BMI Project

I put together a slideshow to demonstrate just how ridiculous the BMI standards are.

There’s also a Flickr set with a bunch more photos.

Please note: submissions are now closed (but maybe not permanently).

556 thoughts on “BMI Project”

  1. Damn, that was jarring to start it up and see my own face staring back at me in the first picture.

    Seriously educational. Goes to show exactly how useful the BMI metrics are…

  2. I’ve just been reading Amanda’s blog, and I find it interesting that at least two of our “underweight” participants have chronic health problems.

  3. Looking at those pictures, it seems like

    BMI under 20 = underweight
    BMI 20-40 = normal weight
    BMI 40+ = overweight

    might be a better set of guidelines. Funny how that’s also the way the life expectancy data pans out…

    On the other hand, putting people into any weight or BMI categories probably does more harm than good.

  4. Yeah, I was underweight til about 19, when I got on a pain medication that increases appetite. I’m more padded now (I’m on the Flickr group at my current weight) and much, much happier that way.

    I never did figure out what caused the underweight thing (even my doctors noted I seemed malnourished but never did anything about it) but it definitely seemed at least in part connected to the chronic health issues.

  5. THANK YOU for showing the full range of real, beautiful women (and cats). Women are human beings, not numbers on a scale.

    How dreary, and possibly unhealthy, the world would be if every single person fell within ‘normal’ BMI.

  6. (even my doctors noted I seemed malnourished but never did anything about it)

    Yeah, I was wondering whether you had a hard time getting adequate treatment because hey, at least you were thin. I think the medical ignorance knife cuts both ways on that one…

  7. I was sent here by Swistle, and as a MOm who gained a ton of weight breastfeeding my son, I now strive to be overweight. Sad hey, I think the “overweight” girls are what I am striving to be, not the “normal” ones. Someone feed the normal girls a donut! :)

    Awesome slideshow.

  8. Someone feed the normal girls a donut!

    Sleepynita, Kate mentioned on the original post that there will be no critiquing of participants’ bodies for any reason. It bears repeating here. I’m glad you enjoyed the project, but please keep in mind that the people who submitted their pictures are overwhelmingly happy, satisfied, active people who are rocking the body shape that’s right for them. The women and men with BMIs 25 and under don’t need a donut (or fancy cheeses) any more than I need to lay off them.

  9. Hooray, I’m part of the slideshow!

    Something that I find very strange about the BMI classifications is that there is only one kind of “underweight” but then there’s “overweight”, “obese” and “morbidly obese” for the fatties. With all the concern about eating disorders and crazy extreme diets and ZOMG SCARY SKINNY!!!!!11one celebrities, you’d think there’d be more than just one level of skinny.

  10. This was beautiful..thank you for putting it together.
    As a “voluptuous” woman, (who works out regularly and eats better than 90% of the people I know, it is genetics) with a teenage daughter with the same genetics, I work hard to help her accept and love her curves..I just sent her a link to this and hope she fwds it on. and for the record, I am obese. when I did starve myself to a point of being “overweight” I was not healthy for my body type. now I focus on healthy food, healthy lifestyle, and work to love who I am.

    Women’s bodies rock, all shapes and sizes, truly.

  11. There aren’t many levels of skinny, really. There’s supposedly-“normal” skinny, there’s “you’re obviously having some sort of health problem” skinny, and then there’s “days from death” skinny. I guess they figure they don’t need to come up with a name for that last one.

    The problem isn’t so much that there’s not enough categorizations left of the midpoint, the problem is that the midpoint is way left of where it would be, if it ought to be anywhere at all.

  12. That was so fun. I loved seeing all of those women just… being.

    If I had a recent body shot I’d send it. I’m “normal” – internet BMI 22, which I’m not sure how much to trust – and I’m definitely bigger than some of those “overweight” women.

