Wii Fat

By Shamus
on Jan 29, 2009
Filed under:
Game Reviews
If you’ve missed the whole Wii Fit thing, then allow me to murder your ignorance with a quick overview: It’s a collection of exercise-based games for the Wii. The games range from very tame (Yoga) to sweat-inducing (various sorts of aerobics) with a few balance-based games thrown in for good measure. The game uses the balance board, a sophisticated pressure-sensitive scale of sorts that can sense weights in individual areas on the surface. It can detect even the most minor fluctuations in the distribution of your body weight as you stand, an ability it uses frequently to make you feel like a clumsy dolt.

At the outset you create a profile, take a little test, set a goal of some sort, and then feel guilt later on when you don’t stick with it.

If you’d asked someone to describe me in high school, they would most likely have said “the guy with the big nose” or “the skinny guy”. Those were my defining attributes. I had no muscle and even less fat. If I took off my shirt and flexed, it would have provided a fairly detailed view of my skeletal structure and a huge laugh at my expense. I was 5″11 (180cm) and I weighed 160lbs. (72.5 kg)

Like most men, I continued growing over the next few years, accruing muscle mass without making any effort to exercise. My neck and arms got thicker. My shoulders broadened. My weight went up. I was working fast food, and the eight hours of constant exercise more than offset the massive calories I was absorbing. I stayed thin.

Then at 23 I got a desk job and began the long, slow spiral into unhealthy middle-aged tubbiness, and I’ve halfheartedly battled that over the last fifteen years. The picture on my about page was taken at the nice, low weight of 180lbs. I think I look fine there. I could drop a few pounds, but on the whole that’s a perfectly healthy physique. I have begun playing Wii Fit in an effort to get back down to that point.

wiifit_bmi.jpg
Wii fit does a sort of crude analysis at the start. You input your height, your age, and take a little balance test. It checks your weight (an easy job for the Wii Fit board) and then it lets you know how overweight you are, and what your ideal weight would be.

Wii fit suggested that 154lbs would be my ideal weight.

That is utter, complete madness. If I shed every molecule of fat from my body I would still weigh far more than that. 154 isn’t anything approaching an “ideal” weight. That would be dangerously malnourished.

Actually, I was nursing a painful back injury inflicted by your savage hula-hoop game, you hateful slave driver.
Actually, I was nursing a painful back injury inflicted by your savage hula-hoop game, you hateful slave driver.
Maybe this is a flaw in the underlying BMI system used to calculate body fat. (I’ve never thought BMI made a lot of sense.) In any case, having the machine suggest an impossible and dangerous target is not a good way to begin an exercise regimen.

Wii Fit is not your normal videogame. In a normal videogame, the thing pretends to try to kill you and then tells you how awesome you are when you win. In Wii Fit, the game tries to kill you for real and then tells you how bad you suck if you manage to survive. My copy has let me know that I am a slacker and a complete disappointment. It does so in the most cheery and enthusiastic way possible in order to soften the blow, but the realization is inescapable: You have been judged by a machine, and found wanting. The Wii balance board itself is used as an avatar by the game, and in my mind it’s taken on the friendly, murderous personality of GlaDOS from Portal.

Go get formatted, you sanctimonious collection of bits.
Go get formatted, you sanctimonious collection of bits.
Wii Fit is gaming-based exercise, as opposed to exercise-based gaming. The games are fun, but it’s unlikely you would play them for their own sake. You’re obviously here for a workout of some sort, and the games are just a sugar coating to make the medicine more palatable. I’ve had my own ideas for how exercise-based games should work. This doesn’t follow that model, although the balance board could certainly be put to such a use. (My idea focused on prolonged, light exercise in a self-balancing game. The idea would be to make an addictive game – something you would play for its own sake – that features exercise a required aspect of gameplay. The downside is that the thing would only appeal to people who enjoy the given genre. Wii Fit more wisely goes for a more universal audience.)

You start off with just a few games in the categories of Yoga, Strength, Balance, and Aerobics. Most are a couple of minutes long. The more you do, the more new games you unlock. It’s like Mario Kart, except there are no blue shells and your heart might explode.

The Wii balance board acts as your coach, tracking your progress and reminding you of your goals. I’d like for there to be a way to adjust how pushy the thing is when encouraging you to work out. (Some people are motivated by chidings from a cute little character, but I just can’t stand being chastised by software. Perhaps my years of fighting SHODAN have taught me to resist the machine. I really do hate that cheerful little balance board character.)

As a piece of exercise equipment, Wii Fit is, cheaper, more varied, and more enjoyable than treadmills or rowing machines. In fact, a Wii and Wii fit together are cheaper than most mid-range exercise machines. The device is also tiny and slides away easily, instead of looming large in a corner of the room. If you want a machine to help you keep in shape, Wii Fit offers unbeatable value. It’s still not a game, though, and my dream of shedding pounds while I wipe out armies of ninjas, gangsters, or Argonauts will have to wait.

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  1. Stephen says:

    Wii Fit told my skinny little 10 year old daughter that she was borderline overweight. This could be very dangerous for kids with body image problems.

  2. Hotsauce says:

    Machines that judge humans. What could possibly go wrong?

