Body Mass Index: The Meter of Lies

When suffering from an eating disorder numbers become a very integral part of life.  Weight, calorie intake, calorie output, and every number on every nutrition label are constantly circling the brain like a 90s cartoon character trying to do math.


Of course, there is also BMI.  BMI, short for Body Mass Index, is technically the measure of body fat using height and weight.  It calculates whether an individual is underweight, “normal”, overweight, obese, etc.  BMI is a widely used evaluation by doctors to assess a person’s health.  It is also a malicious meter of lies.  I was obsessed with my BMI while I was sick, before I realized that where I fell on the chart was not at all an accurate picture of my health or anyone else’s.

Pictured: actual evil wizard

First thing is first, the evil wizard who invented the BMI equation gave instructions to not use BMI the exact way we have been using it for decades.  Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet (ridiculous name) said himself that the formula should not be used to suggest an individual’s “fatness”.  Instead the equation was meant to measure obesity throughout a population to help the government determine how to allocate resources.  He’s still an evil wizard in my book though for bringing the BMI into the world in the first place.

BMI does NOT account for gender, age, waist size, bone density, or muscle mass.  For instance, athletes and people with strong bones will often be classified as overweight or obese because bone and muscle are denser than fat.  Some of the fittest and healthiest #bodygoals you can think of including many body building competitors are technically obese?!?! That alone should tell you how grossly inaccurate this whole concept is.

The very notion of BMI suggests there are defined groups of underweight, ideal, overweight and obese people and that these groups have borders that are separated simply by a decimal place.  That is completely ridiculous.  Let’s just call a spade a spade,  BMI is bullshit.

Before I had an eating disorder a doctor looked me in the face and told me that I was overweight.  I went home with this information and internalized it.  At that time according to the BMI chart all I had to do was lose 2 pounds to be considered “normal”.  2 POUNDS! Perhaps, had I not been PMSing that day or had gone to the bathroom before my appointment the doctor would have never said that to me.  But he did, and I heard it.  I set my weight loss goal and got crackin’.  Then, long story short I went too far and ended up with anorexia.

IMG_3328.PNGHere’s the thing about my eating disorder.  For the majority of the time I was sick, I was never “technically” deemed underweight according to the BMI chart.  An 18.5 or below is considered underweight and for the most part I hovered at 18.8.  My ED begged me to eat less and less to stay below that arbitrary threshold.  But while my hair was falling out, my bones were sticking out, my mental health was spiraling, and I was starving any doctor could have looked at me and told me that I was “ideal”!  Let me tell you, I was not.  Fortunately, now I don’t know my BMI and I honestly can’t even take the time to figure it out because I know that is a completely garbage number.

Let’s just all vow to never check our BMI again or let it dictate our behavior towards our bodies.  If a doctor tries to give you any advice based on it slap them!*

*Do not physically assault medical professionals, the slap should be figurative.


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Posted by

Rachel, 24, Badass feminist, Kitchen mess maker, Spanish speaking television buff, Bikram yoga junkie, Buffy Summers wannabe, ED Recovery warrior.

6 thoughts on “Body Mass Index: The Meter of Lies

  1. Because my anorexia is also coupled with compulsive over exercising my BMI was never low. The rest of my body comps showed me dying but my BMI? Um yeah, healthy. I’m glad I live where I live. ED places in the US are discontinuing BMI as a measure. It erks me to no end that the UK still uses it. I’ve had friends in the UK who don’t qualify for treatment despite the fact that they are near death. Grrrrrrrrrrr


    1. I completely agree! I’m glad you were able to qualify for treatment too. For me they told me I had “atypical anorexia” because I had all of the indicators of anorexia but without the BMI. It felt so invalidating and it is so dumb to hinge treatment on a number that doesn’t mean much when you can see the person in front of you suffering.

      Thank you for reading! 🙂


      1. The place I went actually had BMI as a nutrition class explaining how it was made up for insurance reasons, etc and was useless. As a former athlete I already knew this but many in the group didn’t. At my body building prime my BMI said I was obese even though I was malnutritioned and my body fat % was so low my body was starting to canilobize itself.


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