16 October 2014

Boris Johnson’s Body Mass Index

Boris Johnson came out with this to the Daily Telegraph recently:
Although some people have been kind enough to say I don’t look as though I could conceivably be over 15 stone, I weigh almost 17 stone*.
and I wouldn’t have expected him to be quite so heavy either. On the other hand, although I’ve never seen him in the flesh, on the television he does seem a little shorter than many top male politicians who are frequently six-footers or more. This is not a healthy combination, at least as measured by Body Mass Index (BMI).

Unsurprisingly, Johnson’s exact height and weight aren’t immediately available, but his remark above and information from the CelebHeights website can be combined to make an estimate of his BMI. CelebHeights states Johnson’s height as “5ft 9.5in (177 cm)”. Comments there, including some from people who have encountered him, suggest this is about right, 5ft 10in being the maximum likely. Assuming that “almost 17 stone” could, if Johnson were being uncharacteristically modest, be as low as 16.5 stone, “Best and Worst Case” BMIs can easily be calculated:

Unfortunately, even when the lightest/tallest combination is chosen, the resulting BMI is over 33. Although Johnson as Mayor of London has no responsibilities for health, as he pointed out to Andrew Marr on The Marr Show on 12 October:
… Well unfortunately, as you may know, I don’t have direct responsibility for healthcare in this city …
he could, if he wished, like anyone else look at the National Health Service’s online BMI healthy weight calculator and enter the Best Case data above for a male of 50 who regularly travels on a bike. He would be told:

and so on. According to the The Health Survey for England – 2012 Chapter 10, about a third of English men of Johnson’s age are similarly obese or worse and nearly half are just overweight**:

Now it could be that Johnson, like Wikipedia, is more sceptical about BMI than the NHS:
For example, a chart may say the ideal weight for a man 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) is 165 pounds (75 kg). But if that man has a slender build (small frame), he may be overweight at 165 pounds (75 kg) and should reduce by 10%, to roughly 150 pounds (68 kg). In the reverse, the man with a larger frame and more solid build can be quite healthy at 180 pounds (82 kg).
Johnson certainly is of a solid build but he would still seem to have over 20 kg he could do without. The newer measure of waist-to-height ratio might provide a more comfortable fit, if his waist is no more than 42 in (107 cm, ie 0.6 times height for an over 50). Alternatively Johnson believes that for him in matters corporeal, just as in matters political, the normal rules don’t apply. To be fair, he did encourage all of us to lose weight in an article in the Daily Telegraph in June 2014, If we can’t do it on our own, then let’s lose weight together.

1987 and 2014
Like most of us Johnson has changed over the years (right). Unkindly, this brings to mind the lament of Frank Greco, a character in Mark Winegardner’s Godfather sequel, The Godfather's Revenge:
When I was young, they said I looked like a Greek God. Now I just look like a goddamn Greek.
But most of us, of course, never looked like a Greek God in the first place.

* Some readers may be asking, What is a stone? 14 pounds is the short answer, so a 17 stone man weighs 238 pounds, or 107.95 kg.

** An earlier post contained some international comparisons of BMI.  Also, as pointed out there, anyone with a BMI above 30 or below 18.5 should seek medical advice).

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