how people of different body types can fluctuate so much in their ideal weight. I’m just over 5’10, and if I weighed 163 lbs I would be practically emaciated. My ideal weight is around 210 lbs. I lift weights and I have a very large build. I guess one man’s “obese” is another man’s fit. Right now I am 270 lbs (which is very overweight for me, yes) , and I have a 38 inch waist with around 33% body fat. At 210 I would be pretty lean! My goal is get down to 15% Body fat or 210 lbs. Whichever comes first.

  7. You are NOT overweight. You are if anything probably AT a healthy weight. 155lbs and 5 10?

    That is nuts…unless you want to be skin and bone.

    I am borderline OBESE according to both the BMI and a former doctor (who coincidentially was also a young woman). Other physicians have mocked the BMI to me.

    The last physician I saw…when I asked if I needed to lose weight said “not really”.

    Could I lose weight? Yes. I calculate I should be 12 – 15 lbs lighter.

    But I’m mostly muscle and weigh 200lbs (male).

    The originator of BMI in the 1800’s says it should not be used to calculate health. It was taken on by the insurance industry because it is an EASY metric that can standardize comparisons across all policy holders. It has the added benefit of driving up premiums since they can point to a potential life insurance policy holder as above optimum weight.

    So I wouldn’t lose any weight…unless you really are ‘skinny fat’….little muscle etc. Diet and activity is much more important.

    Hell yeah I’d like to lose a few pounds…but bordering on OBESE? You’d laugh if you saw me and had that on your clipboard. This stuff is basically junk science.

  8. MachineGhost

    Glad you got a wakeup call, but the BMI is simplistic, anarchronistc, mathematical rubbish. The hip-waist ratio is far more modern and informative as it accounts for muscle/fat volume. A BMI of 20 is simply not going to happen unless you’re small framed, a cigarette smoking celebrity/model, a lazy skinny-fatster or an active skinny non-fatster athlete. It is a marginal edge bested only by anorexics/bulimics. That being said, all cause mortality is lowest between 20-25 but you have to read between the lines because being skinny-fat at 20 or overfat at 25 isn’t what the take home message ultimately is.

    For the majority of Americans the absolutely easiest way to get into shape for the long-term is to eat only in an 8-hour window and fast the other 16-hours along with high intensity exercise once a week. That will build muscle and decrease metabolic syndrome. It cannot get any simpler or easier, so if one fails at that then they have psychological issues that need to be addressed first. Not all are purely mental; there are physiological dysfunctions that reinforce the failure, but I digress.

  9. I echo the many comments of how erroneous BMI can be as an indicator of obesity. Secondly, your doctor came across as…how shall I put it…a little belligerent? 140 lbs. at your height is ridiculous. You would look emaciated. I am 5’7″, 140 lbs. at 9-10% bodyfat. I think you are right, at your height, 155 lbs., you probably would be pretty ripped. NYT has a good article today on losing fat and increasing muscle. Lifting, tracking calories and eating a high protein diet (track your macros). Also look up “If it fits your macros” (IFIYM). That in combination with your tennis will easily accomplish your goals. I don’t know where your doctor gets off saying “Good luck.” Take it as a challenge. It’s not about luck, just change diet and workout. BTW, I lost 25 lbs and my wife says I still snore like a freight train so go figure (but I sleep like a baby).

    1. Nolen Purvis

      “I am 5’7″, 140 lbs. at 9-10% bodyfat. I think you are right, at your height, 155 lbs., you probably would be pretty ripped.”

      This alone shows everything wrong using only one type of measurement, or few. I am 5’10 and was at 160 lbs, body fat of 3%. This was purely sitting on my butt at a computer eating 3-5 times a day(yay metabolism). My bone mass isn’t much, at best medium. At 168 lbs after a week of weight training and protein/carb shakes, I was 8% body fat and was no longer consistently fatigued from jobs other heavier people would do normally. After two more weeks I was 178 and 11% body fat. In three weeks I gained 8% body fat(really not much considering my growth in power with every muscle possible in a mediocre gym), and only 18 lbs. I never felt better. I hope this reaches future people and the original poster, you don’t need to worry about numbers on some unscientific scale. If you are overweight, you will see it, you will feel it, and same for underweight. You should know your basic well being more than you’re doctor. My BMI says I have been obese since 14 to 23 years of age, with a body fat percentage of three. Please, throw that all out the window and really start to evaluate yourself. Not everything requires numbers, that’s just a somewhat humble wall to cave behind, reassuring yourself of what is correct.

  10. I am obese and need to lose weight, and I am working on that. However, using BMI as the sole indicator of health is potentially dangerous, especially if you think just because you are thin or your BMI is normal you don’t have any health issues. MY BMI is 30+. Yet my resting heart rate is in the 40’s. My blood pressure is dead spot normal. My blood work during my last physical was outstanding and all within healthy parameters. Yet should I go ahead and ignore my weight? I have a friend who is right on his BMI. He’s now got a host of issues that didn’t appear until he got older (40’s) and he ignored many of the early indicators for the most part because high blood pressure and other ailments were fat people’s disease and he wasn’t fat.

    My point is not to consider the BMI being in range as a pass on verifying you are otherwise healthy, no more so than I should consider all my good indicators as a reason not to lose weight.

    1. Do you think your hearth rate and your health would be better at a BMW under 25? If so, then go for it.

      That was my decision to go for a 22 BMI if there is a chance I can reduce my sleep apnea. B/c I never had sleep apnea with a 22 or under BMI.

  11. I’m a 5’7, medium framed, 220lb male, and my BMI is 34.5.

    Apparently I’m very obese—that explains my love of fried foods and sugary snacks.

    Realistically, BMI tends to be off for the short (like myself) and the very tall. However, I realize that my weight has had an upward trajectory since my early twenties and it will not stabilize on its own.

    Hopefully this year will be the year I decide to take action.

  12. Is your ENT doctor at her ideal weight? Would be interesting to know. There are plenty of fit doctors, but I’d guess that the percentage is only marginally higher than the average population.

    As you mentioned, I think your running calves from tennis puts you over the scale, but it doesn’t mean that you are overweight.

  13. I agree with a lot of the comments that an athletic body will appear fat or borderline fat using the BMI. I look at my husband (who also has sleep apnea) and he would be borderline fat based on the table above, yet he has less than 10% body fat.

  14. Hey Sam, is that YOU (head) in the picture dancing with the ladies on the beach??…. you scallywag!

  15. Look into Bod Pods. It’s relatively inexpensive is fairly accurate. Better than using BMI and not as intense as DEXA scanning.

  16. Interestingly enough, its is not a high BMI that results in the noted diseases (and associated disabilities). However, food is the root cause that results in a high BMI and noted diseases.

    As for working out, it is extremely important for an overall good health. But you don’t need it to maintain weight if you eat healthy. Point in case, if you would only eat whole foods (plant based), you physically cannot overeat, as you body will regulate your intake.

    But, as soon as you eat anything processed (this includes oils, sugars, milk, etc.) you will through off this natural regulation and are slated to eat more than you need and gain weight. Nature is really simple that way.

    So, off to the grocery store and only buy from the fruit and vegetable section, with some extra’s such as nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. Your body will thank you (your doctor probably not so much as he/she will loose repeat business).

