Pink says ‘standards’ make her ‘obese,’ but do BMIs still matter?

Click to play video: 'How much does your BMI really tell you?  Global’s Morning News finds out'
How much does your BMI really tell you? Global’s Morning News finds out
What your body mass index say about your weight – Feb 23, 2016

Pink is making one statement pretty clear: she doesn’t feel obese.

After giving birth to her second child Jameson in December 2016, the 37-year-old singer has been quite vocal on social media about losing her baby weight. But over the weekend, the singer posted a photo and caption on Instagram many can relate to.

Taking a selfie at the gym in her fitness gear, Pink said according to “regular standards,” she would be considered “obese.”

“Would you believe I’m 160 pounds and 5’3″?,” she wrote. “I know I’m not at my goal or anywhere near it after Baby 2 but dammit I don’t feel obese. The only thing I’m feeling is myself. Stay off that scale ladies!”

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This standard she could be referring to is standard body mass index (BMI), a calculation that uses height and weight to categorize if a person is underweight, considered “normal,” overweight or obese.

But the calculation itself has several limitations: it could overestimate body fat in people who have high muscle mass and underestimate those who have lost muscle, especially older people, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports.

A 2016 study from the University of California found that BMI had labelled 54 million Americans “unhealthy” even though they weren’t. The study also found 47 per cent of participants who were dubbed as “overweight” were actually healthy.

However researchers have also used the BMI to forecast trends. In April 2016, one report found that the BMI of more than 19 million people in 200 countries showed that the world was getting heavier — with a forecast of 20 per cent of the population to be obese by 2025.

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And in this case, BMI can be quite useful says Dr. Fahad Razak, internist and assistant professor at St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, especially when it comes to finding the rate of obesity among Canadians.

“If you have a BMI greater than 30, it has been linked to many chronic illnesses like diabetes and arthritis,” he tells Global News.

Others methods of calculations

But on the day-to-day, while a BMI calculation can serve as a talking point with a health professional, some experts don’t use it with patients.

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Nicole Osinga, a registered dietitian based in Courtice, Ont. says BMI calculation is better as a population measure and not an individual one.

Osinga says the BMI comes with many limitations, and if you are wondering if you are overweight, a body composition scale or a blood test is more helpful.

“Things like high cholesterol and high blood sugar are indicators of being overweight,” she says.

She adds measuring your waist circumference and seeing how tight or loose your clothes are are easy ways to measure weight loss or gain.

But it could still be helpful

And while Geoff Girvitz, founder of Bang Fitness in Toronto agrees BMI is just one point in a sea of data, it can still have value to someone’s health.

“It all depends on context,” he tells Global News. “Nobody gains 100 pounds of muscles accidentally. If your BMI is 40, this shouldn’t catch you by surprise,” he says.

Instead, those who are worried about their BMI number should talk to a professional on what this could mean for their overall health. And in terms of healthy living, staying active, eating well and reducing stress are all ways to stay fit and happy, Girvitz says.

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And Razak says for those who still question the calculating method of BMI, it is intended for everyday Canadians, not fit athletes.

“These measurements are used for a mast majority of people,” he says. “I would never use BMI for an athlete, you don’t need it.”

Practical weight loss tips

And while the road from obesity to having a “normal” weight isn’t always an easy one, Osinga says the best thing you can do is start looking at your plate.

Her tip, like many dietitians, includes filling your plate with at least 50 per cent of non-starchy veggies, 25 per cent of protein and 25 per cent of other starches.

“Typically North Americans don’t eat enough breakfast or lunch and overeat at dinner,” she says. “If you want to watch your waistline, eliminate starches at dinner.”

With files from Carmen Chai and Tania Kohut

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