Published April 10, 2012
With plenty of cash to hire personal trainers and private chefs, Hollywood's hottest have all the tools in place for perfect health. But if you judge celebrities' fitness only by BMI, or body mass index, the numbers tell a different story.
BMI looks at height and weight to measure a person's body fatness, placing them in four broad categories: underweight (18.5 or lower), normal weight (18.5 to 24.9), overweight (25 to 29.9), and obese (30 and up). Some life insurance companies look at BMI measurements in considering the cost of coverage. But is this really an accurate measure of body composition?
Often the numbers don't add up
For athletes with loads of lean muscle mass, BMI measurements can be misleading because the scale doesn't differentiate between muscle and fat. That means that the world's top sports stars are often classified as overweight. But even the trimmest actors—particularly the shorter ones—aren't immune to confusing BMI classifications.
We asked our top two nutrition experts to put BMI to the test with seven celebrities. Registered dietitians Frances Largeman-Roth and Julie Upton, both members of the American Dietetic Association, analyzed photos of these stars. Keeping heights in mind, they offered their best estimates of their weights, and we started crunching the numbers.
1. Angelina Jolie
Estimated BMI: 17.9
The mother of six must stay lean chasing after her growing brood: At 5'8", our experts say she probably weighs about 118 lbs.
Though many people envy her beauty and accomplishments, her estimated BMI of 17.9 suggests she'd be an even better role model if she gained some weight.
Estimated BMI: 21
This "Bootylicious" songstress gets called curvy by the tabloids, but by BMI standards, she's perfectly proportioned. Our experts estimate that Beyonce is a svelte 130 lbs. At 5'6", that gives her an estimated BMI of 21—well within the "normal" range.
So if Beyonce's BMI is right on target, what about all the super-skinny celebs that make her seem shapely?
3. Tom Cruise
Estimated BMI: 26
He may not be scaling mountains in his movies anymore, but there's nothing wrong with Cruise's current physique—or is there?
The 5'7" star clocks in at an estimated 166 lbs. With a corresponding BMI of 26, he'd be considered "overweight."
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4. Tony Romo
Estimated BMI: 28.8
Whatever you think about his performance on the field, it's hard to deny that Romo's body is pretty perfect. But if you go by BMI standards, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback is "significantly overweight." He's listed at 6'2" and 224 lbs., giving him a BMI of 28.8.
"A better measurement of an athlete’s body composition includes a comparison of lean body mass to body fat," says Largeman-Roth.
5. Serena Williams
Estimated BMI: 22.1
Not all athletes seem to totter on the edge of obesity. This super-fit tennis sensation has a BMI of 22.1, which is well within the normal range.
At 5'9", her competition weight has recently been just 150 lbs., meaning she packs on a whole lot of muscle and practically zero fat.
6. Jennifer Love Hewitt
Estimated BMI: 21.9
She's made headlines for some unflattering bikini photos, but the former Party of Five star has nothing to hide.
Our experts say she probably weighs about 120 lbs. At just 5'2", and with an estimated BMI of 21.9, that's perfectly fine for her frame.
7. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Estimated BMI: 30.8
This former bodybuilder and Terminator star is the poster child for physical fitness. But surprise! He's "obese"—at least according to his BMI. He stands tall at 6'2" and our experts say Schwarzenegger probably weighs in at about 240 lbs., which would give him a super-high BMI of 30.8.
Schwarzenegger shouldn't sign up for a weight-loss program just yet. All that muscle mass can yield a misleading BMI. "I'm hoping that we'll find another easy calculation to replace BMI soon," says Largeman-Roth. "After all, it was developed in the 1800s."