  3. Hotsauce says:

    Also, I’ve long thought BMI is just plain silly, as it doesn’t differentiate between lean body mass and body fat. But gender does enter into it, and you didn’t mention it, so I’m wondering if maybe Clippy’s cousin there thinks you’re a girl.

  4. Alastair says:

    “and then it lets you know how overweight you are, and what your ideal wight would be.”

    I’ve always wondered what my ideal undead beastie was, and now I can find out!

  5. Clint says:

    “It’s like Mario Cart, except there are no blue shells and your heart might explode.”

    Just for the record, the game spells itself as “Mario Kart”.

  6. MissusJ says:

    @Alastair: the idea of knowing my ideal undead beastie made me giggle. Thank you. :)

    @Stephen: My 7 year old boy looks like a map pin in Wii Fit. When he was entered into the Matrix system, it said somewhere that the measurings would not be accurate because he was younger than 18. I was not there, but I hope it said that big and bold for your daughter. If nothing else, the training will be good for her- just do not let her do the body test.

  7. Mari says:

    I read a couple of articles months ago written by so-called fitness experts about WiiFit. Apparently the general consensus in their community is that if you start out in reasonably good shape the activities of WiiFit can be part of a balanced exercise regimen for maintaining that but if you start out in bad shape, say as an obese middle-aged housewife, you’re quite unlikely to change that with WiiFit. The “experts” agreed that the activities WiiFit puts you through aren’t long enough, strenuous enough, or targeted enough to properly work you out and on top of that they’re not varied enough to keep you coming back reliably.

    They were also concerned with the ideal weight targets. Of course, many in the medical community have been concerned about those bizarre ideal weight measures for a good, long time.

  8. Luke Maciak says:

    I bought one of those for my cousin for Christmas. I was the unlucky chap who was delegated to set it up and “test it” as the whole family watched. Stupid thing proceeded to tell me I’m obese and that my “Wii age” is like 60 or something (I’m 27). To add insult to the injury it made my Mee avatar all pudgy and fat looking. Then it asked me if I trip over my own legs a lot because my balance is crap.

    As an act of revenge I got every family member in the room get on the board and go through the same motions, with very similar results.

    So yeah, the damn thing will insult you. Ruthlessly. So if you are self conscious about your weight, it’s probably best to play this game alone without witnesses.

  9. Zaghadka says:

    Somehow, I think their BMI recommendations are not localized. The Japanese are a very thin people to begin with. The problem is, the medical establishment in our country has also adopted those BMI guidelines, and it’s just not right for a lot of people.

    On the other hand, being called “borderline overweight” shouldn’t be as big a hit to the ego as it is in American culture. We are far too focused on our weight, as opposed to our health.

  10. JFargo says:

    Yes, the BMI setting that tells me (5’11” male with a more-than-medium build) I should way 160 lbs is way off. I feel sorry for the people that honestly believe the BMI readings and think they’re overweight when they’re really perfect.

    That being said, I really enjoy Wii Fit. Especially the fact that I can unlock new games, harder difficulties, etc.

  11. Dustin says:

    Spelling nag: Mario Kart.

    edit: Darn, should have reloaded the page after reading article, Clint beat me to it.

  12. Deoxy says:

    BMI is the best way we have of judging the human body – it is “Body Mass Index”, and it’s basically a measure of what percentage body fat you are. I don’t know where they pulled “BMI of 22 is good” from, but women are considered most healthy at 15-25 BMI, and men are considered most healthy from 5-15 BMI.

    That said, Wii Fit does NOT REMOTELY give you your BMI. It gives you an approximation of what your BMI might be, based on your height and weight. Considering that muscle weighs more than fat AND any weight-based BMI calculation assumes a certain amount of bone (which varies from person to person), any such calculation is little better than a WAG (Wild A** Guess).

    Example 1: One of my roommates in college was an international-level decathlete (yes, really). He looked amazing, he got really hacked off when his bench-press workout weight dropped off a little to a mere 250 pounds (his WORKOUT weight), and his ACTUAL BMI was 3.8 (or so). Based on height and weight, the Wii Fit would put him as morbidly obese (muscle weighs more than fat).

    Example 2: The older sister of one of my friends in college was anorexic and bulimic – her hair was getting thin from lack of nutrients, she didn’t have to cut her fingernails (same reason), and bruises would takes weeks to go away. Finally, she got down into the “ideal” body weight range for her height… and went into the hospital later that month. Her organs were shutting down from starvation, and they estimated that she would have DIED in less than 12 hours. She and her sister were both “big-boned” (really, not just an excuse).

    So yeah, any time somebody worries about “weight”, I warn then to worry about body fat (BMI), as weight is not the issue AT ALL.

    OK, that was longer than I meant. Summary: the American (primarily female) obsession with weight is a BAD BAD thing.

    Edit: One more thing – until a few years ago, the “height-weight” chart was actually reasonably accurate for an average-build person (say, 50ish% of the population). In the 90s, they “adjusted” it, basically bumping everyone up one category. Result? Professional athletes are almost all “morbidly obese”. Also, when somebody bothered to do some actual RESEARCH, the healthiest category to be in (by the current STUPID charts) is “overweight”.