  17. Sam,

    Many commentators have pointed out the flaws in the BMI calculation (mainly, not differentiating between muscle mass and fat mass). There is a better metric that you can use with just a few more simple measurements (using a tape measure): the US Navy Body Composition Assessment.

    For men, there are 4 inputs to the Navy BCA:
    -circumference around the neck (measured with a tape measure)
    -circumference around the abdomen (measured with a tape measure)

    For women, there are 5 inputs to the Navy BCA:
    -circumference around the neck (measured with a tape measure)
    -circumference around the waist (measured with a tape measure)
    -circumference around the hips (measured with a tape measure)

    Here are some websites with a calculator and information behind the method:

    The output of the Navy formula is actually an estimate of body fat percentage, without having to use any special sensors or make any cumbersome measurements. It’s not perfect, but I think it is superior to the BMI. The circumference measurements add a lot to the story of just height and weight.

  18. My healthiest weight is probably around 135, but I only hit that weight when I’m weight lifting intensely. Usually, I’m closer to 125-130 which is indicative of me being lazy and only focusing on cardio. I’ve always thought of myself as medium framed, but according to your description, I’m actually small framed. Maybe I should take that into account.

  19. BMI, is ridiculous. The only thing that should be considered is body fat. Using BMI, each and every bodybuilder who takes the stage is considered obese. At less than 3% body fat….I dont think so. If you are really that concerned then go get your Body fat measured. If as a male you are in the 20% range then you should probably lose a few. I think ~12 to ~15% is ideal Depending on personal preference and body composition you can probably go up to ~17.

      1. Go to a nutritionist for 3 months. They will measure your body fat. Get to your goal and take a picture. Use that as a baseline going forward. The eyeball test will be mostly accurate after that.

        I’m 6’5, medium framed, and I can tell you it would be physically impossible to get to 200 lbs without losing a significant amount of muscle. The last time I had my body fat measured my non-fat mass was estimated at 207 lbs. Doctors are typically very bad at nutrition and body composition. I was told in high school I was overweight by our family doctor, mind you, I was a high school wrestler and had visible abs and serratus muscles at that time. The statement was so ridiculous I switched doctors.

  20. It all comes down to processed sugar. I’m an American that has spent 20 years in Asia. I’m slightly over 6’ and weigh 178lbs on a normal day. I’ve maintained this weight since I started going to the gym over 20 years ago. I also eat a very “Asian diet” because, well, “When in Rome….”

    That said, when I go back to the USA, or other “Western” countries, I balloon up to well over 180lbs even though I maintain my 3 – 4 day workout routine. As a matter of fact, I just returned from a trip to Australia and I’m currently weighing in at 182lbs. Why? Well, as I was sitting there eating the hotel breakfast buffet and dawned on me… “It’s impossible to escape processed sugar here!”

    In the US, UK, AZ, CAN it’s virtually everywhere. You cannot escape it. It’s in the bread, the processed juice, yogurt, the cereal, the processed meats, pizza, canned and frozen food, it’s everywhere!

    It’s not just hotel buffets either. If you grab lunch out it’s everywhere as well as in your dinner. The sugar industry is a seriously robust industry in the West, because they have made sure they’ve embedded themselves in everything you eat.

    Now you might say, “But what about Asia?” Well, it is true that Asians like their sugar kick, too, but from my experience, it’s not at all as deep and pervasive as in the West. If you were to go to a Japanese hotel breakfast buffet you could easily avoid processed sugar. Yes, you’d get sugar from rice and fruit, but the science says that all sugars are not equal and by the looks of people in the West, that science must have an awful lot of truth behind it.

    Lastly, I was watching TV in Australia. They had a show on and it was showing many images of Australians in the 1970’s and everyone was stick (some might say sickly) thin–as you’d imagine an English person to be. The English were never a big people. They weren’t tall like the Scandinavians or balky like the “Russian bears.” The United Kingdom is a temperate climate and the people reflected this… but not anymore! Australians are HUGE, and not only tall, but fat, too. British residence may be even more so now, too. This has to make one think, “What the hell is going on?”

    I saw many people working out in Australia, too. So many people running and doing many things but still their bodies do not reflect their bloodlines. An Englishman (or Australian for that matter) from the early 20th century would not recognize their own people. They would think the world had gone mad as they sipped their tea and looked astonished at the transformation.

    As someone with mainly British roots, I’m sure those early 20th century Englishmen and women would look at my 6’ and 178lbs frame and think, “Good lord, the man is a brute!”

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more about escaping processed sugar. I felt the same way with dairy. But in Asia, it’s so easy to eat less sugar and dairy.

      It’s hard not to eat a cookie when a big jar of cookies is staring us in the face every day!

  21. It can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle while working a full time job. You tend to eat poorly, exercise less and importantly don’t sleep enough. I’m your height and went from 170lbs to 162lbs over the past 3 months since I was not working and could focus on exercise and eating well. I’m back at work and am hoping not to give back all my hard earned gains.

    All the more reason to build your passive income sources and say goodbye to your 9-5 gig!

    1. It’s funny, but I thought I’d get in the shape of my life not working. But I haven’t. We have to change our lifestyles. And, using work as an excuse is a poor excuse to not stay in shape, even though work doesn’t promote fitness!

      Time to work as a physical trainer! :)

  22. “According the “WHO”, (World Health Organization), a BMI of 25 is considered overweight, regardless of gender/age. Most people will discover that they are overweight or even obese, when calculating their BMI in the usual way, although in actual fact they are not. A result of this kind could make you very unhappy.”

    Try this calculator instead –

    Most people, when they hit the ideal BMI will feel weak, could be more prone to illness/sicknesses. And, they will be judged as being too skinny, according to the “norm”.

    1. Thank you for the calculator. I can’t tell you how much I love this. In my mind I am about 15 pounds over weight, however, at my ideal weight of 140 pounds (I am 5’6″), I had a difficult time maintaining and trying to lose additional weight without sacrificing my whole being. For months I tried to lose just 5 more pounds with no success. At the time I exercised 6 times a week, incorporating lifting weights and running long distances on the weekend to no avail. Then I realized I was good where I was.

      This makes me feel so much better, especially since I am overall healthy. My cholesterol is fine, blood pressure is low and I exercise a few times a week and attempt to eat salads and healthy most of the time. Everything in moderation!

      That being said, I am going to try to lose a few pounds by summer, but maybe not to the extreme as I did in the past. Thanks!

      1. Yeah – I agree – I think you are fine the way you are based on what you said, working out regularly, cholesterol/blood pressure being fine, etc.

        I used to weigh what was recommended by the “old school” BMI calculations, by working out to the “extreme”, and eating small portions, etc. But, frankly, after doing all that, from personal experience, I got more prone to sickness and looked like I was still in high school (I’m in my 40s). Fast forward, being ~10-15 pounds over (but eating right and exercising often), I feel the best I’ve ever been :).

        A few pounds (~5) may sound right – but nothing too extreme.

  23. BMI is only useful from the population perspective. On individual level it’s a totally meaningless number.

    I am 5’10 and 190lbs on a large frame. At my lowest ever i was 173lbs and that was not “pretty”.. i looked sick.

    Fat % measurement is by far a more accurate standard.

  24. Formative Fortunes

    Weight has never been an issue for me but I have to focus on building more muscle and strength and not depending on my metabolism to keep me in shape. Thanks for the wake up call!

