Just A Number.
I walked into my doctor's office, down a long hallway, removed my shoes, and stepped on the scale. It read '173lbs.' As I quelled the negative thoughts that began spinning in my brain, the medical assistant took down my vitals and updated my medical history. Soon, the doctor came in. I was fairly new to her as a patient. Imagine my surprise when she began talking to me about BMI and what I needed to do to get myself out of the 'overweight' category. I am not the argumentative sort. I wanted to ask her if she'd looked at me at all since walking into the room. 'Uh, hi. I'm Jess. I just recently celebrated a squat PR of 205lbs and a pull-up PR of 5. I've completed 4 marathons and 15 half marathons. I go insane if I don't get outside on a daily basis. I am strong, not overweight.' Talk about give a girl a complex. Wasn't BMI debunked years ago as inaccurate anyway?
Body Mass Index (BMI) is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. Based on this number, they categorize you into underweight (less than 18.5), healthy (18.5-24.9), overweight (25-29.9) or obese (30 and greater.)
For me, this was 78.4 x (1.75)2 = 25.6
The CDC still supports Body Mass Index as an accurate assessment of weight category, but also goes on to say that it "can be an indicator of high body fatness." Why are doctors still using this to assess an individual's health? If you asked an athlete what their BMI is, you might be surprised to learn just how many get lumped into the 'overweight' or even 'obese' categories. What would BMI say about a 6 foot tall bodybuilder weighing in at over 200lbs when other assessments measure their body fat at less than 8%? 27.1 or 'overweight.' What does BMI do to a person's body image? And why are we using something that was created by a mathematician (not a physician) over 200 years ago?
Enough about BMI. It is clearly irrelevant. Let's talk about you. You. You are more than just a number. You are more than just the number on a scale, or the number spit out by an antiquated equation that supposedly tells your level of health. So, why do so many of us place such an emphasis on a number?
I stepped on that scale in the doctor's office and inwardly cringed. I do not own a scale, nor have I ever. I was raised by a mother who struggled with anorexia and weighed herself 3 times a day. I don't ever want that number to dictate my life. I topped out at 211 pounds in 2011, but the real wakeup call was when my pants no longer fit, not when that number on the scale jumped out at me (but more on this in another post.) Yet, seeing 173 on the scale made me feel more feels than I care to admit. As I left the doctor's office that day, I really dug deep to figure out where that emotional tie between the scale and how I feel about myself came from. I consider myself strong AF. But at first thought, 173 pounds seems like a lot for a girl who is 5'9", doesn't it? Where has this misconception come from that weight dictates health?
I went home and came to the realization that I have no reason to be unhappy with the way I am right this moment. You can be happy with you. Right. This. Moment. Your weight does not dictate your self-worth, nor does it dictate how you should feel about yourself. How do your clothes feel? How do they fit? Let your growth, progress and consistency be your measurement, not that number. The scale can be an indicator of progress, sure, but it is not the definition. Your weight can fluctuate 5-6 pounds in a day. How's that for a reality check?
As a strong advocate, of what I can only think of to call the self-love movement, I've realized how much of a continual process it is. I love my body. I love its continually growing strength. I love its weaknesses, for they remind me that I am human. I love my incessantly turning brain and its continued need to pursue passions. But I don't love it every moment of every day. My body and my brain need continual reminders of positive things, of love.
Accept your body as it is. Whether you're 76 or 307 pounds, we are all in this together, striving. If you want to use that number, make it an indicator, not a definition. Workout to better yourself, not to punish. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself daily of something that is body positive. Have you seen the guns on this girl? Damn, my booty looks good in these jeans. You get the picture.
Needless to say, I have a new primary care doctor. The last time I was in, she called me a badass when she saw my missing toenails from a half-marathon tragedy. I'll take that over BMI shaming any day.
If you want more on BMI, check out this well written NPR article and its links.