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(Personal Trainers against Body Mass Index)

By Paul Folan NLP Fitness Coach

May 2011

So, I have just been ‘assessed’ as obese and I am not happy about that!

By way of background, I am a (nearly) 48 year old personal trainer.  I am 5ft 10 and I like to run.  I have completed the 2012 London Marathon in 3h 46m. I run on the treadmill at about 6:45 per mile; I have a 30 inch waist and have had that for the last 20 years of my life.  

I eat well and have monitored my body fat for the last 10 years.  According to the ‘sports’ setting on my body fat scales my last reading was 77kg and 10% body fat.  My Resting Heart Rate (RHR) at the assessment was 60 but, when I took it later, it was 51 and my BP was 130/80 (I blame ‘white coat syndrome’ for that).

I am due for sinus surgery and have had an assessment to make sure I am ok; I have had all my measures done.  I sort of knew what was coming when the nurse asked me to stand on the scales and also measured my  height.  

She casually told me I was ‘obese’ on the BMI measure and was about to walk away when I challenged her.  Was she going to measure my body fat?  She told me that wasn’t relevant.  I asked if she knew that athletes are classed as obese on BMI scales – she did not. I had to explain the concept of body composition, of fitness verses fatness and of how much of an impact casually ‘labeling’ someone obese can have.

So it got me thinking…why are we using an outdated and very unscientific measure to label people?  Surely there must be a better way of doing it.

That also got me thinking:

I haven’t used BMI as a measure with my clients since I realised what a useless measure it was.  I have always used body fat and waist size as key measures…most clients know when they are putting on weight and know when their clothes don’t fit.

Only once have I heard of a health professional asking for a person’s body fat to be below a specific percentile.  A new client approached me for training as her surgeon had told her that unless her body fat was below 25%, he wasn’t going to operate.  I have been a trainer for 12 years and that is the only time I can think of this happening!

So I am setting up a new campaign:

Personal Trainers against BMI (PTaBMI)

Let’s do away this outdated and useless measure as it causes more problems than it solves.

Let’s give clients specific measures; the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a guideline for body fat range…let’s adopt that as a minimum.

Let’s stop using some ratio that nobody understands and start telling people that they need to have either a specific range of body fat or a specific waist size maximum…let’s be specific so people know what they have to do.

Please join my campaign to dump BMI as a measure and let’s get rid of this useless measure that causes more problems than it solves!  


with your thoughts and let’s get this done!



Is this man obese too?

Body Mass Index chart that doesn’t account for muscle mass if you exercise

Click to enlarge

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