  25. I am BMI 25. However, my goal is to lose 20 pounds before the summer. I was always the same weight…until I hit 30, then you know how it goes. A pound per year. I do exercise, but I need to be more careful. It is important.

    Everyone agrees that obesity in America is a big problem. And your health definitely affects your wealth in so many ways.

    There are so many reasons for obesity in America.
    1. Noone cooks anymore. It’s incredible how much takeout and restaurant food all my friends eat! If you eat out alot- you are GOING TO GAIN WEIGHT and spend a ton of $$. Restaurants cook with butter and salt – all to create the unami that keeps you coming back for more.
    2. Portion sizes are obscene. Not large. Freaking obscene. I had a friend from South Africa come to visit me in NY once…we ordered, ate our app, and she turned to me and said “ready to get out of here?”. I looked at her stunned – our entrees had not arrived yet! When the plates arrived, she literally fell off her chair. What I know understand was that we ordered enough food (1 app and 2 entrees) to feed 2 people for days. Seriously. It was Applebees BTW.
    3. steroids, genetic modification, etc. of our food. They don’t do that elsewhere. You go to Turkey and order a chicken and it looks like a pigeon. You buy a chicken in America it looks like a turkey.
    4. food group warp. Go enjoy a meal in Asia and you get a bowl of rice, a bunch of veggies, and a little bitty bit of meat. Enjoy a 1 pound burger or a 10 ounce steak in America. With buttered creamed spinach as your veg.
    5. carb overload. We eat a lot of carbs. Pizza, pasta, donuts, sandwiches, bagels, cupcakes.
    6. noone walks here. Noone bikes here. When I lived in London, I lost 20 pounds. The distance between tube stops was about 3/4 mile. I walked a LOT. I walk a lot in NJ, but never, ever, ever see anyone else walking. I can walk for miles and not see another soul, except a random person quickly walking their dog. I peak in people’s windows and see a whole of people sitting on their couches watching tv. Go to Amsterdam or Denmark, etc….bikes everywhere.
    7. TV. Everyone rushes home to eat their takeout meal….and then sit on the couch for hours and watches tv.
    8. sedentary work. I used to move all around at work. Computers took over, and I am in front of a computer 8-10 hours every day.
    9. processed foods.

    I have been all over South East Asia. Wow. If you don’t understand how warped our perception of weight is in this country,I urge you to please, please go visit Asia. In America, I often get compliments about how “skinny” I am! I am not skinny. I go to Thailand and I feel like a elephant. My in-laws are Thai and they are constantly on my case about being fat. Seriously. Where is the disconnect if I am fat in Thailand but skinny in NY?

    How did we get to the point where weight is overlooked? Are we enabling? It is politically incorrect to not overlook. Because I can tell you it is not that way in other countries. I have a Danish friend who makes some really outrageous comments about overweight people sometimes. To her, it is simply unacceptable, and she can’t understand how people here accept it. She even asked me one day how it was possible that one of my obese friends was married! She claims an obese lady in Denmark would never ever have a chance of getting married. !

    And having traveled all over the world, I can tell you it is not the norm, and it is looked down upon. I myself have more empathy; I am not trying to be mean…I am just explaining how we are perceived. It is not good. And whereas we shouldn’t care what others think of us…it really affects the quality of our whole life- and that we should care about. Even monetarily. Studies have been done on weight affecting chance of getting job, promotions, spouses, friends….it costs more to feed an obese person…..being overweight can result in all kinds of health problems (diabetes, joint issues, heart problems, etc)- which costs money.

    Thanks for inspiring us all to try to stick with the most common new year’s resolution!

  26. Brian Chong

    Funny/sad story…When I visited Korea 15 years ago with my dad, I noticed that everyone was staring at him. He was the fattest Korean man they’ve seen and he’s 5′ 10″ and 230 lbs. 15 years ago nobody in South Korea was fat b/c they walk everywhere and eat reasonable portions. Today, Koreans are getting fat b/c they’re eating American fast food.


  27. Fascinating! When I input my height and weight in your BMI calculator it says

    “While a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 generally suggests that you don’t need to lose weight, this isn’t true for everyone. In particular, Asians with a BMI of 23 or over may have an increased risk of health problems.”

    Good to know. More motivation to get to a 22 BMI!

  28. Sam,

    I’m 5’9, 30 and weigh 190 with a 14% body fat percentage and have had diagnosed sleep apnea since I was 24 and weighing about 175. I know we have had the BMI discussion in other threads and I think it’s not the correct way to look at it.

    I am considered obese, but I don’t believe that’s the case. Maybe I just have blinders on.

    Good post!


    1. Why not try giving it a go to lose some weight to try and cure sleep apnea like I’m doing? It won’t hurt to try. And if you try, and do a sleep study 20-40 lbs lighter, you’ll never wonder whether you could have done something about it!

      One commenter said if he gains 6 lbs his sleep apnea and snoring drive his wife mad.

      1. Hi Sam! Great post. I have a background in athletic training and teach sport nutrition, health, injury evaluation, and exercise science at the university level.

        You all are correct. BMI is not the correct way to look at it. The best way is have a body fat analysis along with a diet analysis.

        In fact, Sam, your blog has inspired me to work to create a business in behavior change. I am in the early stages, although I have a great deal of experience. Every year for the past 10 years, I have helped over 300-400 students navigate behavior change using my background in health education theory (ie., begin exercise, change nutritional habits, quit smoking, etc.). It is time to branch out on my own, use my knowledge and utilize your plan of not earning more than 50% of your income in one place :-).

        If you all want access to tools to help you achieve success, please let me know. Most importantly, you will need to diligently track your food intake and exercise. I have benefitted from years of your expertise in the financial world and am willing to share. Your partner in health!

  29. Since stopping working and exercising regularly I’ve lost about six pounds, but I’m still slightly overweight. I’m 5’10” and 180 pounds. My wife tells me, however, that it doesn’t suit me because I’ve lost quite a bit from my face and look “scrawny”. Meanwhile the wee paunch on the belly refuses to budge!
    Here in the UK there is a massive debate about how the obesity crisis is straining our national health service. Diabetes is becoming an epidemic. I’m convinced that only when being overweight becomes socially shameful, in the way that drinking and driving has become and that smoking in public is going, we won’t defeat it. Everyone knows what kind of food is bad for them and that they should exercise, but still they stuff their faces sitting on the couch watching TV or driving through McDonalds (and I include myself in this!) Meanwhile it is becoming increasingly “wrong” to criticise people for being fat and we make more accommodations for it. This needs to change for the good of us all.

    1. It’s very political incorrect to criticize overweight people here in the US. Instead, we make bigger seats, bigger cars, and allow for more accommodation to adjust to us, just like how we expect foreigners to adjust to us when we go abroad.

      We also don’t have deterrent mechanisms in our health care system or reward mechanisms to stay in shape.

      If my doctor said I could lower my monthly premium from $720 to $300 if I maintained a 22 BMI at 155 lbs, you bet your buns of steal id lose the weight within 3-6 months! Feel great, look great, live longer, AND save money?! Awesome!

      We must self motivate to become financially free and be healthy. Life is too easy in the US, which is why I’m constantly trying to subject myself to rejections and failures.

      1. I highly recommend the British serries The Fat Doctor or it’s American equivalent My 600 pound life (Netflix or Hulu can’t remember) very eye opening.

