The Corner

Federal Government to Pick on the Fat Kid

The Obama administration has declared a war on fat, and its first major front is the Healthy CHOICES Act, a bill recently introduced to the House by Rep. Ron Kind (D., Wisc.).

Among the bill’s provisions is an initiative that would allow the government to electronically track how fat you and your kids are — according to your body-mass index (BMI) — via “public health coverage, public school-based clinics, and maternal and child health services.”

Consider also that as the proportion of Americans whose health-insurance is subsidized by the government zooms past a majority in the next decade, we will live in a country that can’t secure its borders or check a No-Fly List, but will know with a degree of statistical certitude that Little Suzy has put on the freshman fifteen.

UPDATE: Good point from a reader:

Daniel,

 

Here’s the real idiocy – BMI is a blunt instrument. 

 

You know who routinely fall outside BMI recommendations?  Athletes.  Their substantial extra weight in muscle mass, and typically smaller waists will yield numbers tagging them as obese / morbidly obese.  The more highly conditioned they are – the greater the skew.

 

So these folks – the fittest of the fit – will be lumped into the reporting of ‘unfit’ Americans by our clueless bureaucracies.

My chiseled deltoids are a major source of my inflated BMI. Also my fat. Who needs a six-pack when you’ve got a keg?

UPDATE II: Plus, BMI is racist!

UPDATE III: A very illuminating Megan McArdle piece from last year, in which she interviews Paul Campos, author of The Obesity Myth. Campos spells out further reasons why BMI is a bunk way of measuring fitness:

Megan: Do you think being overweight is a proxy for things that DO make a difference, like fitness?

Paul: It’s a weak proxy, but yes it has some marginal significance. It’s good to encourage people of all sizes to be active and avoiding eating disordered behavior (like dieting), but this isn’t because lifestyle changes will make fat people thin people. They won’t. I’d like to talk a little about the statistics if I may

Megan: Please! We’re all about statistics here.

Paul: OK, the CDC honchos and the authors of this study you referenced are in hysterics because the obesity rate, so-called, has roughly doubled in the last 30 years. But let’s consider what that actually means.

Obesity is defined completely arbitrarily as a body mass index of 30 or higher (175 pounds for an average height woman). Now body mass follows more or less a normal distribution, which means if the the mean body weight is in the mid to high 20s, which it has been for many decades now, then tens of millions of people will have BMIs just below and just above the magic 30 line. So if the average weight of the population goes up by ten pounds, tens of millions of people who were just under the line will now be just over it.

This might be meaningful if there was any evidence that people who have BMIs in the low 30s have different average health than people with BMIs in the high 20s, but they don’t. At all. So the “obesity epidemic” is 100% a product of tens of millions of people having their BMIs creep over an arbitrary line. It’s exactly as sensible as declaring that people who are 5′11 are healthy but people who are 6′1″ are sick.

Adding to the absurdity of all this, people with BMIs in the mid to high 20s actually have the best overall health and longest life expectancy — ,more so than those in the so-called “normal” BMI range.

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