Possible Checks/Alternatives to BMI as Weight Standard

I have to say I screwed up. I didn’t look up the current instruction before writing this.

The current instruction is COMDTINST M1020.8H “COAST GUARD WEIGHT AND BODY FAT STANDARDS PROGRAM MANUAL.” change 1, dated 17 April, 2015.

The current standards go beyond BMI and are more exhaustive than my suggestions.

1. General. Coast Guard body fat standards are mandated by reference (a), which states: “All the DoD components shall measure body fat using only the circumference-based method with one set of measurements (males: height, neck circumference, and abdominal circumference at the naval; females: height, neck circumference, waist circumference at the thinnest portion of the abdomen, and hips). This standardization avoids unnecessary confusion and perceptions of unfairness between services. No substitute methods of assessment are permitted.”
2. Standards for Separation. All members who exceed both their maximum allowable body fat (MABF) percentage by more than eight percent and exceed their maximum screening weight by more than 35 pounds are subject to separation. Screening weights and MABF percentages are listed in enclosure (1)

My original post is below.

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Last October I wrote a post about why Body Mass Index (BMI) should not be used as a sufficient indicator of excess weight for the service to forcibly discharge an individual, because it does not differentiate between fat and muscle, and because it unfairly penalizes taller people.

I related how it resulted in the discharge of a very fit petty officer whose only crime was that he had spent too much time in the gym building muscle mass.

BMI has only one overriding advantage–it is easy to determine.

Recently found this article, “Calling BS on BMI: How Can We Tell How Fat We Are?” which provides two simple and quick alternatives that, in fact, reflect fat content rather than simply weight.

  • “For adults, Laursen suggests getting out a tape measure. Measure your circumference at your belly button. If your waist circumference is half your height or less, you are at a healthy fat level, if you are over that number, your fat could put you at risk for ill health.
  • “If you want something even simpler, look at your hip to waist ratio. It’s something even a doctor could eyeball quickly. “If the waist is bigger than the hips, it tells me that the risk carried with that weight is much higher for that person for premature death,” Lopez-Jimenez said.”

These two tests, which might be used in combination, give a better indication of fat content (and fat, particularly belly fat, is really what we should be concerned with) than BMI. Additionally it insures that the individual will look reasonably “military” in uniform, something BMI does not do.

If we consider meeting these two criteria sufficient, BMI would no longer useful for setting upper weight limits. Lower limits perhaps, but I believe there are better standards for that as well.

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