        My BMI is around 32 age 56. When I got married 30 years ago my wife complained Imwas too thing (6’1″ 170) well first six months of marriage I gained 2 inch s and haven’t looked back

        Actually the issue is as you age your metabolism slows down, it’s no longer about losing weight as much as trying not to gain it:(

        1. BTW I’m pushing 240 plus and plus minus 5 pounds makes a big difference in looking (somewhat) trim and just looking fat

          1. What is ironic is the fact I’ve joined her dieting! Watching PBS In defence of food nad in the opening 5 mins they profile a boy who has gained 30 pounds. Both the boy and the mom commented about buying “healthy”. The next shot was how much sugar eas in this so called healthy foods.

            I highly recommend Gary Traubes book on losing weight.

  30. I heard a comedian say once “I was a fat baby, a fat boy, a fat teen, and now I’m a fat man”. I don’t remember who he was (I was listening to a CD in someone else car) but I remember thinking to myself “how does this guy know me”. My family is all overweight, myself included. That being said my brother and I are determined to not continue the chain and are working a lot right now to lose the weight.
    My doctor always tells me to lose weight not a good feeling, thanks for sharing this article.

  31. Stepanie.

    Thanks for the info. Hem…we are pre-diabetic. Hopefully, with our recent weight lost of 17 pounds for my wife and 23 pounds for me our A1C will be lower or within a normal range. Diabetes runs on both of our families. :(

    I am so glad we made a permanent lifestyle change to eat healthier and to exercise more to hopefully avoid diabetes and high cholesterol (me).


      1. Sam,

        No symptoms. Complete blood work taken at our annual exam shows that our A1C was in the range of being pre-diabetic. We have been eating A LOT of cakes and sweets last year. After being pre-diabetic for 2 years in a row, we decided on a permanent life style to cut starchy carbs and sweets. I hope we will make an improvement at our next annual exam.


  32. I used to have one of about 25, but I got a fitbit and started walking 10,000 steps a day, and within a few years I had dropped to 21 (179cm and 68.5kg). Regular cardio exercise is key I think.

  33. Sam, I really enjoy your column and your opinions about finance. I’ve followed for a long time. However, I do have some concerns about this post. Frankly, your ENT is out of date. Consider the following based on contemporary science.

    A recent meta-analysis (Flegal, Kit, Orpana, & Graubard, 2013) looked at 97 studies that included nearly 3 million individuals of whom 270,000 had died during the various study periods. The researchers found that people who were slightly overweight (BMIs 25−30) had a lower probability of dying from any cause during the study periods than people with recommended BMIs of less than 25. Moreover, slightly obese individuals (BMIs less than 35) did not have greater risk of death than those with BMIs under 25. Individuals with BMIs over 35, however, were much more likely to die.

    Individuals with low BMIs are at increased risk for premature death, particularly if they are elderly (Hughes, 2013). Another meta-analysis examined 32 studies of nearly 200,000 people over age 65. The studies averaged 12 years of follow-up during which 72,000 people died. Those with BMIs around 28 had the fewest deaths and those whose BMIs were under 23 or over 34 were much more likely to have died (Winter, MacInnis, Wattanapenpaiboon, & Nowson, 2014). The take-home message is that being slightly over the recommended BMI is not as unhealthy as once believed and may even be protective.

    Not to encourage obesity or unhealthful eating, but the idea that a BMI of 20 is healthy is plain wrong. Moreover, as others have noted, the BMI measure is flawed in several respects.

    1. I’m shooting for a 22 BMI = 155 lbs. I know for me that is the perfect weight, bc I was there before and felt amazing. Good to know overweight people may live longer. I’m specifically trying to rid myself of sleep apnea, so hope a thinner neck will allow more air flow and less apnea!

      1. I think the previous poster’s point is still fair. It’s probably simpler to say that you want to be 155lbs than tie it to the BMI scale. I also think it’s important to just be mindful of making healthy choices and gradual lifestyle changes rather than shocking yourself into sudden fixes.

        I’ve noticed my waistline expanding ever so slightly over the last year and a half, and I’m trying to combat it through slight modifications to my portion sizes. I’m a pretty active guy (running, backpacking, cycling), but I think my knees will give out before my waistline if I try to combat the change through exercise alone in the years to come.

        I think a few lifestyle changes might do more for you in making you feel amazing before the weight loss catches up. Apnea is definitely a cause worth combating, though, so I hope you reach your goal of 155!

  34. I have major issues with BMI as a stand alone metric. As a Kinesiologist, I can tell you that BMI in isolation with no regard for body fat % and waist circumference is dangerous. Many of my clients who carry a lot of bone density and muscle mass because they are quite fit are in the “obese” category, unless the other two metrics are taken into account. Also, an unhealthy underweight skinny fat person can be in the 20-22 category. Is that healthy? Heck no! Never define yourself by one metric alone. Context is everything.

      1. Hi again. Thanks for asking. I’d love to. These 3 top tips are excerpts from a 60-min presentation I deliver to corporate Canada employees from time to time called “How to Increase your Fitness ROI”:

        1. Your walking speed is indicative of your health and fitness level at any age (and, *gasp*, of your potential longevity for many reasons). Any time you walk, work on walking faster than your natural speed. Walking is also hands down the best exercise and anyone can do it for free.

        2. Lift heavy things regularly. Grip strength is a major determinant of health. You need to be able to hold on to heavy things in order to lift them, which helps you stay healthy (guys, chivalry kills). Loss of grip strength is highly correlated with loss of independence for both men and women. Guard your grip like your life depends on it…because it does.

        3. We in western society have a high front to back of the leg ratio (up to 4:1) thanks to the way we sit for many hours of the day. That’s bad news for your knees, for your back health (short hamstrings are often the cause of back pain), your posture and for your leg strength in general. Working on your hamstring strength (lunges, good mornings, deadlifts*, hip extensions, getting up from a seated position without using your arms or rocking forward, etc.) can help balance out your legs and keep you feeling great.

        Bottom line: If people walked speedily and deadlifted* on a regular basis, a great many ailments would literally disappear and quality of life would likely go up for each one of us for many additional years. This applies to everyone! (My clients range from 17 to 67 currently.)

        Loss of muscle over time is NOT inevitable until quite late in life. Much of it can be either avoided or greatly delayed. It’s been found to be more correlated to increased inactivity than it is about the aging process itself. It you measure your health by how much you can lift and how fast you can move, your blood pressure, heart rate, BMI/BF%/waist circumference tend to improve along with your fitness improvements. Add to that quality sleep and quality food and you’re just about golden :).

        *Please have a knowledgeable spotter watching your back/form if you are unfamiliar with deadlifting.

  35. Sam,

    We can definitely related to this post. My wife and I are 51 and we gained weight over the years working in an office.

    We were over weight last year. Our BMIs were over 25. Last year, my wife lost 17 and I lost 23 pounds. Our BMIs are now around 22. Some think that BMI is not a true indicator. My wife did the fat analysis and she had 30% body fat 2 years ago and now she has 20% body fat.

    What do we do 6 months ago?

