Why Body Mass Index Is Bullsh*t

If you’ve ever been to the doctor, more than likely, your BMI has been discussed. BMI is short for body mass index. And I’m here to tell you it’s utter bullshit. 

The body mass index is a calculation of kg/m2or body mass divided by our height, squared. It doesn’t differentiate between fat or muscle. There are four categories this arbitrary number can place you in: 

  1. Underweight (18.5 or below)
  2. Normal (18.5-25)
  3. Overweight (25-30)
  4. Obese (30 and up)

How did we get this ridiculous calculation? A Belgian mathematician by the name of Adolphe Quetelet wanted to understand the science behind statistics. For instance, he noticed an increase in poverty stricken areas and crime. He called his research “social physics.” Quetelet created a simple formula for body mass in order to assist governments and their resource allocations per population. He didn’t create it for medical purposes, and even spoke out against using it for measuring health. If the creator of the formula didn’t want it used for such a purpose, what happened? In 1972, American physiologist Ancel Keys started using it as a measurement for obesity. 

71.6% of Americans over the age of 20 are considered overweight by the CDC. 39.8% are considered obese. Essentially, using the BMI as a measurement, America is fat. However, how does the BMI factor into deciding the difference between 25 pounds of fat vs. 25 pounds of muscle. 

Oh wait, it doesn’t!

It’s an inaccurate tool and inaccuracy has no place in medicine or science. Dear doctors, there’s other ways to tell us we’re fat. If indeed we are fat. And I am so not sorry for saying this, but who cares if we are? Please don’t tell me you care. Please don’t tell me you’re worried about my health. Please don’t play the part of the concerned troll. 

Shame doesn’t lead to change.

There’s a movement happening right now. It’s called body positivity. It’s a social movement that believes human beings should have a positive body image. Fat or thin, body positive advocates believe you should be allowed to love your body, as is. There’s a backlash in which people are claiming our self-love is leading to an obesity epidemic. They claim that because we accept ourselves as is, we’re glorifying being fat. First, weight is not synonymous with health. I have suffered from disordered eating since my teens and I destroyed my body, all in the name of thinness. And I wasn’t doing it for my doctor. I was doing it to look how Sports Illustrated told me I needed to look in a swimsuit. Thin does not equal healthy. Fat does not equal unhealthy. 

Armed with their bullshit concern, online trollers claim accepting ourselves is killing us. Nah, what’s killing us is diet culture. Heart disease and obesity are constantly linked in the media. Wanna know a secret? Weight cycling, aka yo-yo dieting, causes severe inflammation, especially over long periods of time and that inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease. We can argue correlation equals causation all day, but it doesn’t. When murder rates increase, so do ice cream sales, but no one is saying Ted Bundy is the Good Humor Man. Correlation does not equal causation. 

We want to vilify fat. Fat doesn’t kill. Depression caused by weight stigmas can kill. Weight discimination by health providers can kill. My BMI tells me I’m in the obese category. I have fluctuated so much due to my fucked up relationship with food. Millions of people have. And yet, we still ignore the classism and ableism that corresponds to being an “ideal” weight. 

BMI is bullshit. 

Society’s beauty ideal changes every decade. 

Women’s bodies become trends. 

If you’re fat, you’re viewed as having a moral failing. 

I’m done. I’ve been done for a long time. I’m not playing this lethal game anymore. My body is my body. And whether it’s fat or thin or in between, that’s my business. An arbitrary number from a 150 year old cisgender white guy will no longer determine my health and my worth. 

I am worthy. 

You are worthy. 

So, go live your life on your terms. 

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