BBC Website – Plot Yourself on the “Global Fat Scale”

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The BBC Website has provided an application that, by inputting your location, age, height and weight, plots how you rank in relation to the world’s population for BMI.

The new BBC calculator can tell you if you are a healthy weight for your height and how you rank against others globally.

Using your age, sex, nationality, height and weight, it will come up with a number representing your Body Mass Index or BMI.

This is a measure doctors use to gauge obesity.

The app plots your BMI and shows how you compare to people from your own and other nations.

Researchers see global weight gain as a bigger threat to mankind than population growth.

As well as the health implications, experts are also concerned about the environmental impact.

The adult human population has a combined weight of 287,000,000 tonnes, researchers say.

Increasing obesity could have the same impact on global resources as an extra billion people, they believe.

The website goes on to present 5 case studies of random people on the street in London’s results and reactions to their results. I gave it a go as well. My BMI came in at 19, no great shock there. I’ve been underweight my whole life, and I know full well I’m sitting in the “healthy” range for the first time. Even though my health right now is not as optimal as it should be.

What did interest me, however, were the statistics presented side by side with these results. For example my BMI puts me most like the average person from Eritrea. Do you know where that is? I didn’t! I had to google it. Turns out it’s a small country located on the Horn Of Africa and, according to the stats on the BBC website, has the second lowest average BMI in the world. Beaten only by Vietnam, interestingly enough, and skinnier than places like Cambodia, Afghanistan and DR Congo.

Is this the most accurate tool we have?

I also received the following information:

  • You have a lower BMI than 92% of females aged 15-29 in your country
  • You have a lower BMI than 72% of females aged 15-29 in the world
  • If everyone in the world had the same BMI as you, it would remove 53,903,224 tonnes from the total weight of the world’s population

While I found this really interesting information, it didn’t tell me anything about how healthy I was. I can tell you right now I’m not that healthy. As I write this I’m sipping coffee and chowing down on a chocolate bar. And if you think about the average person in all of these countries, their BMI doesn’t represent their health either. For example Italy is sitting smack bam between Yemen and Pakistan. Do you think the health of people in Italy is the same as Yemen and Pakistan?

This exercise was interesting, and I enjoyed it, but do I think it really helped me understand the impact of an unhealthy society? Not really. I appreciate where it was coming from, and the thought behind it, and indeed one woman said the exercise has changed the way she thinks about her weight. But for others it’s made them question themselves, in a way I don’t feel is helpful. I think this woman, the fifth case study, summed it up best:

I don’t feel the BMI says anything, as long as I feel healthy. I have done the BMI test previously. I feel healthy. I don’t look at my health by looking at my BMI.

What do you think of having this application available? Do you feel this website is helpful or harmful? Do you consider your BMI when thinking about your health?

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  • Bek M

    It’s a terrible guilt-inducing website, based on flawed math.
    Ragen of Dances with Fat discusses it in this post: http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/the-fattest-woman-in-the-world/

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      Interesting take, although I do think her logic is slightly flawed in that it says if everyone were your BMI there would be, not if everyone were your weight… That said, I primarily agree with her that the BMI system is flawed and, like I said above, doesn’t accurately reflect on health.

  • Whippersnapper

    I don’t know how much I weigh. Somewhere in the mid 70s I’d say, with a height of 175cm. I plugged it in and apparently, my guess weight has a BMI of 25, my guess weight has a higher BMI than 55% of Australian women between 15-29 and I’m most like someone from St Vincent and the Grenadines (which I had to Google).

    I’ve been extremely ill for the last 5 days too, so it’s likely I’ve dropped some weight. So, yeah that is going to be SUPER healthy compared to two weeks ago when I was as healthy as a horse and a little bit fatter.

  • Laws for Clouds

    I put mine in and I most closely resemble someone from Sri Lanka. Then I thought I’d make my age 30 because it’s my birthday in a fortnight. Now I most closely resemble someone from Ethiopia! o.0

  • Rachel

    … how bizarre…

    I don’t particularly want to know how much heavier I am than the rest of the world. :-/

    • Whippersnapper

      Despite being told that something like 60% of Australians are overweight, with a guesstimated weight and BMI of 25, I was right up the scale from Australia on the “country” scale!

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      It’s a really weird concept, isn’t it? Especially to list third world countries alongside first world – are we aiming for their level of Heath now?

  • Mazi Gray

    When I was wrestling, To reach my perfect body weight I would need to have 1% body fat which I think is pretty unhealthy, I think I could still take a BBC researcher in the ring.

  • Mandi Aylmore

    I so shouldn’t have clicked on that link. I feel like shit now.

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      Don’t. It’s a bit bullshit.

  • Jessica Chapman

    What annoyed me about the site was that instead of representing the range of healthy BMI’s which is 18.5-25 (according to wikipedia) it has one line at 20. So even if I was at the weight my doctor wants me to be it would still say I would add over twelve thousands tonnes if everyone was my BMI. The entire exercise seems to me like a big guilt trip, which is incredibly unhelpful for people who are emotional eaters.

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      And even though I’m a little bit bigger than my optimal weight right now, I still reduced the global weight…

      BMI is so flawed.