    We stopped eating starchy carbs like rice, noodles, potatoes and breads on a daily basis. Cut out ALL junk food like chips, sweets and soda. We drink mainly water. Tea and coffee for my wife. We eat a lot of vegetables and fruits. For lunch or dinner, 1/2 to 3/4 of the plate is vegetables and a 1/4 of the plate is protein (chicken, beef, pork or fish). On the weekends, we can eat a burger or fried chicken with a side salad and we still maintain our weight lost.

    I never exercise before and I now exercise 30-40 mins everyday. Before work, I do 1.5 miles on the treadmill, 20+ sets of free weights, abs exercises and sometimes push ups. I was 155 and I am now 131.8. I used to wear Medium and now all my clothes are small and slim fit. My family and wife thinks I am too skinny. I was a waist 32-33 and I now wear 29-30″ jeans. I feel healthy & fit and that is all that counts. I think I can gain 5 lbs and still look fit. I need to eat more protein to build muscle. My goal to have a flat stomach which I am almost there. My wife said it flat enough. Having a 6 pack is my goal (my pipe dream). My wife started kick boxing and her body is transformed for the better too.


    1. But have you seen the new advancements in chips? So good now! And don’t get me started on how good the Bundaberg GINGER BEER tastes. So good.

      I’m your same waist, but at 168 lbs currently. Funny how that is yeah? How tall are you?

      Nice job working as a team to lose some weight!

      1. Sam,

        Arg!! I love chips, beer and sweets so much but we decided to change to avoid being on meds.

        We may have the same waist but you are fit. I am 5′ 5.5″. I am much shorter than you and I had a volleyball as a gut.

        Since you are so active, you will lose the weight very quickly.

        I lost 18 pounds in 10 weeks and 23 pounds in 5 months.

        Thanks! My wife is so happy that I finally joined her in the pursuit of better health. It is so much easier when the couple is on the same page working towards the same goals (health, finance, etc).


  36. I’m short (5’1) and weigh between 100-102 lbs depending on the day. That would supposedly put me in the less than 20 BMI. I do exercise mildly but don’t really watch what I eat (not that I pig out constantly though). I have some fat rolls around my tummy and cellulite too so I also don’t think BMI is a good measure. Body Fat Percentage would be better. I’d rather weigh more, be in great shape with nice amount of muscle tone than be in the supposedly “ideal” BMI range. But I appreciate the article because it is good to be aware of one’s BMI as a starting point towards true physical fitness.

    1. I think I’d be a little more depressed if body fat was a measure b/c I remember being at a 7% body fat level in high school, and I’m probably more than 2.5X that now!

  37. I’m 22.7. My weight has been stable for a few years now. I’ve lost muscle mass and gain some fat, though. I would love to hit 20 BMI, but that’s probably not possible. I need a cook and a personal trainer to help me get there. Actually, I’m pretty comfortable with my current weight. I just need to get a little fitter.
    This year, we’re just trying to eat more healthy. Cook one vegetarian dinner at least once per week. Eat more fish also.

  38. “No need to buy an economy plus, business class, or first class airplane ticket”

    Except to avoid the obese people getting all up in your seat. Or if you have gigantic shoulders.

  39. I think it’s all a matter of perspective. I’m a healthy, athletic female and my BMI rarely goes above 18.5. It helps that in my childhood sport I had to learn how to eat right and that has stuck with me as an adult. Maybe here that is unusual but when I lived in Japan I felt like it was not at all, so I tend to agree with your dr about Americans and think it’s better to err on the low side.

  40. I’m 6’2″ and when I graduated high school I was 155lbs…I looked like I was just rescued in a life raft after being drifting for 6 months. Trust me, chicks don’t really dig super skinny guys. After lifting and eating like a mad man to have a few muscles I think my ideal weight is about 190 for my build/ Currently need to drop 15 to get there though, if it wasn’t for my love of craft beer & cheese it would be a lot easier! BMI is a joke, I think it was made up by the same people who said you only need to save 10%/year for retirement. Life is about moderation, the best signal your overweight is putting on a old pair of jeans from 5 years ago to see if they are snug : )

  41. I personally would say that BMI should not be your main sense of how you are doing in overall health. I currently sit between 10-12% body fat percent, but my BMI is around 25-27. If I were to drop my BMI down to the “healthy” level, I would certainly have to lose muscle. As mentioned in previous comments, people that are in very good shape (football players, etc.) have BMI’s in the 30s, but that doesn’t mean they are obese.

    Personal recommendation? Keep an eye on your weight and body fat percentage. Buy a sensor that measures %; although they aren’t as accurate as other measures, they give you a general idea and let you know if you are trending in the right direction or not. If you read up on BMI, you will see very quickly how inaccurate this measure is.

    Love your website, by the way!

    1. Hi Kyle,

      A 10-12% body fat means you are pretty ripped, would you say? Screw BMI in that case for you.

      I’ll look into a sensor from Amazon. Any recs?

      Thx for reading!

      1. You’d actually be surprised, definitely wouldn’t consider myself “shredded.” More has to do with my eating habits than my gym habits. Even after a “lazy stretch” of not going to the gym for 6 months, I only went from 10% to 12.5%, although I am back at it strong now. :)

        This is the monitor my wife and I use. I would just say focus more on getting this percentage down than BMI or weight.

  42. Quite contrary

    Recently I went from 157 to 135 (5′ 7.5″ 50 years female) and am trying to drop more. I’ve bounced around quite a bit weight wise over the years, but I’m hoping this loss sticks. The real key I’ve found for weight loss is (1) no processed foods and (2) really limit those carbs! And eat plenty of yummy fats (avocado, cheese, sour cream, good mayo, nuts and nut butters) and fatty cuts of meat. I know that goes against the grain but if you limit carbs you can really pile on the fats and still lose. But it is true: Even though I am about 21 BMI, which is in the goal range, hardly a day goes by at work where I don’t get a crack about being so skinny-and this is in one of the skinniest states (CO).

      1. Quite contrary

        That’s how it’s worked for me! And your comment is strangely apt: every year we buy a half share of a beef carcass and put it in the freezer, so I eat a LOT of ground beef, pot roasts, and the like. However, I do balance with lots of veggies. Just don’t eat the mashed potatoes, crackers, rice, bread or any of that stuff and you’ll be just fine! :D

  43. When you think of someone being obese the picture in your head is much bigger than it really is. I do believe it is our societal influences that makes us accept larger to be normal. I’ve learned that weight-loss is really achieved primarily (90%) through the foods we eat. So while one may play sports a lot such as tennis (as I do as well) it really doesn’t matter if we aren’t eating the right foods. I lost 35 lbs at a clinic (greenlite medicine) by strictly learning the right foods (healthy) to eat. I found it very surprising what foods were good and what foods were bad. It’s not always what you think.

    1. Oh, and I also have sleep apnea which is I believe something that about 10% of the population has. Using a Cpap has greatly improved my sleep. Also, you don’t need to be over-weight to have sleep apnea but it is more common among those who are over-weight.

  44. BMI doesn’t work for a lot of body types (eg: shorter legs & longer torso [I have], muscular, etc). In fact, the person responsible for using the BMI explicitly said that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual. The reason its widely used its cheap and easy to measure. Plenty of articles online for those interested including several from the WSJ and other widely read publications.

    I’m 5′ 11″ and weighted between 170-175lbs in High School and you could literally see my rib-cage I was so skinny (did 2-4 hrs of cardio about every day from soccer, basketball, and track). I looked a lot like those kids in africa, but taller and with ridiculously muscular legs (could kick a soccer ball close to 90 mph then – still have huge muscular legs 15+ years later).

