It’s a mountain and it sneers at the mere thought of ever being moved. It’s conventional, traditional, the window through which almost everyone views the problem. The medical establishment has bought in. The education establishment has bought in. The insurance industry has bought in. Municipal, county, and state governments have bought in. And the federal government and its myriad of agencies have all bought in.
Is it even possible that they’re all wrong? And if they recognized it, is it possible that they’d have the courage to fess up and admit the error of their ways? After all, we’re talking about “the experts” here. They all have degrees from respected institutions of higher learning. And it’s embarrassing if not humiliating for experts to say anything like, “I guess I missed that one. I blew it. I’ve been wrong all these years because I followed the herd instead of thinking for myself. I’m an accomplice.” Is it possible that the emperor is standing smack dab in the middle of town square wearing no clothes?
The BMI Mountain
The emperor or the mountain we’re talking about in this case is the concept upon which the entire childhood obesity epidemic has been built – BMI. It’s omnipresent and everywhere when it comes to measuring changes in obesity. The AMA endorses it. The ACSM endorses it. The CDC and the AAP endorse it. The Republicans, the Democrats, and the Libertarians endorse it. They’ve all laid their own political capital, their hard won reputations on the line on behalf of BMI.
Despite the Indisputable Fact That…
This is the case despite the indisputable fact that if I work out real hard for a period of time and gained 10 lbs of sheer muscle mass, my functional performance, physical efficiency, body composition, and metabolism all improve dramatically, while my BMI deteriorates significantly. If I got lazy and lost 10 lbs of muscle mass, my functional performance, physical efficiency, body composition, and metabolism all deteriorate significantly while my BMI improves.
On the other hand, if I replace 10 lbs of fat with 10 lbs of muscle, my BMI remains exactly the same. If I replace 10 lbs of muscle with 10 lbs of fat, my BMI is completely static. There’s absolutely no difference in either case.
Nothing, Nada, Zilch…
In other words, BMI tells you absolutely nothing about changes in muscle mass or body fat – the ONLY two things that count when addressing the issue of obesity. Yet when pressed with this kind of evidence, this cold, hard, empirical data, very few members of the conventional establishment have the courage, let alone the candor to admit that the emperor is wearing no clothes. After all, they’re being paid by the emperor to agree with the emperor. They’re being paid to be the guardians of the status quo. Their credibility is at stake. This mountain has no intention of moving anywhere.
The Audacity to Challenge
So when anyone has the audacity to challenge the credibility of the mountain, and offers a viable alternative, that person is never welcomed with open arms. In fact that person is initially ignored, told to go away, to mind his own business. If/when that fails, the experts say he lacks the scientific evidence to challenge the mountain/the emperor.
When the challenger points out that BMI undermines all childhood obesity prevention interventions that are BMI based, the experts squeeze their eyes tightly shut. When he points out that BMI undermines the life quality of 10 million American kids the experts place their hands over their ears. When he points out the inability to resolve the obesity epidemic costs America $215 billion annually, the experts stand up and quickly walk away.
It’s blasphemous. It’s anathema. And it threatens the virtue and stability of the status quo – not to mention its profitability. It’s insightful to recognize that, in the end everything boils down to the quarterly bottom line. Astonishing!
Why All BMI Based Childhood Obesity Interventions are Destined to Fail
• As a nation we’ve spent billions fighting an ongoing war with childhood obesity, and we continue to lose that war.
• The reason we continue losing is that the metric we choose (BMI) to measure progress with is riddled with accuracy problems.
• So nobody knows which interventions are winning, losing, or spinning wheels.
• BMI also fails to motivate kids to do the two things they must do – eat better and exercise more – in order to turn the tide.
• Thus all BMI based interventions are destined to fail.
• That being the case, if we fail to change this one omnipresent aspect (BMI) of the war on childhood obesity, America is destined to lose this war.
• Thus America can ill afford to continue using a metric that undermines its future.