  13. MissusJ says:

    I have been using Wii Fit off and on since September. As someone with an activity level of very close to Absolute Zero, I think it has been good for me. It is definitely gaming based exercise, and still not really a substitute for a trainer and a gym. However, the last time I tried to work out in a gym I threw up- I am so not used to exercise!

    I needed something that would help me get used to exercising, and this has done the trick. I am not a huge fan of the Balance Board Avatar either, but it helps that I named it “Konnichi-wa”. (Hey, that was what I heard when it said “hello” the first time, ok?) I like that I am not pushed past where I want to push myself. I like that the emphasis on balance has helped me realize where I lost muscle use during my pregnancies. I am so bad off, I can do a leg adductor workout just by sitting properly (you know, with my knees touching).

    If I were in much better shape, this might would help on days I was not working out in a more formal fashion but probably not much more. As is, Wii Fit is just about my speed.

    Yes, there are various problems with using BMI. I always check my weight as well. The Mii is still bloated, but I can track the number better. I have had the weight fluctuate wildly from session to session, which the program says is due to time of day. I am sure amount of clothing matters too, so I do not really sweat (pun intended) the results of the body test or my Wii Fit age. What matters is that I did a workout.

    In all the years I had to run for PE or what have you I never felt a “runner’s high” until I was running (in place even!) with a Wiimote in my pocket. It may not be exercise based gaming, but it is doing the trick for me. When I do it, which is another issue entirely. ;p

  14. Tizzy says:

    @Deoxy: Whoa! I’ve always read that the BMI *was* computed from weight and height alone. Which of course wouldn’t be very helpful.

    Can you explain? Are there competing definitions?

  15. MissusJ says:

    @Deoxy: I think the Dr. who first told me I was obese over 10 years ago (5″3′ and around 150 lbs.) was using that newer chart. He was also quite rotund and had a weight loss clinic as part of his practice. I never believed a word he said after that. All he did was find where height and weight met on a piece of paper, not considering any other activities (like, say, over a decade of dance training) at all.

    edited to add: I think what you are saying is that our obsession with weight caused the change in the BMI chart to reflect the weights that society was thinking were “normal” and “obese” and that fact alone is why the obsession with weight is so bad and so not healthy. In that case, I would wholeheartedly agree with you. I like my Wii Fit, and take its “judgements” with a grain of salt. At any rate, I was expecting it to tell me I was bad off, so I was not surprised when the little needle thing went straight to the top. ;p No, I do not think the average housewife will get any more good out of it than any other program that she is not desperate or determined to use. I think I will/have done better than average because I am fairly desperate and am attempting to go about the workout in a studied manner. Also, I have the dance training to fall back on to remember how these things should go. The proof is not in the pudding or on the balance board or even the scale, it is in my condition and what I can do/how long I can do it. I think you might agree.

  16. KarmaDoor says:

    It’s interesting that everyone caught Kart being misspelled, but not tubbiness (this isn’t about or referring to a Will Smith movie.)

    Anyways, I don’t trust BMI for anything. It’s unclear what the body model is supposed to be based on, but it seems to scale perfectly with height, an impossibility due to gravity. Decent body fat assessments can be made using calipers to measure folds and bones, but nothing is going to be truly accurate outside of an immersion tank.

    The Balance Board would likely join the Power Pad in the closet if it wasn’t for the fact you can play snowboarding, skiing, and skateboarding games with it, as well. I have not tried it, nor do I intend to (especially at its price.)

  17. Whiskersmeister says:

    Deoxy is right about muscle weighing more than fat, but I think he confused BMI with a person’s total body fat percentage, which is different.

    BMI is only based on height and weight and is generally accepted to be unreliable (to say the least). Total body fat percentage (which doesn’t seem to have a better acronym) is a much more accurate estimation and has a variety of techniques, from high tech infrared and X-ray scans to relatively low tech skinfold tests.

    Search for body fat percentage on wikipedia and it has a good article on it along with a range of what total body fat percentages are healthy for different people(I’m not sure of the link etiquette, since i almost never post in any kind of forum…)

  18. MuonDecay says:

    BMI’s only real, practical use (at least in the form seen in Wii Fit) is for statistical assays of the very roughly estimated fitness of large groups of people. That is to say, it’s only good for taking a census, not for individual health assessment.

    In the latter capacity you could work yourself to death in a cery literal sense and never achieve the “ideal” BMI that your Wii is feeding to you. You can kill yourself trying and never achieve what it considers to be “healthy” for you.

    Their choice of metric of performance is grievously irresponsible if taken at face value and they have rightly caught a lot of flack for it from some circles. A program originally intended as a way to bring healthy habits and fitness into people’s lives and it starts out doing so by giving them horribly, horribly unhealthy feedback about their fitness level.

  19. Henebry says:

    Justin Pierce, author of the webcomic Wonderella, would seem to agree with you about the WiiFit avatar, given the elaborate revenge fantasy he works out in a recent installment.

  20. Michelle says:

    My sole source of exercise is the Wii. I don’t count skiing in the winter because you have to be fit to do it.

    I started out at 200lbs (5’3″) last year. Through diet I lost 15lbs. In June I got Wii Fit and began using it every day.