    For another comparison- Lebron James’ BMI is 28 and he’s probably the most athletically fit person in America, if not the world.

    That being said, I agree Americans need to lose weight – I wouldn’t mind dropping 10-15 pounds myself.

  45. My personal experience is that weight is directly linked to my sleep apnea. The weight differential is not that much either. If I gain around 6 pounds, my apnea returns. I know this because my wife wants to kill me when I gain weight :-). As for the BMI index, I think it is somewhat outdated; the system was created when people didn’t purposefully add muscle to their frames. Having said that I don’t disagree that Americans are generally obese.

    I am currently overweight, 6′ 222 pounds. Based on the BMI index I should be between 157 and 188. In my adult years I’ve been as low as 175. When I was 175, people considered me too thin and many thought I was sick. I find that 195 – 205 is the best weight for me, though I would still be morbidly obese under the BMI.

    1. Very interesting feedback on gaining just 6lbs creates sleep apnea for you! That is very motivating for me, and makes me hopeful that if I lose 10-13 lbs, my apnea will go away.

      I didn’t have sleep apnea as a 20 yo 155 pounder, so why not shoot to get back there!

  46. I think BMI is a little sketchy to look at in isolation, probably not a bad starting place.

    Can’t imagine you are obese if you play tennis to the level you do!

    I go to the gym about 6 times a week and cycle every where. I’m not the tallest person, and have pretty big legs from all the cycling and gymming. My BMI is 25.2. I have a 30 inch waste. Something is wrong there!

    I can’t imagine that carrying *too* much muscle is good for you either, but still, I’d be wary of BMI in isolation.

    But…..yes the US (and the UK) has problems with obesity. Both the gym and the cycle racks at work on the 4th of January (first working day), rammed. It’s already emptied out to just the regulars. Do people really have that little will power?

    Mr Z

    1. 30 inch waste is TINY! My waist is 32.5, and I’d love to get to a 32 comfortably. Only some brands are OK at 32. What is your weight and height?

      6 times a week at the gym is very impressive. I’m there once a month. :) But not for long!!

      1. I’m 5’6″. I’m basing the 30 inches on a pair or trouser I recently bought, the 32 inch waist was too big. Guess they could have been wrong, haha.

        It’s not so bad, it’s only across the road from work which makes it easy. And every 1 in 3 days is ‘active recovery’, so it’s not flat out!

  47. BMI is simple to calculate, but it is also fundamentally flawed for anyone slightly outside the average height range.

    I’m only slightly tall (6’3″) with a medium frame. I’m very lean (i.e. thin cyclist build), but my BMI puts me at almost overweight. Likewise, people who are very short can be downright chubby and still have a ‘healthy’ BMI.

    It’s not a matter of ‘American perception’, it’s a matter of a flawed metric. Like trying to use P/E exclusively for valuing companies. Far too simplistic. There are many attempts to try to create a ‘better’ BMI metric by increasing the exponent associated with the height. Google ‘tall BMI’.

  48. I definitely need to drop a few pounds, but have been having a more difficult time the older I get. You are correct that our country is overweight, but it is so hard to balance everything all at the same time. I love food and hate depriving myself of eating out and portions. You only live once!

    Currently, I have a BMI of 25 and I am about 15 pounds over my ideal weight. I wouldn’t say that I am “fat” or obese for that matter. That being said, I run 3-4 times a week. I need to get back into lifting….that’s when I felt my best! Thanks for the kick in the pants! lol

    1. Impressive that you run 3-4 times a week. I hate running, and never run. But I remember when I did as a 24 yo, I lost 10lbs within 3 months. I think ephedrine pills were legal back then as well (2002!) lol.

      1. Now that I am older (37) I find it more difficult to lose weight by just running. I need to start lifting again. However, I enjoy running more than I enjoy lifting and with working full time, starting a side business and having 2 kids… is hard to find the time. I already wake up at 5 everyday, whether I am running or not and I just don’t think I can do much more.

        I think I am okay though….my husband and I decided to stop having a drink or two during the work week and only partake in alcoholic beverages on the weekend. The last time I did this, I lost 30 pounds. Of course, I gained most of it back because I started slacking with my eating and drinking again. Ugh…it’s such a fine line! Good luck in your weight loss journey!

        P.S. I love your website…you have helped me decide to start a side business and this is the year I am going to do it. I have an appointment with an attorney on January 21 to set up an LLC and get started!

  49. I just started reading your blog again after having originally discovered it a couple years ago. It’s post like this that will keep me coming back as they are relevant to everyone wanting to lead a better lifestyle.

    I personally need to drop about 10 lbs to get down to 195 lbs on a 6′ 3″ height. I’ll be happy if I can hit 200 lbs as I’ve been stuck at 205 since coming down from 228 lbs. My wake-up call was similar to yours when I stepped on the scale for my annual physical a couple years ago and the 228 came up…I was shocked. Less dessert and craft beer for me and more exercise…time to step away from the desk and do a few push-ups.

    1. What is money if we don’t have our health right? Love craft beer. I think the psychological effect of getting below 200 lbs for you will be awesome. Good luck and good job getting down to 205 from 228 lbs. You surely feel better right?

  50. I have a bmi of about 22, but I pay more attention to my body fat percentage, which is 23.7. I realize that number isn’t completely accurate, since my scale has sensors to determine it and it is surely prone to mistakes, but I think it gives me a better idea than a simple bmi calculation. For me, as a 41 year old, 5’9″ woman who weighs 149 pounds, that body fat percentage puts me in the lower end of the ideal range, bordering on lean. I’d love to have my body fat percentage professionally measured, just to see how accurate the scale is.

  51. Hi Sam,
    I love the blog. With all due respect, your doctor recommending a BMI of 20 is totally out of line. I promise that you or I (we are both the same height) will never weigh 140 lbs for more than a year or two (and only after extreme calorie deprivation).

    I have to back up my thoughts with some personal info: I’m 158 lbs, a very lean 5.13 rock climber, and when I drop to 155 lbs or less things start going wrong in a number of ways. I have a vast knowledge of healthy eating (reading all of Stephan Guyenet is only a start). A BMI of 20 is so indefensible and absurd that I would get another doctor.

    You have a great site Sam! Trust that if you maintain a clean diet and exercise daily, that you will probably settle in the low 160’s to high 150’s, and you will look and feel great. Any weight that you lose beyond this amount will return quickly, will make you feel tired, and look unhealthy. Your motivation to accomplish goals and zest for life will decline (and I hope you don’t mind having zero sex drive). The best way to reach and maintain a low body weight is to only eat balanced meals that you have prepared (with mindful wisdom). You probably won’t reach and maintain these goals if you are eating food prepared by others.

    I’m all for people eating well and loosing weight, but don’t be surprised if you rebound off 155. You can get there, but I assure you that you won’t stay there for more than two years. Shoot for 160 with a clean lifestyle and you will be a happy man. The best way to 140 is an eating disorder.

    To get really cut, a home workout routine such as P90X combined with a clean, unprocessed, self prepared diet will deliver the results that you want within a few months. But I would add that mere ‘body sculpting’ is quite silly. Once people reach their goal and return to their previous lifestyle, they will see the old weight come back faster than they thought possible.

