Get Fit Shannon Sorrels

Just when I thought I was running out of topics to inspire me, a magazine article about “finding your happy weight” caught my attention. Voila — the writing inspiration flowed like water.

The Women’s Health article, literally titled “How to Find Your Happy Weight,” led the reader to believe that Body Mass Index (BMI) was misleading and would give us fat people the wrong weight range as a goal. “Your best bet is to think in terms of health and happiness, not numbers,” according to the article.

I let out my usual sigh. Many have railed against BMI as a means of homing in on an ideal weight citing professional football players or heavy weight boxers as examples of people who are classified as “obese,” yet are not. Many a heavy person has clung to that example as a way to poo poo the index and make themselves feel better. The article at one point states, “Body Mass Index (BMI) isn’t a good predictor — BMI measures ignore factors such as body type, genetics, and muscle mass.” Uh, no it doesn’t. That’s why it gives a range, not a single number.

These types of articles are not new. Sensational headlines and topics are common these days, all aimed at getting eyeballs on a certain website so you might see some advertising. I get it. But what’s perturbing is often the headline doesn’t really match what the article says or its insinuated intent. The title gets you on the page and then you are served up something different. This “happy weight” article fell into that category.

I continued to read, though it initially pained me, and it wound up saying the opposite of what I expected. Things like 60 percent of people polled thought their weight was about right, yet 60 percent of us are overweight or obese, or our ideal weights have increased by about 11 pounds over the past 22 years. The article also reminded the reader that being surrounded by heavy people begins to make us think being heavy is normal.

Well I’ll be danged. And then the super surprising part of the article surfaced. Keri Glassman, a registered dietician and one of their Women’s Health experts quoted by the author, went on to supply what she considered a better means than BMI to find your “ideal weight.” I was braced for this part — ready to read some namby-pamby formula that made it OK to be obese. She said give yourself 100 pounds at 5 feet of height and then add 5 pounds for every inch after that. Allow 10 percent to either side for muscle mass and bone structure. The example given was a 5-foot-3-inch woman — her “ideal range” based on Glassman’s formula would be 103.5 to 126.5 pounds (that’s with the 10 percent factored in). According to BMI, which we all love to toss out the window because it’s too harsh, the 5-foot-3-inch woman gets a range of about 105 to 140 pounds. Glassman’s suggestion was stricter than BMI.

I couldn’t help but smile. Lo and behold an article about “finding your happy weight” turned out to be tougher on the ol’ scale than plain BMI. How’d ya like dem apples?

But I bet I saw some advertising.

• NSCA certified personal trainer Shannon Sorrels has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and an MBA. Her Ahwatukee-based company, Physix LLC, works with Valley individuals and groups to improve their overall fitness. Reach her at (480) 528-5660 or visit

(1) comment

Jay Wiener

You are correct to be suspicious about both the BMI and the substitutes available for it. The BMI is fairly accurate for women under 5' 6" with small or average frames, but that is about it. For the rest of us, it gives miserable results - suggestions that require expert interpretation at best.

The BMI is based on height only, so its results and casual modifications to its results are all untrustworthy. I am a mathematician and have spent more than two years researching and developing a serious alternative to the BMI; one that is based not just on height but on 25 different factors: body stats, health history and lifestyle. It is free and will always be free. You are welcome to write to me directly with questions.

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