Why are we Measuring People Like Carpets?

Thank goodness she’s leaving.

Ban and tax our way out of obesity – top doctor

Could it be curtains for the buffet car? Banning snacks on public transport is just one way England’s departing chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, reckons the government could act to prevent childhood obesity. Others include tobacco-style plain packaging for junk food, a calorie cap for restaurant meals, adding VAT to products like cakes, and banning advertising of unhealthy food. If the measures sound extreme, so do the figures. The proportion of children deemed obese by their final year of primary school has quadrupled since 1990, with about a third of all year six pupils classed as overweight or obese. The health secretary says ministers will study the recommendations “closely”. But the railway trolley of drinks and light refreshments might be around for a while yet. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously expressed scepticism about measures such as so-called sin taxes.

I can’t remember the last time I saw an obese child in England. I’m sure I would have noticed. In my experience, children are almost never obese. Adults are quite often obese. Nobody used to bother about it.

But then, “deemed obese” isn’t quite the same as obese. Obsessive weight-watchers, in my experience, are people who look fine to me, but will insist that they’re “putting on too much weight.” And I guess if you’re a supermodel of some sort, you may notice the addition of even a single pound of weight.

Let’s suppose that some kids genuinely are obese. What business of the government is it to try to regulate people’s weight anyway? How is banning snacks on public transport going to bring their weight down? How long do English kids spend on trains and buses every day? It can’t be more than about half an hour. How many sandwiches can you eat in half an hour?

No, if there are obese kids, it’s more likely because they’re being well fed at home, or they’re being well fed at school. Banning snacks on public transport will probably have zero effect on child obesity.

And anyway I suspect that it’s imaginary obesity that is easily generated simply by changing what’s deemed obese. From the Orwellian Calorie Control Council:

BMI is a measure which takes into account a person’s weight and height to gauge total body fat in adults. Someone with a BMI of 26 to 27 is about 20 percent overweight, which is generally believed to carry moderate health risks. A BMI of 30 and higher is considered obese. … A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.

BMI less than 18.5 is considered underweight. All it needs is the stroke of a regulatory pen to change 30 to 25, and bingo, overnight you’ll quadruple the number of obese people. Wikipedia:

Body mass index (BMI) is a value derived from the mass (weight) and height of a person. The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, and is universally expressed in units of kg/m2, resulting from mass in kilograms and height in metres.

What has the dimensions of mass per square metre? In my glaciation heat flow models I use density, which is mass per cubic metre, never mass per square metre, or even mass per metre. I suppose that things like carpets will have a mass per square metre. It’s called area density. I suppose cables and ropes will have a linear density or mass per metre.

What the hell is the square of body height? Why are we measuring people like carpets? Human bodies have a skin surface area of about 1.5 square metres, and given an average adult body weight of 70 kg, that means that they’ll have an area density – body mass per unit body area – of 70/1.5 or about 46.5. But given adult body height 0f 1.75 m, mass per square height is 70 / 1.75², or a BMI of nearly 23.

Body Mass Index, BMI, is a pretty meaningless number. It’s not even the same as area density, which would be a crazy way to measure people anyway. Two-year-old toddlers:

Average weight for a 24-month-old is 26.5 pounds for girls and 27.5 pounds for boys, according to the World Health Organization. How tall is the average 2-year-old? Average height for a 24-month-old is 33.5 inches for girls and 34.2 inches for boys.

27.5 pounds is 12.47 kg. And 34.2 inches is 0.87 m. BMI is 16.47

Typical weight of newborn babies is 2.5 to 4 kg, and height is 0.5 m, So babies generally have a BMI of 10 to 16.

So why aren’t babies and children regarded as underweight? Could it be that worried health-conscious parents have been feeding their underweight children to get their BMI up from 16 to 20? Well, no, while adults are compared to fixed values, children are compared with other children in their own age group. Which means that they’re compared to an ever-changing scale. Your obese child is overweight by comparison with other children in the same age group – which could mean that they’re all underweight.

The whole thing is crazy and meaningless. It’s crazy, meaningless non-science. BMI is a deeply meaningless number. It’s not even the same as area density

It’s the same of course with tobacco and alcohol and everything else. It’s all crazy, meaningless non-science. And it results in crazy, meaningless laws like smoking bans and buffet car bans.

