The Past is the Past · Uncategorized

Body Image by Number: The BMI Myth

I think I was about 15 when a doctor first told me I was “severely overweight”. I was wearing a size 13 or 15 at the time. I remember looking in the mirror and being pretty happy with my body. But then, how could I be severely overweight? Was I fatter than I thought I was? Did I have body dysmorphic disorder or something? I knew I was what I would have called “pleasantly plump” but I had no idea I was a fat cow!

Thus began my screwed up relationship with my body. Over the years, the numbers taunted me. I would feel good about myself, then the scale would tell me I weighed 200 pounds or the BMI chart would tell me I was obese. Or a doctor would tell me I was MORBIDLY obese. The numbers humiliated me. And there was always this broken relationship between the way I felt and the way the numbers said I should feel.

Broken Mirror by K8

The worst thing I have ever done to myself was to starve myself into losing over 100 pounds.  I kept going, even though people told me I looked thin enough, or even too thin.  But I didn’t believe them because the numbers still said I was fat.  I go into this in more detail in this post:

I Lost 100+ Pounds and Gained it All Back

Those numbers have done me so much harm in my life and it was all for nothing.

You see, I am 5’8″ tall and I am currently a size 14.  About the same size I was the first time a doctor told me I was severely overweight and I dieted and binged my way to actual obesity.  Who knows what would have happened if that doctor had taken the time to look at me as a unique human being, not just a number.

According to the BMI chart, my current weight of 193 pounds puts me just out of the “obese” category and in the “overweight” category.  But I don’t FEEL overweight!  I feel great.  I run.  I look good in clothes.  I’m healthy.  So what’s up with that BMI number?  Why do I have to feel like I’m not “fit” enough?  After 17 years of dealing with questioning my own feelings in the face of these numbers, I finally have an answer.

I had a body fat test done and it came out to 24.3% or “Fit”.  According to this test, I have 150 pounds of lean body mass.  That means that if I get to the upper limit of my “ideal weight” as stated by the BMI chart of 165 pounds, which I have in the past, I will be “underweight”.  No wonder everyone said I looked too thin.  I actually was.  If I got to the lower end of the “ideal weight” range of 125, I would be dead.

These new numbers actually coincide with how I feel.  I can finally stop trying to fit the square peg into the round hole.  I have found the square hole at last.

My “ideal weight” is 180 pounds, at which point I will be a size 12.  Though I have been thinner in the past, I have never been happy with my weight because I thought because of the numbers I was still fat.  But I was never fat until I doubted myself and started resenting my body.  It could have all been avoided if I could have trusted myself.

Never judge yourself based on a number.  We are all made differently.  Once chart will never work for everyone.  Don’t ever let a number tell you how to feel.

9 thoughts on “Body Image by Number: The BMI Myth

  1. Hi K8, I can relate to ou on so many levels, its like reading my own diary.
    For years now, since I had my daughter, I have constantly been on diets to remove the bounds and get my BMI down. I have lost around 50lb in the past within a few months on fad diets, only to put it back on.

    However since I have been working out I feel like I have lost 50lb on the inside (if that makes sense) I have so much more confidence and although I am not losing much weight, my body fat index has dropped loads and is at a very healthy level.

    Keep up the good work
    Love the blog

  2. Hi Zoe, Yes that is my own artwork. I’m a computer animator by trade, but an artist at heart 🙂 I’m glad you like it. It is based on a sketch I did at a much less happy time in my life. Interestingly, I don’t think I ever really understood it until much later. The version you see here is a rework of the original sketch, created in Adobe Illustrator.

  3. Great post, as always, Katy. BMI numbers have been driving me crazy for a while now. They have nothing to do with people who are fit and do a great deal of physical activity. According to the BMI numbers, someone like Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) could be considered obese. Have you seen him? He does not look obese to me!
    In 1998, the National Institutes of Health lowered the overweight threshold for BMI 27.8 to 25 to match international guidelines. The move added 30 million Americans who were previously in the “healthy weight” category to the “overweight” category. That means that 30 million people became overweight literally overnight without putting on a single pound. I don’t know about you, but it sounds insane to me.
    And the worst part is that it would be extremely rare for a doctor to actually take time and explain to the patient that this artificial number is oversimplified at best. It does not take in to account your body composition and overall level of fitness.
    In fact, BMI is mostly used by the health insurance companies to deny people coverage. If that doesn’t make you hate it, I don’t know what will.
    On a personal note, your artwork is beautiful and I’ll be the first one in line to buy that book when it hits the shelves! You’ve already got a good chunk of it right here on the blog, keep on writing, Katy!

  4. Thanks, Katy! I enjoyed your post. I’m 5’9″ and can relate to your frustration at seeing a higher number on the scale, but you know what is right for your body and your height. My best friend in high school was 5’2″ and weight about 110. Me, big amazon fatty, weighed I think about 155 and I was mortified and disgusted with myself because I weighed so much more than my friends! Didn’t have the maturity to realize that a size 10 on me looked just as good as a size 3/4/5 on her.
    Of course, now I’m WAY up but would like to be back at the 180 or 190 that I used to complain about. ; )

  5. This is usemyotheraddy…another fantastic blog, and outstanding artwork. You are really amazing. It looks like you’re still going to beat me to the finish! Congrats!

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