Nikita Richardson
July 15, 2015 9:38 am

It seems so simple: If you’re a certain height, you should only be carrying a certain amount of weight, right? Tall people can afford to pack on a few pounds while short people have to be more careful. That’s what we call the Body Mass Index, or BMI.

According to the formula for BMI, which calculates your height relative to your weight, those who are underweight have a BMI of 18.5 or less, those with a normal weight have a BMI of 18.5 to 25, those who are, by this measurement, overweight have a BMI of 25 to 30, and those with a BMI that exceeds 30 are considered obese.

But if that sounds too simple, it’s because it is, as the New York Times recently discovered. Partnering with New York City-based 3D body modeling startup Body Labs, the newspaper found that the bodies of six people who were all 5’9”, 172 lbs. and shared the same BMI of 25.4—which makes them technically “overweight”—looked very different from one another.

The reason? First, muscle and bone are much denser than fat, which means that even an exceptionally fit athlete could be classified as overweight, though the majority of their weight is coming from the muscle they’ve packed on.

Then there’s the fact that people carry weight in very different ways with some carrying fat in their torsos, while others carry fat in their legs. Since BMI only accounts for height and weight, it cannot possibly include these factors.

Luckily for us, new research offers many solutions, including looking at body fat percentage and body composition instead of whittling down the complexities of health to a number that you can simply Google.

That’s good news for people who have been told by a doctor (or, again, Google) that they’re overweight and it’s as simple as that. After all, we’re all much more than a number. And remember, no matter what size we are, all of our bodies are beautiful.

Related:

Size doesn’t matter and this chart proves it

What I wish I learned in health class

(Images via iStock, Body Labs)

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