  13. This reminds me of how ridiculous it is that I always choose the picture of myself that doesn’t show my chin or the photos that don’t show my wide hips or the photo that etc….. I am a senior in college and all of the students at my school are required to take a class called Heath Promotion 200. Everyone in the class is supposed to take the BMI, (what to we referred to in middle school as “the fat test” ). I am glad the teacher is allowing us to do an alternate assignment if we talk to him about it. That was not the case in middle school…

    When I was in middle school they made us take the “fat test” in front of the whole class, it was one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. When I first learned that this was a legitimate ‘test’ I was mortified by it and then tortured with it for three years.

    I also started to doubt the test because on of the girls who was larger than me, but extremely physically active did worse on the test than me. (she was the only one who failed the test worse than me, this is how I truly felt).

    Writing about it now is strange because it makes me think of all of the horrors of middle school gym class. When they did the “fat test”, they also made us do the pull-up, or multiple pull-ups if you were “good”. If we couldn’t do any pull-ups, we were made to hang there in front of a bunch of people.

  14. Spot on, Beth. Am I the only one who remembers middle school gym class as being explicitly designed to make you hate both exercise and yourself? They made us do 30 minutes of laps around (I kid you not) ONE TENNIS COURT. That’s like doing laps in the bathtub, only with less interesting scenery. How could anyone NOT hate running after that? And making us do “pull ups” (HA!) one at a time in front of each other. That’s like one pull-up every three days for each individual kid. How, exactly, does that build arm strength?

    And people say that we need more of this bullshit to STOP TEH OBESITY EPIDEMIC ZOMG! Yeah…running in little tiny circles and watching other people fail at pull-ups will work WAY better than actual intersting sports and not hating yourself. It’s the Super Grover approach: “When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!”

  15. It is snowy here in the winter and they also made us “cross country ski” and snow shoe around the track behind the school, yeah real fun when you can see the woods where it would be so ‘dangerous’ to cross country ski…

    Gym class felt like torture, that might be an interesting post.
    “What are your BMI horror stories of gym class?”

  16. Beth, we did the pull-ups in my middle school and I could only just hang there. One day a boy from another class came up and pulled my feet. I bicycled my legs to stay up, and he kicked me in the stomach. I stood up to hit him, and he punched my glasses off of my face.

    At least he gave me some exercise.

    Fuck middle school gym.

  17. Thank you for this point of view. I personally have a bias against fat people. I think excessive fat looks gross. This entire site was very helpful for me to learn, not to let my bias prejudice how I view other wise normal and healthy people. Thank You!

  18. Just in case it wasn’t a troll: kevin, since you’ve started thinking outside the box, think a bit further. There’s no call to be prejudiced against people who aren’t healthy, either. No matter how much space they take up or how aesthetically unappealing you think they are.

  19. The more I look at this project, the more I realize two things:

    1. The BMI’s “normal” category is such a thin slice of the range of possible healthy body sizes that to land in it at all, much less because it’s your body’s natural happy equilibrium, is about as easy as winning the lottery.

    2. All the women in the “overweight” range and about half in the “obese” range look to me like they should be labeled “normal.”

    And middle-school gym class…agh, don’t remind me! I couldn’t do a pull-up, touch my own toes, and I took longer than anyone to run a mile…by about five minutes. Thank God it’s over!

  20. Kevin: if you’re not a troll, then imagine replacing your words “fat” and “excessive fat” with any of the following:

    female, breasts and hips
    black, brown skin
    disabled, wheelchairs
    old, white hair
    poor, off-brand clothing

    Fear/hatred of fat people, like other forms of prejudice, is not *just* a personal bias, but an entrenched social phenomenon that damages many people’s lives. I hope, as lauredhel suggests, that you continue to think further.

  21. 1. The BMI’s “normal” category is such a thin slice of the range of possible healthy body sizes that to land in it at all, much less because it’s your body’s natural happy equilibrium, is about as easy as winning the lottery.

    2. All the women in the “overweight” range and about half in the “obese” range look to me like they should be labeled “normal.”

    Yep, Dani!

    And even when you get beyond what looks “normal” to the average person, people still underestimate the classifications. I’ve heard “You’re just a little overweight; it’s not like you’re obese” more times than I can count. Well, the government disagrees!

