Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to categorize an individual into one of the following four categories: underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. BMI calculations use height and weight measurements to calculate a BMI number – high BMIs supposedly being an indicator of high levels of body fat. However, this calculation is flawed as it does not take into account body fat versus muscle weight in the calculation; therefore, people may be labeled as overweight or obese, yet they are actually athletic and healthy. One study even found that over half of individuals labeled as overweight by BMI actually had a healthy cardiometabolic profile and 1/3 of individuals labeled as “normal” had an unhealthy cardiometabolic profile.
Using this flawed system may be problematic, especially among adolescents and young adults, as many individuals already suffer from low body image and self-esteem due to pressure to fit the “ideal” body standard. One 8th grader, who had suffered from body image issues in the past, took a stand against an assignment where students were required to calculate and report their BMI to the class. Instead of completing the assignment, she wrote an inspiring essay describing why BMI is inappropriate and shouldn’t be used to label students’ health status.
Her essay goes on to say that:
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a “bigger girl,” and I’m completely fine with that; I’m strong and powerful. When you put a softball or a bat in my hand they are considered lethal weapons.”
She explains that she has had severe body image issues in the past – to the point where she wrapped her body to compress her fat so she would look skinnier. However, after visiting a doctor, he explained while she is a “bit overweight,” she is active and healthy and he is not at all worried about her health.
She concluded with this powerful sentiment that all young women and men should remember:
“I am just beginning to love my body, like I should, and I’m not going to let some outdated calculator and a middle school gym teacher tell me I’m obese, because I’m not.”
So remember, don’t let society tell you that your body makes you less than.
By Sarah London