WHY BMI’S ARE BULLSHIT (and a Brief Personal History)
The term “BMI” haunts me, bringing me back to my 8th grade days, absorbed entirely by my eating disorder. Constantly craving that BMI of 18.4, the magic number which somehow knew my body composition and could deem me as “underweight”, whereas 18.5 was “normal”. What I believed was unfortunate, but in hindsight is quite lucky, was the fact that I never did reach that number I both loathed and loved. Not only did I know the exact weight I had to get to, but I also knew the exact weight I would have to get to if I grew an half an inch. It was an obsession.
I believed that if I was a “normal” weight nothing was wrong with me, and I wanted something to be wrong with me. All of my life I had done what I was told, worked hard in school, and did well in all of my sports. Everything was going great for me, but I wanted a way to rebel, I wanted something that I was in “control” of that could be kept my own little secret. I wanted to be different too, I wanted the attention I believed a “perfect” body would bring to me.
The summer going into freshman year meant soccer preseason, which helped me to somewhat consume more food, but it was still far too little and my thoughts were still entirely disordered. I didn’t act on these thoughts however, in that there was no reflection of them in my eating, until after soccer season, in around November or December. Around that time I was looking at many different blogs, searching for “thinspo”, “pro-ana”, and other blogs of the like. After I had found a few that I was very fond of, I decided to make one of my own. This was the first picture I posted.
At this point I weighed nearly 20 pounds less than I do now; just over a year and a half has gone by. I was obsessed with bones, especially hip bones. I loved how mine looked when I layed down, and would fall asleep holding onto them. I thought they were a measure of success; the more protruding they were, the “better” I was doing. Luckily, that year in school I took a gym class called physical fitness during my second semester. The class focused on crossfit style workouts, and I gradually became more and more interested in becoming as strong as I could. While my eating was still abnormal and not adequate, it was improving, and I thought I was being healthier. I knew it wasn’t really the right way to be eating, but I thought I was tricking the system in a way; I thought that I could eat the right types of foods to fuel me but keep my calories dangerously low and in that fashion, I could build muscle but keep my flat stomach and hopefully get that thigh gap I had always wanted. I lied to myself and convinced myself that it was healthy.
The end of the school year meant the end of the class, and I felt lost. It had been a major stress reliever, and something I truly enjoyed, and now it was gone. I started looking up Crossfit style workouts I could do on my own at home, and before I knew it, that August (2011), I was a member of my local Crossfit gym. That was the final step in this whole transformation or whatever you would like to call it. I had, at this point, begun following blogs that preached health and good food choices rather than skinniness and starvation. Blogs that applauded hard work and appreciated muscles, rather than bones. I went from eating under 1000 calories a day to nearly 3000. While I have gained over 25 pounds in the last two and a half years, I think I look a hell of a lot better now than I did then, and I am undoubtedly much, MUCH healthier . As a freshman I couldn’t deadlift 233, I couldn’t front squat 173, I couldn’t row 500m in 1:40. I couldn’t eat an entire meal without feeling guilty for days.
Now, as I said in the beginning of this all, BMI used to be a very big part of my life, seeing as it was the sole basis of my “goal weight”, as I’m sure is true for thousands, if not millions, of other girls. On a whim, I calculated my BMI today. Turns out, if I were to gain 5 pounds, my BMI would report me as being overweight. Luckily I’m at a place in my life now where this doesn’t affect me, and in fact, I actually find it quite humorous. Now, perhaps I have a distorted body image, but I’ll let you judge this one on your own; do I look 5 pounds away from being overweight in the top pictures?
I believe that the entire BMI system is poisonous. It implants false ideas of reality, and suggests that a simple equation using your height and weight can declare information regarding your overall health. The numbers represented by this formula are entirely insignificant, and say nothing about body composition. While there may be a correlation between healthy bodies and “healthy BMIs”, this doesn’t stand true for all people and all body types. I cannot understand why 13 year old girls would be taught about this system; rather than being encouraged to be as healthy as possible and to disregard weight, girls are told to keep track of their “health” through this equation. It was lethal to my perception of my body, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. This system isn’t working.
That frustrating moment when you spend a ton of time and energy on writing a huge long thing and you know no one will actually take the time to read it…