    I’m now at 45lbs loss. The frustrating thing about Wii Fit is that you have to back out of the exercise to do an new one. there is no routine built in. Now I just use the Wii Fit channel to track my weight.

    For Christmas I got the Jillian Michael’s game for Wii (uses the balance board) and My Fitness Coach (does not use the balance board). I do MFC ever day…it’s more like following an exercise dvd but the workout changes every day and adjusts depending on your performance. It also will incorporate other fitness equipment you have.

    The JM game I use about once a week. It’s extremely hard as you have to have perfect balance to have your exercise counted (I have yet to have any of the courses I’ve gone though count). It’s pretty boring.

    However the board gets a lot of use other wise. It’s the drums in Wii Music. And in Raving Rabbids TV party (which is a flip from normal rabbid games…they torture you instead of you torturing them). We all use it with skiing programs.

    Our board gets a ton of use. It was worth every penny.

  21. Krellen says:

    BMI probably works a little better in Japan than the US, where the people are shorter and closer to Mongoloid than Caucasian, so their bone structure is more balanced. I believe I’ve heard that BMI only really works if you’re 5’6″; the further off that you go, the further off it gets.

    I’m fat, but I’m not morbidly obese (I could probably run a mile if I had to, and I can walk a dozen or so without much problem,) yet my BMI, last time I checked, was something a little above 40. At that, the charts say I should be practically bed-ridden.

  22. Zaghadka says:

    Wow. This is great. I think the general consensus seems to be, “Well, Nintendo is full of %$!@!”

    They’re that way with Brain Age, too. They would do well to hire themselves some scientists before they continue marketing to people by kicking their self-image in the nutsack. Someone might pass a law if they keep this up.

    And nobody wants that. ;)

  23. Hotsauce says:

    “It checks your weight (an easy job for the Wii Fit board)”
    Here I am, brain the size of a planet…

  24. John Lopez says:

    I have been using a Wii Fit board and have to say there are some of the strength exercises that fit quite nicely into a regular regime. Specifically (once you have the rep counts up) the Jack Knifes, Push Up Planks, Planks, One Armed Stand Up [or whatever it is called: I just call it “fall down alot”] combined with the Island Run and mixed in with the Yoga it suggests as paired with the strength is actually a pretty good workout.

    I still do other exercise (there is nothing in Wii Fit that will replace curls, for example), but it has re-energized me to do my exercise after losing access to the only *other* program that I ever followed religiously. (I used to be a hard core rock climber, but I lost my belay monkey :/ )

    As far as the BMI is concerned, I just look at the weight chart instead and try to shed the 20 pounds my *doctor* asked me to (thanks cholesterol rating!)

  25. Shamus says:

    Hotsauce: Brilliant! They should equip the Wii trainer with Genuine People Personalities. The default seems to be the backup personality from the Heart of Gold (the one that mothered them as the crew was getting ready to disembark on Magrethea. (sp?))

    If I could switch it to “Marvin” I would do so in a heartbeat.

    Oh. Not working out again today? Fine. I’ll just sit here in the corner until I rust then. You’re probably too busy to worry about exercise anyway. I understand. You’ll be dead in a hundred years anyway, so why bother? I’ll still be here, gathering dust or being used to prop up a crooked table leg… etc.

  26. MissusJ says:

    Shamus, I love your monologue for the Marvin Balance Board. That does sound like a lot of fun, as long as I can change it back when Marvin starts to grate on me… :)

  27. Dagrim says:

    A fun game that also causes you to exercise? DDR.

  28. JKjoker says:

    maybe its calibrated for ultra skinny Japanese users ? does it ask about your bone structure ? some ppl have really heavy constitutions while others are little more than stick men and while the former one with 120 kg is slightly overweight to chubby the stick man with 120kg is a huge ball of fat

  29. Kevin says:

    I am 5’10”, medium build, and should weigh 6 pounds.

    I have a lot of work to do.

  30. Sigma says:

    Awww, how can you hate little Wii Fit Board? He keeps ME playing!
    But yes, there are plenty of flaws. I remember making myself do the Free Jogging for 30 minutes until I remembered by weight gain was due to me not changing my height.

  31. Zack says:

    It is not going to make me popular here, but most Americans rate themselves as “Average” weight. It is also well established that the “Average American” is overweight (http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/healthcare/a/tallbutfat.htm) and that more than 30% of Americans are what the world considers “Obese”. So odds are most of the people you compare yourself to are not a healthy weight.

    Back in High school I was a swimmer and competed in martial arts tournaments. I was 5’10” and 135 lbs. Most people here would consider that terrifyingly skinny yet my BMI was 19.5 which is on lean side of normal. (Look it up http://www.consumer.gov/weightloss/bmi.htm) I was strong enough to compete in the adult division of martial arts qualifiers for my state and get 3rd place. So I would argue I was in incredible shape. (It is VERY hard to compete against people who out weigh you and have an extra 1-2 inches of reach.)

