Prior to last week, excepting routine dental cleanings I hadn’t been a medical patient in any capacity for nearly a decade. I have full employer-provided health coverage I’ve never used and I’m pushing thirty now, though, so it seemed as good a time as any to schedule a physical.
Oh no! With a body mass index of over 27 (the commonly used statistic for assessing overweight and obesity rates in the US), I find out I’m overweight. Obesity isn’t that far over the horizon. When I ran cross country in high school, my BMI was around 23. My body fat then was 13%. Today it’s 9%.
I realize it’s hardly novel to criticize the BMI, and as someone who relies heavily on the GSS’ wordsum vocabulary test as a proxy for IQ, I’m the last person who should criticize imperfect metrics. Still, it’s worth keeping in mind that the trends over time in the US towards conspicuously building muscle mass and increases in obesity rates are correlated to some extent. Half Sigma has pointed out that Burt Reynolds used to cut it as an onscreen strongman. He obviously wouldn’t today.