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The big “O” word

July 21, 2009

Part of my habitual morning routine, after checking my email, involves logging into Facebook. I can totally waste countless hours playing games, reading status updates and commenting on pictures. I’m a dork at heart and I just love that sort of thing.

Today, I had to do a double-take when one of the pictures that entered my News Feed was a friend of mine with the word FAT typed across her legs. When I enlarged it, the words “The New York Times thinks I’m…” appeared above her right shoulder. Say, what?!

My friend is what I’d call thin. She ran the Country Music Half Marathon earlier this year and is a member of the Nashville Rollergirls. Part of me would kill to be her size! (The other part of me is really working on NOT comparing myself to other women. ;))

Puzzled by the message she was trying to convey, I read the caption which directed me to this link. Kate Harding (of kateharding.net) compiled a slideshow called the BMI Project where she tried to demonstrate “just how ridiculous BMI standards are.”

Since my #1 goal has always been to attain a healthy BMI and since my ultimate goal weight is based on BMI standards, this certainly got me thinking. I came to realize that everyone is built differently. Scientifically, factoring in my age and height, 156lbs may be my ideal weight. But with my body type, I honestly have no clue how I will look when I get there.

Maybe I will be too skinny. Maybe I will still feel I have more to lose. Maybe I will be completely satisfied. Instead of letting that throw me off course though, I’ve decided to stick to my plan and follow through to the original goal, whatever the outcome. I can always reassess my needs afterward.

My goals aside, I understand Kate’s point. What about the girls that let words carry too much power? What is this vocabulary (overweight, underweight… and, of course, the big “O”: obese) — not to mention the stigma the media attaches to these words — doing to their (our) self-esteem as women?

I’m curious. What are your thoughts on the traditional BMI standards and Kate Harding’s slideshow?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Flynn permalink
    July 22, 2009 11:04 am

    I’ve always thought BMI was a crock. It doesn’t take into account muscle mass, your frame, etc. I’ll never forget a trainer at Gold’s Gym in N-town telling me that his BMI puts him in the “overweight” category. And he was a shredded-up personal trainer!

  2. Fran permalink
    July 22, 2009 12:41 pm

    When I look at the pictures and compare my figure with these I must be obese even though my BMI is around 28.5.
    When I see this I seriously have doubts by the meaning of your BMI and go with your thoughts that every person is different.

    At this moment I’m concentrating on losing weight and a lower fat % which is definitely too high.

    • Amanda permalink*
      July 22, 2009 1:21 pm

      Same here, Fran! I think that’s about the best we can do. πŸ™‚

  3. July 22, 2009 1:30 pm

    This terrifies me.. I’ve had a rough history with weight issues (notice I didn’t say weight, cause I don’t actually think I’ve had an issue with my weight itself, just weight issues). And I have avoided knowing my weight for years now. I think it’s unhealthy to have a number in a persons mind. But the fact that people are so obsessive and compulsive about that number is terrifying to me.

  4. Caitlin permalink
    July 23, 2009 12:33 am

    BMI doesn’t work for everyone, but it does work for a lot of people. Before you decide BMI is for you, it’s probably a good idea to research how applicable it is to your own body type (based on ethnicity, muscle build and so on). There are other measures you can use instead such as waist:hip ratio (requires a measuring tape) or body fat percentage (requires specialised equipment).

    The main thing, in my opinion, is to work on loving and nurturing your body and treating healthy food and exercise as part of looking after yourself, rather than any kind of punishment. It’s great that you are working on not comparing yourself to other people – feeling healthy and strong is a life-affirming goal and the end result can come in all shapes and sizes.

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