Your fatness just got more complicated
Some apparently good news out of the medical community this week – I think. We all know that BMI is bunk: it doesn’t account for lean muscle mass, gender or racial differences and bone structure, among other things. So, in a bid to satisfy our pleas for a more effective way to dislike our physical selves, experts have come up with a new, and very complicated, means of evaluating whether or not you’re actually too fat.
Researchers working with the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey have announced that the BMI will eventually be replaced as the go-to indicator for one’s weight-related health status. Rather than rely on that old and ineffective system, they’ll use another index, called FMI: Fat Mass Index.
Which sounds a lot like Body Mass Index. Right? Actually, this newbie on the fat-phobia scene is a ratio of fat mass to height squared, whereas the BMI is a simpler ratio of height to weight. Not only would the FMI account for the muscle mass of athletes, researchers say, it would also be divided into categories by gender and race, to account for generalized differences in fat mass according to one’s demographics.
Ah, but it doesn’t stop there. The FMI will also be split into eight categories of “fatness” within each ethnic division, and then three subcategories for fat deficit (mild, moderate, and severe) and four subcategories for obesity (excess fat, class I, II and III). In other words, there are now dozens of new ways for you to be too petite or too portly.
If you aren’t overwhelmed yet, then consider that the FMI will be used to measure the likelihood of weight-related illnesses or health complications in combination with nine other metrics whose norms have just been established based on this CDC research project. They include ratio of percent fat in trunk to percent fat in legs, total body fat percentage and appendicular lean fat mass to height squared.
And, of course, tests to determine FMI and the other nine metrics aren’t quite as easy as hopping on the scale. They require a DXA (whole-body dual x-ray absorptiometry) scan. Which, for the uninsured among us, run around $300 each.
To everyone who complained at length about the botched BMI system: thanks a lot. At least that index was so laughably bad that we could just brush off a 27.1 or a 16.4 with a flip of our obese or emaciated hands and a “whatever, the BMI sucks, pass the chips.” Now, we’ve got an entirely new, apparently accurate, very complicated and very expensive way to evaluate whether or not we each fit within a certain acceptable parameter of health.
So, are you a Class III obese with a 1:4 ratio of trunk to leg weight? A moderately fat deficient with a red alert code II appendicular lean fat mass? Or, are you going to fuck the FMI and it’s accompanying scales and metrics, get some exercise every day, eat relatively well and get on with your life? Because unless you’re interested in a new reason to hate your body and a new way to spend on health care, I’d like to suggest the latter.