    Now I do agree that pure muscle mass throws off the BMI calculations. Shamus from the photo I can say you are a pretty muscular guy. But you also said you were skinny at 160 in highschool. At 160 you were 22 BMI which is actually what the world considers normal, I was 30 pounds less then you so I was skinny and yet athletic enough to kick butt… Hell most of my friends weight what you did and played football or soccer. You were not scrawny, you just weren’t ripped and honestly the BMI isn’t designed for weightlifters.

    I would argue that what we consider average here in America is very skewed to the heavy end. I have traveled in Europe and Asia and was shocked how thin/attractive people appear elsewhere, then I come back to US and see people who can not sit in a airline seat without oozing over the armrests. The obesity epidemic is real. I am horrified everytime I see an American kid who can not run on playground but has to waddle because of the sheets of fat covering his body. I know very few children whom I consider athletic. Too many people drive everywhere and keep their kids inside rather than letting them run and play. Europeans/Asians walk more on a average day than most Americans walk in a week.

    Now Wii fit is not able to distinguish muscle from fat, but while Shamus has obvious muscles (from picture), I doubt most people posting here are bulging out anywhere but the belt. If you are not lifting weights or playing sports then trust me the BMI index works just fine. It may not make you happy, but if you get up and just exercise more you will be healthier, you will have more energy, and you will live longer.

    Walk more, take stairs, eat less meat. You may find that what you considered impossibly thin was not really that thin after all, it just required a more active lifestyle.

    (I am not advocating model-thin bodies, and many models are young, blessed with low metabolism, under-eat, and low in muscle tone. Focus on having a normal and healthy body rather than a “Model” body. Look at Yoga instructors, Joggers, or other healthy people you know. They are the ones to emulate, not people who are blessed with a low metabolism and do not actually have a fit lifestyle.)

  32. John Lopez says:

    I think the best personality for me would be “Wii Drill Instructor”. But then I’m weird like that. I *like* pushing myself past limits (which is why I loved rock climbing).

    As far as the 160 pounds, I would agree that that was healthy compared to many geeks. I was 135 pounds and 6′ tall. *That* is underweight.

  33. Sesoron says:

    BMI isn’t necessarily an inaccurate measure. Back when I was in high school, I recall that I was once tested on a machine that sends a jolt of electricity through your body (not painful) in order to test the resistance and thereby determine your body fat percentage. Now, I don’t deny that I’m fat, but I’m also tall (6’2″) and muscular. At the time, and still today, my weight was around 300 pounds. The high-tech machine told me that I had about 240 pounds of non-fat weight, meaning that I’d be pretty good if I lost 40 to 50 pounds. I also know that wrestlers sometimes use an underwater scale to measure only their non-fat weight, because fat floats.

    With that in mind, I take Wii Fit’s assessments with a grain of salt. I know it doesn’t send a little jolt of electricity through my body whenever it does the body test, so I know when it places me at the very top of the obesity scale I’m okay with it. The fitness goals I have in mind are to get my weight down to around 255, at which point I should look pretty good and be pretty healthy.

    I think a large problem with Wii Fit in the American market is that it is made for Japanese people. The Japanese frame doesn’t put on muscle mass as easily as the European one, so their original market actually allowed the height-based BMI to be pretty accurate. Also, according to rumor at least, Japanese doctors are rather obsessed with weight loss; the culture in general probably sees obesity in very much the same light as foreignness: in both cases, they have much less of it, and therefore are more discriminatory towards people with those conditions.

  34. J Greely says:

    BMI is quite simply nonsense when applied to individuals. The Wii can get away with using it in Japan, where genetics, nutrition, and all those damn stairs at the train stations combine to create a fairly consistently narrow, wiry population, but it’s a horrible idea anywhere that has a diverse population. And actively dangerous for children and teens.

    Even with the current generation eating Western foods, they’re mostly just getting taller (and for girls, curvier), not broader. If I were to drop to the BMI-recommended weight and try to ride a Japanese subway train, my bony shoulders and elbows would injure the skinny little people sitting next to me. No amount of weight-loss will get me into something smaller than a 48 jacket, and I dare you to apply BMI to my martial-artist friend who wears a 50 Short.

    -j

  35. LexIcon says:

    Sure, the Wii Fit is fine and dandy for getting people to exercise. But how about THIS for motivation?

  36. krellen says:

    @Zack, #31:
    Walk more, take stairs, eat less meat.

    I do that. I’m still fat.

    I can move around just about as well as a lot of smaller people do. I can lift a lot more than most people I know. I can run up three flights of stairs and only be somewhat out of breath (breathing heavily, yes, but capable of holding a conversation).

    Some people are just going to be fat in America. It happens in all cultures with an excess of food, and has throughout history. The largest thing setting America apart from historical excess is that it extends to everyone, rather than dwelling only in the nobility/upper classes.

    I have a metabolism and frame designed to make me good at a select few tasks that have no place in modern society – carrying heavy sacks from one end of town to the other, swinging heavy pieces of metal while wearing heavy pieces of metal, pulling a cart – and as such I would have to spend large portions of my free time exercising to be “lean” in any way.

    Yes, America is fat. But I get a little sick and tired of the stigma against fat I constantly hear. Some people are fat unfairly. Some people are not. Judge by ability, not weight.