About Frank Davis

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11 Responses to Why are we Measuring People Like Carpets?

  1. Igrowmyown says:

    This is a fun new world we are entering,will snack police have to be employed on public transport? Or will they use CCTV as evidence of guilt and what will be the penalty? Now that the floodgates are opening what else will be subject to their scrutiny let’s compile a list and feel free to add.
    1.marathon runs regularly have a fatality list of unfortunate victims- running causes heart attacks,please run responsibly printed on every pair of running shoes.
    2. For men,sex causes heart attacks please sh-g responsibly
    3.Blond haired people are more prone to heart attacks,please dye your hair responsibly.
    ( I made the the last one up but I suspect a new study will soon prove the truth of this)

  2. Igrowmyown says:

    Once upon a time we had the church to guide us to heaven after departing this earth providing we had faith,belief and adhered to a 10 point list of things never to be engaged in. Now we have scientific trust,proof and a growing list of things never to engage in if we want the gates of heaven on earth to open for us.
    Dame Sally is just a frustrated fascist who never got the total power her ilk so desire.

  3. Rose says:

    I was watching Dame Sally pontificating on SKY this morning and she was good enough to tell us her reasoning on why we were being beset by these petty rules and mass punishments.
    She said with a big smile, that it had worked with smoking because we are a very law abiding country, she was so pleased with this she repeated again during the interview.

    So there you are, because we are far too polite, they can now skip education and time wasting things like that and just use the law to stop you doing things.

    “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

    Not any more, according to Dame Sally.

    • Frank Davis says:

      we are a very law abiding country

      She’s quite right. But she’s going to be the reason why we cease to be a law-abiding country.

      For she seems to think that laws are like school rules, and people will obey the rules.. But I don’t think that’s what laws are. I think the law is about compensating people for injuries done to them. And I think it’s an abuse of the law to use them the way she is. And the result is going to be the destruction of the law, and of the medical profession.

  4. petesquiz says:

    Speaking as someone who is too short for his weight…I’d need to be 7ft 6 ins tall to have a BMI of 25…I’m only 6ft! My question is – if there is an ‘obesity epidemic’ why is it so hard to find clothes that are 3XL and almost impossible to find 4XL and above?

    • Igrowmyown says:

      Pete don’t question the measurers findings. They are infallible. Compliance is all that is necessary.

    • Pete, maybe they are applying the smoking algorithm to obesity now!

      The idea was that if we make it difficult enough and uncomfortable enough to enjoy smoking that people would quit smoking.

      So, if we make it difficult enough and uncomfortable enough to enjoy being overweight, then people will lose weight!

      See? It’s all simple when you look at it correctly. Well , when you look at it politically correctly at least!

      – MJM

  5. Algernon Struthers says:

    Argue all you want about facts but they are largely irrelevant in this situation. The reason is that women are in charge and they should not be in charge. They do have the same concept of law. Feminism is proof enough of that, with their ‘equality’ for all, which means nothing of the kind. It means subjugate, humiliate and destroy all those who disagree – with our concept of what is right at this particular moment – which can change from day to day depending on their whim. In that sense, I cannot argue with Islam, that it is right concerning women. But of course, not all women, although sadly most.
    I have a general rule-of-thumb regarding obvious injustices and the illogical that a woman will be behind it somewhere. In those cases, arguing against the particular injustice is largely pointless.
    Sweden, for example, where rapes are commonplace and a quarter of women reportedly, are frightened to leave their homes at night. Sweden is ruled by a feminist government who’d sooner hide those facts than do anything about the problem. Naz Shah of Bradford who said that the victims of the child rapists should shut up and get with diversity. Naz obviously has a different concept of law. ‘Obviously?’ Yes obviously, but no one utters a word. After all, arguing with her is pointless. One of her excuses is that questioning her is racist.
    Well yes, that’s my rule-of-thumb re the illogical and injustices. Then there’s the “do I think women should be kept in the kitchen?” you sexist swine, Algernon!
    Nope, but there’s obviously a problem with women, for which men are having blame heaped upon them in thousands of cruel and vicious ways. Ways that men would never dream of inflicting upon women. No, but women in that regard are merciless.
    So argument about the stupidity of government imposing its will on the contents of my dinner plate and whether I choose to smoke. What can I do?
    I can only point to the root of the problem which is obvious to me.

