A good friend of artist and historian James Lachlan MacLeod has a daughter in the eighth grade who was tasked with finding out her BMI. BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It's an antiquated method used to qualify people as healthy or not based on the ratio of their weight and height.
When sharing the girl's responses to two questions on a worksheet given to her by a gym teacher, MacLeod noted, "As a strong and muscled athlete, her BMI came out as 'obese.'"
That, in of itself, suggests the faulty nature of BMI. But this middle-school girl gives a much lengthier and more powerful explanation for why BMI measurement is problematic.
Her first essay was in response to the simple question of "What is BMI?"
BMI is an outdated way of defining normal weight, under weight, over weight, and obesity by taking one person's height divided by their weight. One of the formula's obvious flaws, explains Alan Aragon, the Men's Health Weight Loss Coach and nutritionist in California, is that it has absolutely no way of discriminating fat and muscle. So, let's say there is a fairly athletic woman who maintains a decent diet, she's five feet, six inches, and she weighs 190 pounds, but 80% of her body is muscle. That doesn't matter when calculating BMI! This woman's BMI would be 30.7, and she would be labeled obese. Does that make sense to you? Because it sure doesn't make sense to me. How could someone who stays fit, eats healthy, and has a low metabolism be in danger of heart disease and diabetes? Oh, that's right, because she isn't in danger of obesity and heart disease. This woman is active and healthy and she is the furthest thing from obese. In conclusion, BMI is an outdated way of determining a person's body health, and it's a measurement that should not be used in a school setting where students are already self-conscious and lacking confidence in their unique bodies.
Her second essay answers the worksheet's demand that she calculate her BMI.
Now, I'm not going to even open my laptop to calculate my BMI. And I'll tell you why. 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. But, at the beginning of the year, I started having very bad thoughts when my body was brought into a conversation. I would wear four bras to try and cover up my back fat, and I would try to wrap ace bandages around my stomach so I would look skinnier. So my lovely mother did what any parent would do when they noticed something wrong with her child, she took me to my doctor. My doctor and I talked about my diet and how active I am. He did a couple of tests and told me I was fine. He said even though I'm a bit overweight, he's not going to worry about me based on how healthy I am. So this is where I don't calculate my BMI because my doctor, a man who went to college for eight years studying children's health, told me my height and weight are right on track. I am just beginning to love my body, like I should, and I'm not going to let some outdated calculated and a middle school gym teacher tell me I'm obese, because I'm not. My BMI is none of your concern because my body and BMI are perfect and beautiful just the way they are.
If that was simply too many words and too much poignancy on the part of an eighth-grader, MacLeod boiled down the girl's essays into one cartoon.
Sure, that's a great cartoon, but nothing can top this girl's epic slaying of BMI:
"I am just beginning to love my body, like I should, and I'm not going to let some outdated [calculation] and a middle school gym teacher tell me I'm obese, because I'm not."
Kids are smart.