Let me go ahead and lead with this…the BMI, Body Mass Index, is a culturally-biased, inaccurate bulls*#!% scale! Ahhhhhhhhh, yes, that feels so good to get off my chest. It was developed in the 1830’s and we all know that body shapes have changed significantly since then. If we have changed, why hasn’t the scale? Okay, okay, okay, I’ll temporarily get off my soap box in order to give you the real and the research to support my assertion.
A 2010 study , Accuracy of Current Body Mass Index Obesity Classification for White, Black and Hispanic Reproductive-age Women,” conducted by Drs. Rahman and Berenson, concluded that “the National Institutes of Health should use race/ethnic specific BMI cutoff values to more accurately identify obesity in this population than the existing classification system.” Yes, you saw those two critical words: MORE ACCURATELY!
You already know that I completely cosign with the findings of Dr. Rahman and Dr. Berenson. However, as my professor pointed out during one of my rants about the cultural insensitivity of the BMI, if we didn’t use the BMI, what would we use? It is easy and efficient, I admit that. A person can quickly calculate their height and weight (click here to check your BMI) and immediately know their body mass index. But, just because it’s easy, does that mean that we must keep using it?
Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to her question….yet! I’m working on something revolutionary called the B2MI scale. You’ll hear more about my scale in about five years. Until the time of my big reveal, all I can do is educate you, my readers, about the falsehoods and feelings of inadequacy associated with this BS scale.
I know you can’t tell much by a picture, but humor me and take a quick look at the above picture on the right. That’s me. I was in the best shape of my life when this picture was taken. I was teaching several classes per week and my body was loving the results. But, according to the scale, as a 5’6″ Black woman coming in at 150 pounds, my BMI was 24.21. This means that I was less than one point away from being classified as overweight! Yes, LESS THAN ONE FLIPPIN’ POINT!
This is my field and I know that the BMI scale is flawed, but not everyone knows that. Furthermore, if you only looked at my numbers on a piece paper you might dismiss me before even giving me a chance. A chance to join the military. A chance to join the fire department. A chance to compete in a pageant. A chance for anything that considers a persons’ ability based upon their weight! Plain and simple, especially as it relates to my Black sisters, it just does not make sense to have a universal cutoff value to categorize people as “normal,” “overweight,” “obese,” or even “morbidly obese” [2,3].
So, as you prepare to wrap up this week’s Blacktivate lesson, I encourage you to view the BMI as a non-factor. It does NOT tell your story! It does NOT reflect your efforts! It didn’t have YOU in mind when it was created and it sho nuff doesn’t have YOU in mind now! YOU, my Luvs, are uniquely and wonderfully made! Never forget it and never let any scale, BMI or the kind that you stand on, strip you of this truth. Engage in your daily physical activity for the pureness of movement and all the other health benefits will eventually come. Simply put, let your joy be in your JOurneY.
Until next week, continue to activate your health and wellbeing. Continue to Blacktivate!
Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni
- Rahman, Mahbubur and Abbey B Berenson.(2010) “Accuracy of current body mass index obesity classification for white, black, and Hispanic reproductive-age women” Obstetrics and gynecology. 115(5): 982-8.
- Razak F, Anand SS, Shannon H, Vuksan V, Davis B, Jacobs R, Teo KK, McQueen M, Yusuf S. (2007) “Defining obesity cut points in a multiethnic population.” Circulation. 115(16):2111-8.
- Evans EM, Rowe DA, Racette SB, Ross KM, McAuley E (2006) “Is the current BMI obesity classification appropriate for black and white postmenopausal women?” Int J Obes (Lond). 30(5):837-43.