  37. JB says:

    When I was around 27 I was in the best shape of my life. I was running 3-4 times a week. At the same time I was 190 (6’1″) and weighted 86 (190lbs) kg. This gives a BMI of 25, according to one of the links given above, and 25 is the border between normal and overweight for my height.

    Mind you I was not lifting weights or anything to build muscles, I was just running. Also I do not eat much junk food.

    I think BMI should never be used to measure an individual.

  38. freykin says:

    BMI is a terrible measuring system. I’m 6’6″, and it’s told me I am obese every time I’ve calculated it. Apparently I’m supposed to weigh around 160. I did back in high school, and that was close to being dangerously underweight! I had the metabolism of some sort of black hole food destroying engine. Thankfully it’s slowed down, and while I weigh a bit more than I’d like, (220) I’m certainly nowhere near obese.

  39. Miako says:

    deoxy is WRONG
    Sorry, but I worked in psych. We did a MUCH better job of measuring the body than simple BMI. %Fat, central adiposity, you name it.
    BMI is only used because it is QUICK and our health system don’t have time to be accurate. It is INACCURATE.

  40. Miako says:

    krellen,
    you’re fat and healthy, and more power to you!

    sesoron,
    that ain’t right. humans even men are supposed to have a considerable amount of bodyfat. give you 10%, and that’s lose 20 lbs, not fifty (which would put you very close to the edge of no fat at all, which is REALLY REALLY bad)

  41. Von Krieger says:

    The problem with BMI is that the system essentially compares your height and weight to the average, typical mid 1800’s Belgian.

    At 6’3″ with shoulders broad enough that I go sideways through most doors, I don’t think I’d be able to dip below 240 without illness.

  42. Binks says:

    It should be noted that the readings are off in both directions, not just that people are rated as too overweight. I am overweight, almost obese, and Wii Fit rated me as borderline overweight.

    Weight/Height != Good measure of body fat! BMI works fine as long as you actually measure it, Wii Fit simply doesn’t do that.

  43. Ingvar says:

    BMI is the best way we have of judging the human body – it is “Body Mass Index”, and it’s basically a measure of what percentage body fat you are.

    No, it is essentially a useless metric, unless you happen to be of the exact phenotype BMI was developed for. Have you seen the BMI for quite a few athletes? I have met several athletes with no discernable subcutaneous fat (a rough indicator of overall body fat being quite low) with a BMI up in the 28-32 region. But almost all of that weight was “muscle”, “skeleton”, “organs” and a small proportion from “blood” (I guess 4-5 kilos).

    If you want to measure your body fat, there are two much more reliable methods, either weigh yourself and then submerge yourself in water to measure your volume. This gives you a density measure and this can then be used to estimate body fat. The oter is by an electric body-fat meter, this will measure the resistance through your body and can, from that and previosu statistical models give you another estimate.

    You’re probably better off doing both and average them to get an even better estimate.

  44. Al Shiney says:

    When I first stepped on my Wii Fit, I really didn’t need it to tell me I was, to borrow a line from Verbal Kint, “orca fat” (330#, 5’9″, age 45). I pretty much had a good read on that, so the BMI stuff didn’t bother me.

    After going through the initial setup tests however, I was pleasantly surprised to be told that my Wii Fit age was 39! For that alone, I can’t hate the little bugger. Now if I could only force myself to get back on it more often (sigh).

  45. Dev Null says:

    If its based on the standard BMI, then its complete bollocks. It doesn’t take different builds into account at all – theres just one ideal weight per height. A measure of % body fat is much more useful, but also prone to trying to hammer square people into round holes (and difficult to measure with something that plugs into a Wii and doesn’t spread water all over your living room.)

  46. Sesoron says:

    Miako (#40): Perhaps I remembered my details wrong. It might have been that I was 220 before fat and therefore should be aiming for 240-250. It doesn’t really matter: if I get close enough to have a genuinely good body image, then I’ll know it.

    And maybe that’s really the issue at hand, if you think about it. If people are capable of making reasonable judgments of their own body image (or listening to others who are), they don’t need fancy measuring devices to tell them where they should be. The problem is the people with unreasonable body images: people who are normal or underweight but still want to lose more weight, and (to a lesser extent, I assume) those who are overweight but think they’re fine.

  47. Craig says:

    I am 6’1″, around 187 pounds (I go up into the 190’s every time i go home and go as low as 183 every time I forget to buy groceries)
    approx. 20% body fat, 24.7 BMI

    As far as I can tell, that is right on. I’m within normal range, but not by much. I have a gut, flab, and etc. but I am fairly strong, but definitely not fit. I know that I could lose around 20-some pounds and would not be underweight.

    Both my parents are doctors and pretty fit. I would say that one can live a pretty healthy life in the overweight range, but if you don’t strive for the normal range, you can leave out exercise and proper diet. Its pretty unhealthy to try to hit an ideal number on a chart, but it is quite healthy to try to keep flab off your body and to eat right. Its quite hard not to be really sensitive about weight. Honestly, though, saying that you are an ideal weight when you are fat is kidding yourself. That’s not to say that there is something wrong with your body, but to say that becoming fit would make you less healthy is simply denial.

    In conclusion, watching the wii fit board make fun of my friends and i was quite entertaining, and surprisingly, the least fit of us had the best balance, and I learned that basic training did not get rid of all the fat on my friend who joined the army.