    In the end, trying to force the scale to be a certain number is not a worthy goal. Instead, focus on healthy eating, healthy exercise, healthy thinking, and fun living. Best Wishes.

    1. Completely agree with Jay. I don’t think he could have put it any better. Eat clean food you prep yourself, mix of good carbs/protein/fat, maybe add some cardio but the tennis should be enough, walk as much as you can and don’t obsess about the BMI. I am 5’9, my BMI is under 20 and sometimes 19, prob 12-14% body fat, can run 4-6 miles easy (although I barely work out) or do dozens of pullups/push-ups/crunch, eat whatever I want but don’t have a sweet tooth, I hardly look or feel underweight. Weight or BMI on its own is meaningless. The key is to rev up your metabolism (i.e. don’t starve yourself of calories/carbs) specially as your reach MLC age, and aim to feel good. Good luck, I’m sure you will nail it!

    2. Howdy mate, what is “5.13”?

      My steady weight has been 163-167 for about 10 years now. But I’ve seen a 3-5 pound creep as I hit my late 30s.

      My hope was to get down to a steady weight of 163, but now that I have a physical ailment that could be cured with more weight loss, I’m going for 155.

      1. Thirty Something

        5.13 is a rock climbing difficulty scale. It’s pretty advanced. In my prime (30 lbs and 15 years ago) I could do 5.11 consistently and a few 5.12 routes. I’d take inexperienced friends and do 5.7 to 5.9 climbs with a top rope.

  52. I would get taped or do a skin fold fat test instead of relying on BMI. Muscle weighs more than fat so if you replace 1 lb of fat with 1 lb of muscle, you increase your BMI. Despite everyone agreeing replacing 1 lb of fat with muscle would be healthier.

      1. The Alchemist

        Not by volume. A pound is a pound, but a pound of feathers takes up a helluva lot more space than a pound of gold….

    1. Jeremiah Johnson

      I agree. As a man who has been lifting weights for 13 years I never liked BMI and always went with body fat percentage. I’m 5’10” 207lbs with my body fat % around 15%. This means that if I had 0 lbs of body fat I would weight 176 lbs and would still be considered obese according to BMI. The BMI scale is almost designed as if everyone was the same and did the same activities in life but the truth is that we are all unique and do different things each day.

      1. True. I wouldn’t believe in BMI at all for you. I’ve lifted weights for 25 years… but only once a month or two :)

        15% body fat at 207lbs means you’re pretty jacked! Impressive.

        It’s funny how I’m shooting for a weight 52 lbs lighter than where you are now at the same height. But I need it for speed on the court, and curing my sleep apnea.

        Do you have any physical maladies?

    2. Unless replacing a pound of fat with a pound of muscle makes you get shorter, your BMI wouldn’t change.

  53. It’s kind of concerning that she got the overweight vs. obese thing incorrect. It might seem like a small detail but small details are pretty important in medicine, and in many different things than weight.

    I’m at 24.8, right at the top end of ‘normal’. I want to get down to around 23, which would be 155 lbs at 5’8″, or an eight pound loss from where I am now.

    1. The Alchemist

      I agree— I nearly leaped outta my skin when I read that she told Sam that anything over 25 was “obese”. The woman instantly lost credibility as a doctor when I read that. Not to mention, I’ve met Sam, and by no stretch of the imagination is he borderline obese… or even noticeably overweight.

      That being said, I completely understand Sam’s desire to drop those pesky extra few pounds that are just enough to cost him an extra step on the tennis court. Don’t know if it’s realistic to try to aim for the same body composition as the pros, though, Sam— those guys are elite! A worthy goal, but really tough for the average human to attain and maintain.

      I raced Ironmans for a decade, and at my peak my BMI was 20.6 and body fat was 21% (not fantastic, but not horrible for a female). Maintaining that level of fitness long-term is not easy. Thus, my BMI today is 22— still in the “healthy” range, but I do miss being as fit as I was back then. What gripes me more is the extra 8-10 pounds!

      The challenge for athletic types is being sure to eat enough to fuel the body and recover properly from hard workouts…. but to still limit food intake sufficiently to prevent excess weight gain. Easier said than done!

      Sam, you have nothing to worry about. Those few extra pounds you carry are not enough to negatively impact your health— I think your doctor is wack. But by all means go for the weight loss goal for athletic performance purposes!

      (and those darned diary products will get you every time— especially when they screw up leap years!) ;)

      1. Doing Ironman is incredible. And a 22 like you is exactly what I’m shooting for.

        I sleep well but have sleep apnea and snore. So when the ENT said there is a high correlation with weight gain and sleep apnea, my motivation to lose weight for s real health purpose kicked in.

        I don’t think I had sleep apnea as a 150-155 lbs high schooler!

        The feel good and vanity metrics haven’t been a motivator in a while. But physical symptoms of abnormality are!

      2. Smelling Salts

        Anything over 25% in a man IS obese – according to US Naval body fat % standards. Which are a much better metric than what the medical community generally uses.

        When they ran dexa scans on about a thousand people with representative BMI scores, it was discovered that BMI was masking obesity in about 1/4 of men and over 1/3 of women.

        The true stats based on dexa is that over 2/3 of women in the US are medically obese and over 1/2 of men are medically obese. By naval standards those numbers are about 4/5 and 2/3 respectively.

    2. Yes, I was shocked… but to her defense, she immediately start saying stuff life, ‘it’s too hard, and probably not worth the change” to make me feel better etc.

      But, she kicked my nuts, so I decided to write this post to make sure I internalize completely the point of sleep apnea linked with being overweight.

  54. SavvyFinancialLatina

    There is a major problem with obesity in America. Our cities are not pedestrian friendly, so nobody walks. Our food is processed chemicals and not fresh, so it takes longer for our body to process the nutrients. Whenever I go to a foreign country, I end up losing weight. And then I gain it right back in a week when I come back to the US.

    1. I was in Ireland for 2 weeks over the summer and I expected to gain weight while I was there. Sure, I was walking a lot, but I was also eating like I was on vacation, plus they’re not stingy with the fatty meats and carbs over there. I got home and was surprised to find out that I hadn’t gained a bit. I figured all the walking was just burning more calories than I realized, but I think you’re right, the food was probably more nutritious and less processed. Hmmmmm.

  55. Sam,

    If you want to meet and exceed your target shoot me a personal email (to my other email address not on this post) and I will personally help you rock it. I have a proprietary and patented system that is guaranteed for you to hit your goal in less than 2 months.

    Take care and looking forward to see you in Thailand.


    1. At a nearly 6’2″ frame I weighed around 190 lbs for most of my adult life except for when hiking and doing a lot of ultra distance events, and then my weight went down to 168 lbs for a short spell. That was in my late 20’s. After moving to Asia in my early 30’s my weight started to creep up steadily until I was looking at 202 lbs at the age of 39 in spite of exercising 5-6 days a week at 45 minutes to an hour a day! Something had to change- so I did a radical diet makeover. Now I’m typically averaging around 160 lbs (currently am 154 lbs) with an upper range of 166 or so. I can still lift the same amount of weights that I could when I was 202 lbs but I’m just carrying around a lot less body fat. It’s perfect for living in the tropics and my blood pressure and cholesterol have dropped to match as did my snoring become greatly minimized. At age 42 I feel better than my 20’s and 30’s and that is an amazing feeling for which I am very grateful for.


