For those of you who don’t know, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a scale that uses only your height and weight to generate a score. Essentially this score is your body’s health grade. It does not factor frame, weight distribution, age, sex, muscle mass, or lifestyle. Your value is reduced to the ratio of how much you weigh versus how tall you are. That’s it. You can Google it; there are a billion different calculators available online, and they’re all fueled by the same overly simplistic pack of lies.
If you’ve never heard of it, I’m surprised. The BMI gets pulled into a lot of otherwise enlightened conversations about weight loss, body image, and physical fitness in general, which instantly lose their credibility as far as I’m concerned.
First slide, please.
This is me in very early 2013, just before St. Patrick’s Day. This is the outfit I wore to a friend’s wedding, because I’m an ass. Anyway, at the time of this photo I weighed anywhere between 200 and 205, depending on the day and where I was in my menstrual cycle. I had just lost 55-60 pounds over the course of the preceding year, and was still adhering to the diet that got me there. I was eating only lean meats, and had cut out nearly all added sugar, salt, fat, and general junk. I look pretty good, don’t I? Slim, shapely, healthy.
According to the BMI, I was at a score of 29.4, classified as “overweight”. Take a long look at my body in this picture, look me in the face, and tell me I was still fat. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
In this photograph, taken this year, I’m probably hovering at about 220 after two years of hormonal birth control and the subsequent depression and increased appetite that followed and, nevertheless, persisted. Again, take a good look at my body. Do I look thick? Yes. Fat? A little. Form an opinion quietly, then let’s continue.
Now let’s ask the BMI: 31.6
I have officially entered the “Obesity” category of the BMI. This score is being rendered to a vegan body that cycles to and from work everyday, does not drink soda, eat candy, or add creamer to coffee. If I were to describe that body to someone before showing a picture of it, they may even envision a smaller person, but surely never an obese one. I may not spend everyday loving myself, but I am never so foolish that I would believe someone who looked at my body and said, “You’re obese.” I’m a size eighteen today. Get real.
Now, for the sake of argument, I’m going to give the BMI one more weight to judge. I’m going to give it the weight I was in 2007, just before my family and I moved back to Iowa together. My weight then was 180, a full twenty pounds smaller than I was in the first picture posted here. The score for 180 pounds at my height is 25.8, which begins the assigned spectrum for “Overweight”.
To put that in perspective, 180 was my steady weight while I was addicted to methamphetamines.
Yes. Even at the skinniest I’d been in my adult life so far (and to this date, even), the BMI would have ruled me overweight. My friends routinely told me I was “wasting away”, but to hear the BMI tell it, I still was not working hard enough.
Unfortunately, I have no pictures from that time that are not severely Photoshopped, because I spent literal hours at a time manipulating pictures until they were more Pop Art than photographs. Remember the plaid skinny pants from my previous blog? Those were comfortable on me then, and they barely clear my ass now.
But, hey, come on. Surely that isn’t so extreme, right? Come on, let’s keep putting numbers in until we get me right in the median of the “Healthy” zone, shall we?
Not until I tried 145 did I reach the middle of the “Healthy Weight” spectrum for the BMI scale. Now, if you will, let’s review my 200-205 pound body.
In case anyone is confused, this is a proportioned body for a wide set woman who stands nearly six feet tall and does not yet have muscle mass. This body wears a size 15 pant, cycles ten miles without difficulty, lifts and tosses 50 pounds repeatedly without strain, and shits everyday like fucking clockwork. This is a healthy, operational body capable of great things. But according to the BMI, it is overweight, and by definition unhealthy.
Now subtract sixty fucking pounds. Yeah.
Here is a gallery of women who claim to be 5’10” with an hourglass figure who weigh in at 140 pounds. If you do your best to focus only on women with wide frames like mine, you’ll notice they’re muscular. So, apparently that’s the line. It hurts my head to do the weight math forwards and backwards to try and figure it out, but you get my drift. The women with average or smaller frames obviously thicken out the smaller you go, but for a woman like me, whose rib cage is 38″ around no matter what? Yeah, no. I just tried to measure how far apart the points of my pelvis are, and it’s like eighteen or twenty inches. Sometimes a bitch just big.
The point is, and will always be, that you can’t reduce a person to numbers. I am a 5’10” woman with a bulky skeleton and an hourglass figure. At 200 pounds I was comfortable enough in my skin to drop another ten pounds and turn my focus to strength training and muscle gain. In the end, I probably would have bottomed out at a lean 175 pounds with musculature. For the record, that puts my BMI at 25.1, which is still classified as overweight.
Numbers don’t lie, but presented incorrectly they are wickedly deceptive.
Know your body. Trust your body. When you feel lean, strong, healthy, and vibrant, THAT is your perfect score. Not some fucking math problem you can find online.
Update: Please refer to this new blog, for an amendment to my current weight.