  48. Viktor says:

    The WiiFit goals and BMI are complete BS, but I think that’s because BMI is trash on it’s own and WiiFit builds off of that. Of course, I’m the sort that doesn’t gain weight(6’3, 150 lbs), and doesn’t gain muscle mass, either(I get stronger but not bigger at all), so I’m a bit biased. My entire family is pretty scrawny, though, so we just ignore that part of the system and listen to it yell at me for not showing up for 6 months(I was at SCHOOL! I’M NOT LAZY!!!). ;)

  49. Trianglehead says:

    It’s not that absurd a weight. 6’0 and 163.5 pounds here. Which gives me a BMI of 22.2. So pretty much ideal by their standard? Other than every day activity I just do light workouts daily with 10 pound weights, a pull up bar, and push-up/sit-ups. And if I were being honest I’d say it more like every other day that I actually do more than a token effort.

  50. Sandrinnad says:

    totally agree with Dagrim about DDR – it’s not the best game I ever bought, but it’s fun enough that I keep coming back to it, it’s decently easy to carve out a little time for, it’s great for flexibility, and it’s easy on the back (I have back problems so that’s a decently big issue).

    though I would buy a Wii WiiFit RIGHT NOW if there was a Marvin personality option :D

    as for exercise quality – general consensus these days seems to be that if you can do _something_ for even 15 minutes a day it’s a heck of a lot better than doing nothing. Even better if it’s something kinda fun, something you don’t need to expose yourself to strangers for (if you’re shy or self-conscious), and something that you or the machine itself can scale to your ability level and how much you’re up to that day because you may just find yourself doing more.

    BMI? ridiculous.

  51. Zolthanite says:

    Back when I used to obsessively DDR, Disney Mix used to equate your dancing to doing XXX of swimming, running, or whatever random sport popped up when you completed a song. I think some of those conversions might have been worse than BMI.

    If Wii Fit could kill you from acquiring an eating disorder for being “too fat”, I wonder if Disney mix could kill from actually thinking you COULD swim the length of the English Channel because Mickey says so.

  52. Chaz says:

    There’s a cloud to every silver lining, I think you’ll find. I’m 6’2″ and 70kg (about 155lb). I’ve always been 70kg. At some points in my life I’ve done nothing but eat lard and lie on the couch, and at other times I’ve been involved in regular vigorous exercise and eaten healthy food. No matter what, I’ve always been 70kg.

    I’m 40 this year, and I need to get regular exercise so that I don’t die at the age of 55. But whether I go or not makes no difference to my body shape etc. So the motivation isn’t there.

    I can find a gloomy side to everything, if I look hard enough.

  53. I am a 42 year old woman.

    I am 5’9″ tall.

    I weigh 165 lbs.

    My body fat percentage (according to a caliper test): 24.5%

    Wii Fit declared that I was in exceptionally good shape. Flattering, but not exactly accurate.

    Leslee

  54. David V.S. says:

    My wife and I have been thinking of purchasing a Wii and Wii Fit for a few months. But we do not own a television and the Wii does not itself have a plug for a computer monitor.

    Shamus: In a earlier post you mentioned a device for putting your game consoles on a monitor. What is it? How much does it cost?

    Other commentors: What devices for putting a Wii onto a monitor do you use?

  55. Zack says:

    freykin: If you are 6’6″ and 220 pounds than you have a BMI of 25 which is considered normal. If the Wii is showing you as obese I can only guess that it may not include height over 6′ which 6′ with 220 would just barely put you into obese. Also 6′ is where the 160 target lies not above 6′. no way coudl a 6’6″ person survive at 160. *shudder* I would check the settings on the Wii to make sure it has the proper height. If it does, try changing the height to 6′ and see if it increases your BMI or leaves it at 30 (which is where obese starts on the BMI scale according the the gov’t site I linked earlier – http://www.consumer.gov/weightloss/bmi.htm) It may just be that towering behemoths like you were not within the realm of comprehension of the programmers. ;-)

    krellen: Yeah, some people are going to be larger. But you should never feel “I am gonna be fat no matter what”, It may be true that you will always be larger than a swede or an asian. But Several of my friends are built like trains and recently have been doing more to keep in shape. While they are still large people they look GOOD! Being fit is where the payoff is, skinny is not a goal, healthy is much better. If you exercise and feel great it often makes you look great. Speaking of that I need to go to the gym… Too easy to stay at home during winter and programming doesn’t keep my heart in shape. :-(

  56. Cineris says:

    @Zack – Well, I’ll agree that BMI’s accuracy is a bit better than it’s usually given credit for, in an attempt to make people feel psychologically better about being overweight. But there is also truth to the perception that the values it sets up as ideal… aren’t.

    The fact of the matter is, there really isn’t an objective measure of “fitness” because every person’s body is different, and one’s fitness for any given activity doesn’t translate 1:1 to other activities. The only thing I think that matters is understanding that getting some moderate level of exercise is important, and understanding that your body is different from others’ — So eating the government-recommended food pyramid might actually be a cause of weight issues.

