Fitness Blogger Takes BMI Standards to Task

Photo: Facebook/Go Kaleo
Photo: Facebook/Go Kaleo

Amber Rogers is a health and fitness blogger who has documented her weight-loss journey since 2008, when she realized that she was stuck in unhealthy patterns. However, Rogers recently noticed that despite her shedding pounds, she was still in the overweight category of the BMI (body mass index), a government chart that sets healthy weight standards. She's now calling for a change to the BMI calculation, arguing that it doesn't reflect the reality of the average female body.

BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches, squared. The number is then converted into a percentage used by doctors and health care experts to determine who might be obese or at risk for particular health conditions.

"I am regularly referred to as ‘lean’ and ‘thin,'" Rogers wrote on her blog, Go Kaleo. "It is time for a new paradigm. Our worth as women (and men) is not determined by our weight, or our clothing size, or any other arbitrary number assigned to us. Not even how much we can deadlift."

She added, "I weigh 170 pounds, which puts me just into the ‘overweight’ category on the BMI charts according to my height (5’9"). Today I am wearing a pair of jeans that is a size 14W – which means I found them in the plus size department (I also have clothes in my closet in sizes 4-12, that all fit. I most often wear clothes labeled between 8 and 12)."

And Rogers isn't the only one who thinks the BMI calculation needs to be changed or eliminated entirely. In 2010, the New York Times published an article in which several doctors questioned the BMI metric, which is solely based on height and weight and doesn't take factors such as muscle mass into account. "Fat takes up about four times the space of muscle tissue, for example, so it is quite possible to look and feel fatter even if your height and weight remain the same," wrote Jane E. Brody.

After Rogers's blog post struck a chord with many readers, she went into more detail on Facebook, where she has more than 55,000 followers. "Turns out real people appreciate many different body types, contrary to what the diet industry would have you believe! We do not all have to conform to one narrow set of aesthetic rules to be deemed attractive! ... Some of us are built thick and strong, some of us are slender and lithe, some of us are curvy and soft, some of us are angular and straight...and for every shape, there is someone who appreciates it."

It was Rogers's two daughters who originally inspired her get in shape. As she saw them begin to adopt some of her own unhealthy patterns, Rogers knew that, as their primary female role model, she could help establish a healthier lifestyle for their family. "With the simple act of trying to set a good example though, something amazing and unexpected happened. I healed myself and profoundly changed my body," she wrote.

Now, as she lobbies to change the role BMI plays in health is gauged, Rogers could be making another important change for her daughters: Getting rid of the way we associate weight with health, and instead focusing on fitness and happiness.

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