    Also, as I mentioned on Shakesville, there was a study last year that showed some ridiculous percentage of “obese” people didn’t know they were “obese.” William Saletan wrote about it at Slate, and of course it was, “Fatties are delusional! They’re in denial! THEY DON’T KNOW THEY’RE FAT!” But all the study was really asking was whether people knew their own BMI categories. So a lot of “obese” people pegged themselves as overweight and “overweight” people pegged themselves as normal. Looking at these pics, you can see exactly why that would happen, no delusion necessary.

    But it’s a much better story if it suggests that fat people are fucking idiots, of course.

  22. “But it’s a much better story if it suggests that fat people are fucking idiots, of course.”

    Oh, of course. All the alternate headlines were total flops:

    Fat People As Aware of Own Health As Anyone Else, Thanks
    Fat People: Not As Fat As Government Says They Are
    Study Shows BMI Accurate Indicator Of…Well, Nothing Really
    No, Really, That’s What Women Are Supposed To Look Like

  23. First: Donuts…mmmmmm…*homer simpson gargle*
    Second: Am I the only one who had a hard time distinguishing between normal, obese, and morbidly obese? Because, seriously, everyone looked spectacular!
    Third: Gym Class. gag.

  24. Well, just mentioned your BMI project. Wooooo!

    Wow, it only took nine comments for someone to say that Laurie was lying about her weight and was 110 max.

  25. Oh, and it took a few more before someone said, “There’s no way you can be 325 lbs. and a triathlete.”

    Uh, okay, then. Sorry, Sarah! You don’t exist!

  26. Sarah’s also apparently doing irreparable damage to her joints, according to many people who are CERTAINLY doctors. This makes me lol particularly because a teeny friend of mine who’s maybe 120 max just started running and benched herself with an ankle injury almost immediately. Must be all that… fat?

  27. Sarah’s also apparently doing irreparable damage to her joints

    Its interesting to see how utterly useless chemistry-based medicine is, when it comes to joints and connective tissue.

  28. fillyjonk – I saw that and laughed. My grandmother, who was well over 300 pounds herself, did have impressive (and irreparable) knee damage near the end of her life…her doctors said it was the result of years of *not* moving.

  29. The funny part is, over at Jezebel, a lot of the eruption of comments is about how “well the BMI doesn’t measure muscle” or “I think a lot of those ‘overweight’ women look just fine” or whatever. Which are all semi-valid points, but seem to miss what, to me, is the major point: all of these people are humans, real people, not headless fat people on a 30-second newsreel or scary-sounding numbers on a chart. We’re all real people, EVEN THE MORBIDLY OBESE ONES LIKE ME, and dang, stop the hate already. For yourself and for everyone.

    Amazing how people are still stuck on judging who is ‘acceptable’ and ‘not acceptable,’ just maybe by using a slightly different yardstick (one which, coincidentally, manages to include the measurer in the ‘acceptable’ category.) We’re all acceptable. Fat or not, health problems or not. Because since when did anyone get the authority to become The Body Police? Jesus.

  30. all of these people are humans, real people, not headless fat people on a 30-second newsreel or scary-sounding numbers on a chart.

    SM and I are headless though. Sorry everyone!

    But yeah, I was struck by how many people at Jezebel used the project to beat up on themselves — like “these girls are ‘overweight’ and they still look better than me” or “wow, turns out I’m overweight, guess I’d better go punish myself.” Not that it’s really news to me that desperately unhappy women read publications like Jezebel, mind you.

  31. “What are your BMI horror stories of gym class?”

    Well, the caliper test in 8th grade really bugged me, but wasn’t as bad as it could have been, because we didn’t get to it until after I’d broken my leg falling down some stairs.

    This is relevant because at 14, I was about 200lbs and 5’6″ and I was told by the orthoped that I really broke my leg because I WAS TEH FAT and IT WAS CRUSHING MY BONES and I MUST LOSE ALL THE LARD IMMEDIATELYY !!!111!! Oh, and btw, it might also be because my bone density was affected by lactose intolerance and I might want to quit drinking milk and take some mineral supplements. BUT IT WAS MORE LIEKLY TEH FAT!!!111!! He actually suggested I crash diet while I was in the cast to “get a head start.”