      1. Current BMI is at 20. At average weight it’s 21 and when it’s tracking high it’s approaching 22. The guidelines are surprisingly accurate.

  56. We just returned from a 2 week vacation to Singapore and Indonesia. We could not find ONE overweight person in all of our travels. It was disgusting to come back to the US and see the obesity here and all of the health problems because of it! We need to have more doctors like yours to spread the message. Thanks for the great information as usual…

    1. Over abundance of food, dairy, and sugar. Portion sizes are so much larger here.

      Sad to hear the truth. But maybe her truth will save my life or let me live longer. She kept telling me it will be hard to change, and had doubts I would. But I WILL!

      1. Florian Ulrich

        Portion sizes are a big problem, because we tend to finish what’s on our plate. People served moviegoers 2 – 3 day old popcorn in a small and big bag, and both bags were finished at the end of the movie. and the popcorn wasn’t even good! (I think I read that in Duhigg’s Power of Habit).

        However, we can use that tendency to finish your portions to our advantage. For example, I am using a 0.6L (not 0.3L) mug to drink water over the day. My water intake has increased just by using a bigger mug!

  57. Hi Sam,

    I had to reply with a comment on this one as I would hate for you to push for a mythical figure that may not be right for you!

    BMI is a horrendously outdated methodology, created from the work of a Belgian statistician in 1832 who had no interest in studying obesity. It was only applied to this field during the World Wars. Unfortunately, the population was malnourished at the time and people were typically much lighter as they were holding lower muscle mass.

    I understand from your posts that you an active person and probably carry a decent amount of muscle mass which is accounting for your higher BMI score. You would get a more accurate picture of your health using a body fat percentage rather than BMI figure. To illustrate my point most American Football players are classed as obese as well as most Olympic sprinters etc.

    Hope this helps, Sam!

    1. I wouldn’t doubt that a large number of NFL players are obese! Sprinters, would be a surprise, unless they are super jacked.

      If one is clearly muscled up with low body fat, then they can throw BMI out the window. I’m more neutral, like the Bowflex man with more fat.

    2. Smelling Salts

      A major trick I learned to lose weight is targeting deserts. I was really bad about eating until I was full… and then stuffing down a slice of cake or a donut. Then my girlfriend taught me a trick that only works at home, since you can’t do it out in public as it’s somewhat gross.

      After you’re done eating your normal meal and go get the desert, just grab a disposable cup too. Then every time you’d usually swallow a bite of the desert, you just spit it out into the cup. Then toss the cup in the trash once you’re done. Works best if you get a bottle of water too so your mouth doesn’t get dry. It probably doesn’t help much for weight loss, but it helped me to *stop* gaining new weight. It’s such a simple idea, but I never thought of it on my own.

  58. I have a major problem with BMI being used as the sole measure of obesity or lack thereof. I have the same BMI as LeBron James @ 6′-6″ and 240 lbs. (He’s 6′-8″ and 280 lbs.). We’re both roughly 27.5 BMI. The difference, of course, is that his body fat % is probably in the 6-8% range and mine is probably in the 25-30% range. While I may agree that I’m overweight and therefore correctly classified by BMI, I certainly wouldn’t consider LeBron James overweight.

    What’s worse is many health insurers are using BMI as a biometric value on which they base health insurance premiums. Absent any lifestyle, behavioral, genetic, etc. differences, should LeBron James really pay the same for his health insurance as me?

    If BMI is a way to motivate people to become more healthy and lose weight, fine, but keep it out of my health insurance premium calculation.

    1. We probably shouldn’t use Lebron as a fitness example just like we probably shouldn’t use Bill Gates or Warren Buffet when arguing about money.

      I do agree body fat is a good measure, and getting to 10-15% is ideal-normal. It’s just not as easily calculate as BMI.

      1. My point is that the scoring system is inherently flawed when two people so far apart on the health spectrum end up with the same score.

        1. I think that’s a good point Brian. For “most” people BMI is a good indicator but should definitely not be the only one, and using it as the only way to measure one’s “health” is definitely a dangerous move. It sucks if that’s one of the only values insurances use

        2. Mysticaltyger

          People like LeBron James are outliers. They are so rare they’re not worth considering.

          1. Lebron is an outlier in a lot of things but the point is if the most fit person in America has a score that’s borderline “obese” its not remotely a reliable standard to measure health. Athletes of all types except possibly runners nearly universally run well above normal BMI and frequently hit obese levels due to extra muscle and muscle weighs more than fat cells do.

            The BMI index was developed in the 1800s around a sedentary population and was just averages. The person that revived it in the 1970s in the US specifically said it should not be used to measure fatness. If you really want to know if you are fat you should get your body fat % measured.

            If you know anything around statistics, there are always good size deviations around the mean/average. Let’s say the standard deviation is 15% around BMI of 20 for body fat and is a pretty typical bell curve. That means 1/6 of the population with a 23 BMI (or higher) is the same body fat as a 20 and for 1/6 a 17 is the same as a 20. 2 standard deviations means for 1 out of 40 a 26 (or higher) is the same as a 20.

            Your body type/shape will effect your BMI, your bone density (which on average is 15% of weight but varies widely) will effect your BMI, and your muscle mass greatly effects your BMI.

            This is why my sister in law who has rolls all around her waist, looks overweight and isn’t fit at all has a BMI of 19 and I, who don’t have rolls and look normal, have a BMI of 27. Athletes especially tend to have much denser bone mass AND significantly more muscle.

    2. Exactly… weight / height charts seem too over-simplified, don’t they?

      Sam – you mention having athletic legs… this muscle mass hurts your BMI but is still a good thing, right??

      A ‘mass’ index should take ratio of muscle vs. fat into consideration but these simple charts cannot do that.

      1. The BMI is not the end all be all. It’s just one guide. We’ve all got to make a judgement call of what’s realistic.

        I told my ENT doc 140 lbs is ludicrous. But 155 lbs.. at a 22 BMI is reasonable, and a weight I KNOW I will love to be at.

    3. BMI was originally intended to assess population health, ie averages of thousands of people, not individual health. If your doctor gives it any more than a passing glance I’d find a new doctor. Kind of like a credit score for your body, but not the whole picture.

  59. Nuclear Real Estate

    At 6′ 215lbs I am solidly in the upper end of overweight and borderline obese. Now, I am not fat by any means as I hold a lot more muscle than the average person, and have visible abs at this weight.

    That said, the comment about warped perception of a healthy weight is SO true. From 230-240 people think I look normal, 220-230 i get compliments, but anything below 220 people start to express concern thinking I have lost too much weight…

    It’s really an odd thing in America that to be obese is perfectly normal and nobody bats an eye, or people still compliment you, but to be even a “normal” weight people have no problem expressing concern and jumping to conclusions about eating disorders, and thinking “normal” weight is unhealthy!

    1. Long live America! I sometimes throw in a snarky remark before tennis battle about my friend’s body bc he is 5’11”, 145-148, and realize now he is the ideal weight according to BMI!

      Further, when I look at the weight profiles of the top tour professionals, they are all around 20 BMI as well. The Aussie Open app has a great player profile section.

      I suspect those of us who are borderline or overweight will object to using BMI. But that’s understandable as we want to use metrics that conform to us.

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