The Military times has an article, “And the Fattest US Military Service is…”
Don’t bother to look for the Coast Guard in the listing, because we have been ignored again, but what I really wanted to address, is the use of BMI (Body Mass Index) as a standard. The standard of “fattest” was based entirely on exceeding a BMI of 25.
During my last tour, there was a petty officer I talked to frequently, who the Coast Guard was going to discharge because he was “over-weight.” In fact he was a rather large body builder, with very little fat on his frame. This was the kind of guy you want on your boarding party because he could be physically intemidating. We were going to discharge him, not because he was not in good shape, but because he was too muscular.
Body Mass Index was devised in the 1830s by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. Let’s take a look at the formula for BMI:
weight (in kilograms)/height (in meters) squared
Note that it is height squared, but people are three-dimensional. If you really want to look at a proportional measurement you should use height cubed.
Looking at “25,” the upper edge of the nomnal normal range of BMI, the associated weight for different heights looks like this:
- 6’4″– 205
- 5’8″– 165
- 5′– 128
If on the other hand, if we assume the BMI chart is right for 5’8″ but made the other two weights proportional to the cube of heights, the upper limits would look like this.
- 6’4″– 230
- 5’8″– 165
- 5′– 113
BMI favors short people, while the tall are penalized.
At best, BMI should be used as a screening measure, but even in this role there are better formula available.
Before we destroy a service member’s career, we ought to be willing to base the decision on actual body fat content or a performance standard relivant to job performance.