The war on obesity
This is LaDainian Tomlinson (LT). He's a running back for the San Diego Chargers. He broke several records this year, including touchdowns in a season and rushing touchdowns in a season. He is one of the best players in a very, very difficult athletic game. And he is obese.
No, I am not joking. According to the CDC, LT is obese. That particular calculator doesn't say the exact number, but another one has him pegged at 31.6 BMI. The CDC has the following to say to LT:
People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
At a minimum, anyone who is obese should try to avoid gaining additional weight. In addition, anyone who is obese should try to lose weight. Even a small weight loss (just 10% of your current weight) may help lower the risk of disease. Talk with your healthcare provider to determine appropriate ways to lose weight.
Why am I talking about this? I mean, calling LT obese is clearly insane, even if he does technically have a BMI over 30, the cutoff for obesity. He's an exception, an extremely muscular and athletic man.
But that's precisely my point, BMI is a ridiculously crude tool. It doesn't account for any number of things, all of which can affect how healthy you are. LT is definitely healthy, but is technically obese, and the same is likely true of many athletes (and people).
But this is how our "obesity crisis" is defined. How on earth can we be certain that we really are getting fatter given that BMI is such a blunt tool? It has so many variables in it, it's nearly meaningless.
So are we getting fatter? It seems so, but based solely on BMI measurements I don't buy it. Not to mention getting fatter doesn't necessarily mean getting less healthy. For example, take this tidbit from Wikipedia:
In an analysis led by Lopez-Jimenez of 40 studies involving 250,000 people, heart patients with normal BMIs were at higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than people whose BMIs put them in the "overweight" range (BMI 25-29.9) Lancet. 2006 August 19;368(9536):666-78. Patients who were underweight or severely overweight had an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. The implications of this finding can be confounded by the fact that many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cause weight loss before the eventual death. In light of this, higher death rates among thinner people would be the expected result.
Health is a very tricky thing, and I'm not convinced that we should be in as big of a weight scare as we are, especially given that it can be extremely difficult to lose weight and keep it off, and that humans have natural weight variability that depends on dozens of factors (for instance, how much your mother eats during pregnancy can affect your tendency to put on fat: if she eats little your body prepares for starvation conditions).
All I'm really trying to say is that if you're happy with your body and you're reasonably healthy, then your weight is probably fine. It's when people start to have trouble doing mundane things that they should start really looking at their weight.