  6. Vlad says:

    The proposals call for an outright ban on consumption of any type of food or drink – except plain water – on all urban public transport.
    “It is about changing the culture so snacking is no longer normalised. We need to make the bus, the train and the tube a safe place for children,” she said.
    “It is a mindless way to eat and seeing other people eating does prompt you to think about eating.”

    Change culture, denormalise – things so familiar to smokers. When I see all those fake charities running challenges/marathons or whatever to collect funds and all those cries for the NHS running out of money I’m reminded of the fact that a person spouting this BS has been paid over £200.000/year.

  7. jaxthefirst says:

    It’s crazy and downright wicked that this woman is resorting to the “cheeldren” meme for this nasty little campaign. Most children carry a bit more fat around with them than they do as adults simply because they need it because they are growing so fast and developing so quickly. In the old days we used to call it “puppy fat” (because most mammals are the same – chubby when young and leaner as adults) and for many people it melts away pretty quickly once adolescence and young adulthood arrives. Not for everyone, of course, but for most people. If there is an obesity epidemic (which I remain sceptical about for all the reasons pointed out on here and elsewhere many times), then she should at least have the good grace to restrict her pontificating towards adults who haven’t lost that “puppy fat” – not towards kids who, perfectly naturally and perfectly healthily (indeed, possibly essentially) have it.

    And, once again, the tobacco template is shamelessly highlighted, as if in some way invoking the magic word “smoking” will make everyone think “oh, well that’s all right, then.” Silly Sally – far from it. By constantly harking back to the Great Anti-smoking Experiment, this pantomime Dame and her ilk run the risk of ever-increasing numbers of people becoming aware of the intended social manipulation that smokers have been aware of for years. It’s then just a short step to at least some of the brighter ones putting two and two together and realising that if these people can make up fabricated “facts” and scary-sounding stats and suggest unfair and unreasonable regulations about food/drink/snacks or whatever – especially when they are brazenly indicating every time that they are copying, lock, stock and barrel, the tobacco template – then that probably means that they made up all that stuff about smoking, too. Indeed, for health zealots like her, this is as close to admitting that the anti-smoking campaign was built on a pack of lies as it’s possible to get without actually spelling it out in so many words.

    For anyone with a functioning brain, it’s going to be hard to hold the two opposing opinions in their head at the same time – that the likes of our Aunt Sally are paragons of truth and virtue whenever they’re talking about smoking, but downright scaremongering control-freaks the moment they talk about anything else. Some of the – shall we say – rather more intellectually-challenged may manage it, but the smart ones won’t be able to keep it up for long, especially if all these new little prohibitionist campaigners keep drawing attention to it! There’s nothing like being at the sharp end of one of these “health initiatives” to focus the mind and see what’s really going on, as we smokers know only too well.

    I’m loathe to offer advice to any of these mad Healthists, but really, all these new anti-this or anti-that brigades should pull their necks in and stop comparing “their” pet hate to the anti-smokers’ one. For starters, the anti-smoking gang won’t like it (and they are still the biggest and most powerful bullies of them all, and won’t like their turf being intruded upon one bit – funds can only be spread so thin. Watch them squeal when their funding is cut in order to provide cash for some hair-brained anti-obesity “initiative”) and secondly, the public may well rumble the whole scam – including the anti-smoking one – and bring the whole edifice crashing down on itself by simply taking absolutely no notice of them any more. Talking to many of my non-smoking (often overweight – they’re non-smokers remember. Another inconvenient correlation which is always conveniently ignored) friends, that process has already started – as I say, coming into the crosshairs does wonders for people’s critical-analysis skills. The new-breed Healthists are fools if they continue to accelerate things. Or perhaps they just think that the public are bigger ones who, duped once, can be easily duped again using the same methodology.

  8. Timothy Goodacre says:

    Good riddance to this nasty controlling puritan. I read that she is taking up a highly paid sinecure in Cambridge.

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