  57. MuonDecay says:

    I think an agreeable bottom line is this: BMI, especially the way Wii Fit measures it, is often a patent lie.

    If you’re really curious about your fitness level and what kind of goal you should set to achieve a better fitness level, you can make an appointment with your doctor to talk with them about getting into shape. Ask them to measure your body fat percentage and request their guidance in setting a fitness goal.

    I’m uninsured and yet the net cost of doing the above would probably only cost me $70

    That’s barely more than buying a console game new.

  58. Krellen says:

    Zack:

    I actually said “I’m going to be fat because I’m not willing to devout the amount of time necessary not to be”, which isn’t exactly the same thing.

    I could run ten miles every day and lift weights for an hour every day and be a nice, fit – if large – individual, but I’m not willing to do that much work for it.

  59. Zolthanite says:

    @David:

    When I have to, I use a TV Tuner card with external speakers, running DScaler since ATI has pretty bad software interface to interact with it (Not for the Wii, but for my 360). I used to use it to play Rock Band and Guitar Hero, so it’s reasonably responsive, but it takes some heavy tuning to get the sync right. Also briefly freezes for a few frames every now and again and it fairly CPU intensive.

    At the moment though, I’m looking for a reasonable, PC-compatible LCD TV so I don’t need to worry about software.

  60. Derek K. says:

    Shamus: In college, I was 5’11.75″. I weighed 135 lbs. People would pretty much offer me food everywhere I went, and I wore 29/34 jeans. So yeah, I know the skinny guy thing.

    Then I got married and got happy, and now I’m in the “as long as it’s only one X, I’m happy” category. I prefer it here. ;)

  61. gorthol says:

    I’m not going to repeat what everyone has said about ignoring BMI and just staying healthy. Instead, I’ll talk about the little balance board avatar. That thing is the most annoying avatar I’ve ever seen. It’s incredibly insulting and rude, and really seems like it would depress as many people as it motivated.

    I tried the Wii Fit with 7 of my friends. I was the only one who wasn’t accused of tripping over his own feet while walking. The board has a disgusting personality, and takes every opportunity it has to degrade your morale.

    In conclusion, you’re not the only one who hates it, Shamus.

  62. Yar Kramer says:

    I don’t have a Wii at all (lord knows I want one …), but I imagined the “You have been judged by a machine, and found wanting” line in GLaDOS’s voice. ;)

  63. ThaneofFife says:

    We got Wii Fit last Saturday night.

    I am, I’m afraid to admit, 5’11” and 325lbs (though the weight guessers at the carnival usually guess about 240–I used to do powerlifting before I started law school and gained 50+lbs). So, yeah I am obese, and Wii Fit gives me a BMI of 45 and some change. I would add though that for those who don’t know, the balance board says in its high-pitched, helium-infused voice (imagine Christopher Lloyd at the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit) “That’s obese!”

    I can’t help it, but I find this cute in a way that makes me want to violently shake it. Also, the humanoid trainers that show you how to do yoga and strength exercises can be extremely condescending. As I wrote the above, my girlfriend’s ankle gave out while she was doing the plank, and while she was rolling it around to make sure it was okay, the trainer snapped, “Hey! Those muscles aren’t going to train themselves!” Very annoying.

    But that being said, I’ve lost 3.5lbs in my first week of using Wii Fit, and I’ve been eating anything I want (more than usual). I’ve also found myself extremely sore. And that’s a good thing. I think if you do this thing an hour per day, and spend most of that on yoga, aerobics, and strength (balance games are for warm-up and nothing else), then you can really make progress on this thing. So yeah, give me Marvin or R. Lee Ermey for a trainer, but otherwise it’s not bad. Just wish there were more activities.

  64. TSED says:

    I have always hovered around 81-82 kilos (~180 pounds).

    I am about 176 cm (though I haven’t measured my height in about a year, I don’t expect to have grown much. I’m 20, after all.)

    I have a really solid build. I can’t wear shirts long enough for me because my shoulders are too broad – I need to wear large or extra large which always hangs over my waist (which I’ve grown accustomed to and prefer now).

    Let me re-emphasize that. I have a really solid build. I remember in middle and highschool we got one of those electric jolter machines and I was usually around 14-15% body fat. That is not bad.

    BMI indexes say I’m overweight (especially since I used to be shorter back when I had all these gym classes). It’s preposterous. I am terribly inflexible but my cardio-vascular fitness was amazing. I was strong enough to pick up my martial arts instructor (who weighed well over 200 pounds because he was that “professional athlete” guy) and RUN without being encumbered. I could sprint for a good two minutes.

    Back when I was actually in shape, BMI told me I was well into the overweight range. Now that I am merely nominally active (I walk every where, probably a good 8km a day, maybe more, but do NOTHING else) but am taller BMI tells me I’m riiiiiight on the border of healthy / overweight. Ok, so replacing 10 pounds of muscle with 10 pounds of fat makes you in better shape (or maybe even bigger trade offs, I don’t know)? Yeah. Frigging. Right.

    BMIs are worthless for the many reasons already touched upon. Weights are ultimately worthless. You probably can’t picture my build because I don’t look the “super thick muscle guy”, I somehow hide a lot of mass. I suspect my ginormous head has something to do with it.

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