BMI: Bite Me Index
BMI: Bullying My Insecurities
BMI: Bitchy Mood Indicator
BMI: Being Mildy Indecisive
Most days of the week I wish BMI stood for anything other than Body Mass Index. I started monitoring my BMI when I was 12 years old. I had yahoo-ed (remember when yahoo was cooler than google?) everything I could about weight because all the kids at school were calling me all of the cruel variations of the word fat. I wasn’t fat, not even close, and the funniest part of the whole situation was the fact that some of the kids calling me names actually were overweight. I can’t speak for what it feels like to be the largest kid in the class but I can’t even come close to explaining how humiliating it is to be teased as so when it’s not even true.
No doubt the world wide web provided way more information than I had bargained for. I stumbled across all kinds of charts and graphs, pro-ana thispiration, and tons of online journals all on the subject of body weight. For the most part what caught my attention was the 5lb per inch rule and the BMI scale. To this day I’m beyond thankful that I was drawn to the equations and graphs instead of the other alternatives, but I can only imagine how many young girls (or anyone really) end up focused on the other content out there.
I had no concept that every body is different with it’s own individual ideal body weight, in my 12-year-old mind I was supposed to look like and weigh the same as the girls that didn’t get teased everyday. So between the 5lb rule, the BMI scale, and what I overheard at the lunch table, I figured 110-115 lbs was my ideal weight. My star on the BMI chart was precariously close to that horrible yellow “overweight” category which, in my mind, was basically just as bad as actually being overweight. I blew the whole scale out of proportion and developed my own version of ranges within the “healthy” range. As far as I was concerned I was indeed overweight.
I didn’t really do much with that information until about 2 years later. By that time I had grown 2 inches and gained about 15 pounds and it happened. The star on the graph had crossed the line. I was officially overweight. I had gone on for years considering myself overweight but still in the back of my mind I knew that, at least medically speaking, I wasn’t. But not now. Now my BMI had reached the dreaded 25.
This time I was actually intent on losing weight. I took to the internet and thanks to nothing other than what I learned from reading all of the Chicken Noodle Soup for the Teenage Soul books I was able to steer clear of all the advertisements for miracle pills and anorexia support sites. I knew it was important both physically and mentally to lose weight “the healthy way” but that didn’t mean I knew what was actually healthy or not. I played sports, I ate fruits and vegetables, but all I could focus on was that darn BMI scale telling me I was in fact unhealthy.
Long story short, I followed what something on the internet told me was healthy (it wasn’t) and started an online journal to help hold me accountable. I was 15, had lost 15 lbs, and felt the best I had felt about body since the first time someone called me fat when I was about 5 years old. But I still wasn’t happy with what I saw on that darn BMI scale.
It didn’t take long for me to get burned out on the too strict and not actually healthy diet and eventually I started to eat like a normal healthy teenager. I kept playing sports, and settled right around 140-145 lbs. That dot was back in it’s favorite position, just close enough to the overweight range to make me feel like I might as well be in it. I literally felt awesome about myself 90% of the time, the 10% that I spent feeling fat was when I would look at that f-ing BMI chart.
I had the run of the mill college weight gain experience and again went back to the internet to look for solutions. My googling lead me to all the same stuff as before along with a few new things: SparkPeople and blogs. The first blog I ever read was Meals and Miles (Graduate Meghann back then). SparkPeople taught me the whole “weight loss isn’t about dieting, it’s about making lifestyle changes” concept, but reading blogs like Meghann’s was probably the first time I was able to really see the concept. It wasn’t just some success story blurb with before and after pictures, it was actually someone’s life, meal for meal, work out for work out, living a healthy lifestyle (and that’s how I fell in love with blogs). But even after getting a pretty firm grasp on the whole healthy lifestyle thing I couldn’t shake the that nagging disappointment over my BMI.
By this point I was well into the overweight category, so far in fact that I had now become precariously close to the obese range. What. The. Heck. I knew very well that I wasn’t as healthy as I could be, and sure my lifestyle could use a few changes, but almost obese?You have to be kidding me.
I worked hard after a little over a year I had lost about 15 pounds. In that year I had finished a marathon, a half marathon, and a bunch of other races. I had given up fast food almost completely, ate the recommended servings of fruit and veggies (and usually more) almost every day, and consistently hit the gym 4-6 times a week. I still felt like I had some work to do, but overall I felt pretty good about myself, I felt healthy, I did not feel “overweight” at all. The BMI scale told me I was wrong.
I know there are tons of things out there influencing how women (and men) view themselves and their weight, things that are way more outrageous and far more detrimental than the BMI scale. But for me personally, I know I’m never going to look like who ever is on the cover of Women’s Health Magazine and I know that the media that bombards me everyday is full of unrealistic and photoshopped images. Sure sometimes it all makes me feel a little insecure, but it never makes me feel like I’m unhealthy. That BMI number, however, having nothing to do with how I look, what I eat, or how much I exercise has the audacity to tell whether or not my I have a healthy body weight.
I really, really don’t know why I still put so much stock in it, maybe it’s because I see it hanging on the wall in my doctor’s office, or maybe it’s because it’s the standard that the trainers at my gym use. Whatever it is, it’s driving me crazy.
I definitely have days where I think “What does it matter? I’m always going to be overweight. Why should I even keep trying.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read on a blog, on SparkPeople, or on a random yahoo answers page some variation of “I eat healthy, I workout consistenly, I generally feel good about myself, but according to the BMI I’m still technically overweight. Trying to lose weight is basically making me miserable but I guess I should keep working on it. I didn’t start losing weight so that I could achieve an overweight status.”
Maybe this so called “healthy BMI” range is physically healthy, but for me and I’m sure some others, it’s just not mentally or emotionally healthy anymore.
Let’s eat some good food, break a sweat on the regular, and weigh what ever the heck makes us FEEL healthy. Maybe one day I’ll fall back into that glamorous “healthy” range, but for right now I’m trying my hardest to be ok with the fact that I might not.