black woman

I swear, in the past few years, the health and fitness industry has morphed into a soul-crushing machine that pokes and prods at the self-image of women — using scientists, doctors, and the arbitrary Body Mass Index (BMI) as justification for disseminating harmful messages, images, and misinformation about weight.

Case in point, now researchers are trying to explain to anyone who will listen that it is actually OK to have some meat on your bones after years of suggesting to people they need to fit within the hopefully soon-to-be inadmissible normal range of the BMI chart.

A comprehensive study conducted of nearly 3 million people and published in Journal of the American Medical Assn found that slightly overweight people had better health outcomes than that of the morbidly obese, which isn’t news, but the following is:

[T]he scientists also found that people classified as overweight, with a BMI of 25 to 29.9, died at slightly lower rates — not higher — than those of so-called normal weight. And they found that those who were mildly obese, with a BMI of 30 to 34.9, died in no greater numbers than did their normal-weight peers.

Lead author Katherine M. Flegal was flabbergasted, as was most of her colleagues, at the initial results and had no explanation for why so-called overweight folks were living longer. Most hypotheses range from doctors being more aggressive with perceived overweight patients, which leads to better health outcomes, to folks carrying a little extra weight helps them in basic survival situations, but all in all, the most important revelation might be that some in the health industry are finally ready to admit the following:

Health professionals also know that the BMI — a number that is calculated using a person’s height and weight — is not a perfect indicator of how much extra fat someone carries because people who are extra muscular may score as overweight when they’re not.

It sounds like there will finally be a different health conversation in 2013 … one that involves much more candor and compassion for the myriad of reasons that have caused a spike in heart disease, cancer, and stroke in Americans.

  • Chillyroad

    Extra fat puts pressure on your joints.

  • YeahRight2011

    When I went into military boot camp I was 143 lbs and considered normal weight for my height according to the BMI. After 10 weeks of training I weighed 151 lbs, was 3 sizes smaller, and well defined. But according to the BMI I was overweight. I had to be “taped” for body fat calculation. Lets just say I don’t use the BMI for a reference and neither does my doctor. Especially when I see women (white and Latina) who weight less than me with guts, muffin tops, and jiggly arms-no shade.

  • E.M.S.

    No matter how big or small you are, whatever the scale says is not the end-all be-all assessment of your total health. That’s why I simply try to focus on healthy living, rather that what the number is.

  • Jenn

    These findings aren’t new. Doctors have been saying for years that it was actually healthier for the average person to be 10 lb over their “ideal” BMI. It’s cause the BMI scale was rewritten a while back….Oh yeah, and it’s crap.

  • Jenn

    You’re generalizing the term “overweight” to mean fat when the BMI system uses it in a very specific way. Basically they’re saying that an american woman who is 5’4″ is healthier at 145 lb than she is at 130 lb.

More in health, weight issues