    So by the time I got to the dreaded caliper test a month later, I was already hating myself and it just confirmed how horrible I was. My gym teacher was ok, but totally bought into the whole thin=good, fat=bad thing.

    However, I moved, and my HS gym teacher was a tiny, aggressively feminist lesbian who didn’t care if any of us were fat – she mentioned the caliper thing but pointed out that she thought it was huge crock as fat has nothing to do with fitness. Her big thing was making sure we knew we could do as much as the boys, and that sports were good, and fun. She even flouted the rule girls weren’t allowed to particiapte in contact sports. Way more fun.

    Anyway I think she planted he seed that health, strength and fitness are more important than anything else in my head. Good gym teachers can change lives. :)

  32. Gym class was a nightmare from the word go. I had years of physical ability shaming, as a lifelong fat kid–like the time we had to run a mile in the field behind the junior high school and I walked it, because running was and is uncomfortable and something I’d been laughed at for doing. It took 20 minutes for me to walk a mile, everyone else was long since finished, and the gym teacher was screaming at me from the doorway to hurry up because she was sick of waiting for me. Anyway, once in high school we were being made to do the step test for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award thing (gah). The step test, if you don’t know, is having to step up onto the bottom row of the bleachers and then down again until you feel like dying. The teachers were walking along the row behind us as we stepped up and down, “encouraging” us, and I didn’t want to be ridiculed for not being able to hack it. So of course I pushed myself to the point of exhaustion–and I fell. I had weak ankles anyway from ice skating injuries and being so tired, my foot landed wrong, and I just went down. My mother had to come and pick me up and take me to the ER to get an x-ray. Luckily I didn’t break my ankle, just sprained it really badly.

    But on top of all the fat-hating, it’s just awful that physical activity is presented to us when we’re young and impressionable as something that’s about being tough and hard and not being weak or giving in to pain or tiredness. Gym class was like boot camp, I swear, and the other kids were allowed to treat the clumsy and unfit among us like shit–though of course us braniacs were soundly rebuked should we pick on any of the jocks for being stupid because “they can’t help it.” School sucked.

  33. But on top of all the fat-hating, it’s just awful that physical activity is presented to us when we’re young and impressionable as something that’s about being tough and hard and not being weak or giving in to pain or tiredness.

    OMG, yes! No wonder I didn’t discover I actually liked exercise until I was in college! And when I started doing yoga and learned that PAIN MEANS YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG? A whole new world opened up.

  34. Yeah, I have to wonder how many people Jane Fonda managed to turn off exercise, especially people who were in their teens and 20s in the early 1980s.

  35. I wonder how many people got turned off from exercise by gym teachers. I know that was the case for me–in elementary school, I was made fun of in front of the entire class by the gym teacher. And he was not a small man himself. Junior high, the gym teacher (a female) was possessed with me losing weight, trying to force me to weigh in every day and keep a food diary. I finally told my mom about it and she went screeching in there to tell this woman to back off. My doctor got me excused out of gym class until my senior year, when I was recruited to be a part of a new class…Weight Management. Though I have to say it was probably the closest thing to HAES I’d experienced before I knew what HAES was. It was run by the first gym teacher I’d ever known that wasn’t a raving psychopath, and it wasn’t a horrible experience.

    I absolutely love the slideshow/Flickr. I’ve paged through the photos again and again, marveling at the fascinating variety of people and shapes.

  36. This slideshow is great. I thought I had pretty much adjusted my own perception of how fat people are based on the wildly innacurate (and sometimes hilarious) guesses people make about how fat/what size I am. And it’s true–when guessing weight, I come a *lot* closer than most people. However, I wasn’t thinking carefully enough with a friend the other day, and asked her if she was a size 12. She told me, with a slightly incredulous look, that she was a size 18. And I did a double-take, and thought, “Oh. Yeah. I guess I should have known that.”

