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please give me a million dollars and, oh yeah, huge pectoral muscles
I've gained 10 pounds over the summer which presents me with a dilemma. I've always promised myself that 175 lbs. was my cutoff weight, since somewhere around 165-170 is the top end of most BMI charts for my height of 5'10". I've always vowed that if I ever reached 175, I would begin taking steps to maintain and/or reduce it. Yesterday when I stepped on the scales at home, it read 172.

The dilemma is that I don't think the recent weight gain is from fat, but from muscle. When making this promise to myself, I never imagined that I would gain weight in this manner. Since becoming a flat bed trucker, my body has grown thick and muscular. I'm barrel chested with defined pectorals. My thighs are firm and strong. My biceps bulge the hem of a short sleeve when flexed and my forearms are sinewy and well defined. The muscles in my shoulders rise above the bone. There's even this really interesting meaty thingy right at the base of my neck where it meets the shoulder. After being a 120 pound weakling most of my life, I could probably kick your ass now.

That's not to say I'm lean, though. I do have a considerable middle-aged man's paunch. But I've had that for some time and, while I think I could probably stand to lose 10 pounds from there, I don't think that's where I've gained the 10 pounds. With concern to my paunch, I've always accepted it as an inevitable consequence of aging, especially since it's the only sign of fat anywhere on me. Most BMI charts claim that for my height, 170-205 is the "overweight" range for me. Going over 205 would be obesity territory. However, the BMI chart admits that the index doesn't allow for various factors, including muscularity. One could make an argument that I'm carrying a little extra weight, but I don't think anyone would construe my body as being overweight.

In light of all this, I'm going to relax my cutoff weight vow as long as I have these muscles and move it up to 200 pounds. I figure that realistically, the most I can continue to put on in muscle is another 20 pounds, topping me out around 190. Personally, I think I'm going to naturally top-out at about 180 with the muscle, but I'll allow myself the 10 pounds of leeway. I'm basically giving myself 30lbs. of muscle on the BMI, but I can't imagine any scenario where 200 pounds would be an appropriate amount of weight on a 5'10" man.


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I think the BMI is meant to be a "starting point" for determining where you are in relation to an average, and that other factors must be considered when deciding what course of action, if any, to take. At least, that's the spirit with which I'm approaching it. Clearly it doesn't take into account significant gains in muscle mass which I attribute to my recent weight gain.

That said, it is true that if I lost the excess fat in my belly that I would fall back into an acceptable range on the chart, however, I feel that at this time in my life it's appropriate for me to have and the amount of work and lifestyle changes required to reduce/eliminate it greatly outpaces the minor benefits I would gain from it. I'm far from obese and I'm not a terribly vain man, so it's hard for me to justify the effort to do something about it.

Body Mass Index was a concept invented in the 1800s by a statistician as a sociological tool and was only later adopted by the medical community in the 1980s because there was nothing better to use. As you've observed, it doesn't differentiate between fat and muscle weight so I consider it pretty useless. The news media sure loves it though, because they can claim huge obesity rates as "epidemic", etc. I'm not saying people aren't getting fatter, but it's hardly what mass media would have us believe. I've been "obese" according to that chart from my ripped, totally in shape military days to today (and granted I am kinda tubby but hardly obese) so i have a personal vendetta against it too. :P

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