    And I *still* get comments from people about how I “can’t be that fat” when I tell them I weight 270 pounds or wear a size 20.

    I’d be curious, actually, to see a sort of “sliding scale” (pun intended), of people of all shapes and sizes, arranged by weight. Or by height. Either one would be pretty awesome.

    So you have people who weight 140-150 pounds, and within that category you have a whole bunch of people who all look very different from one another. Short, tall, skinny, fat…

  37. I thought I had pretty much adjusted my own perception of how fat people are based on the wildly innacurate (and sometimes hilarious) guesses people make about how fat/what size I am.

    You never know when the conditioning is going to rear its head, though. Yesterday, I heard from a friend from grad school I’d lost touch with, ’cause she found me via Jezebel. She told me she loved the project, and she’s a hair shy of “overweight,” at 5’8″ and 160 lbs.

    My gut reaction: YOU weigh 160 lbs.?

    Yeah, at fucking 5’8″. Which I know is the farthest thing from fat. But because I know her and have her in the “thin person” box in my mind, hearing that number blew my mind. Because of course all thin women weigh under 120, and all women who weigh over 150 are fat.

    You’d think I, of all people, would not still have thoughts like that. But there it was.

  38. I also ran a 20 minute mile — all three times we were made to run it. Fortunately I had a somewhat understanding teacher.

    I was (as shown) uber skinny, but even I thought I was fat. How my thighs showed in gym shorts, O NOES! Yeah. And I remember running laps. In some cases, I would come in far last, with, of course, a couple of the fat kids. And the teacher would get on their case, but not mine. And I always thought, you know what, that’s bullcrap. They’re having a hard time physically too, why do they get criticized for it as though it’s just because they’re FAT! ? And even if it is, so fucking what?

    It always annoyed me.

  39. … and in the other case of running laps, I would actually come in as one of the first, because I was one of the only ones who actually tried. I had a couple of gym classes with the kinds of kids who would walk across the shallow end of the pool when we were supposed to be swimming laps. Damn straight I was graded well for my effort, even if my actual performance sucked, because I was putting in a thousand times more effort than they were. Ugh, that always annoyed the piss out of me.

  40. Because of course all thin women weigh under 120, and all women who weigh over 150 are fat.

    My standards, growing up, were a little more lax. Anything under 150 was skinny and desireable. Anything under 200 was acceptable. Anything above that meant the person had eaten one too many chocolate cakes. (Like me.)

    Thank God my mother didn’t *try* to include me in her neuroses regarding weight. I picked up enough of it as it was–but at least I had the idea that fat people were still people, and that models were still WAY too skinny.

    I’m still confused as to how I missed all that “I’m-supposed-to-look-like-a-model crap.”

  41. Jane, your experience in gym is one of the reasons I am motivated to do activism (however, that winds up being). I don’t know how I lucked out, but I had sane coaches & teachers in PE all through school (and I was the “second fattest girl” in my town, as the bullies made sure I knew). I know so many people my size and smaller who were put through hell by sociopath gym teachers. That level of abuse is just… ARGGGGGG!!!!

    I’m sending you the psychic equivalent of wicked cool magic playballs that have nothing but happy attached to them!!!

  42. Oh my goodness, my picture has been viewed 10,748 times! That is crazy, I had no idea this would become this big.

  43. “Amazing how people are still stuck on judging who is ‘acceptable’ and ‘not acceptable,’ just maybe by using a slightly different yardstick (one which, coincidentally, manages to include the measurer in the ‘acceptable’ category.”

    Star-bellied Sneetches. Everything I needed to know about human nature I learned from Dr. Seuss.

    Amy, did you go to my school?

    Kate, d00dette, awesome Crane Pose. (Hopefully commenting on ostensible athletic ability is OK.) Although I do a wicked Twisted Root, me attempting Crane Pose (5’7″, short waist, long legs; high center of gravity for a girl apparently) looks an awful lot like Laurel & Hardy attempting “Swan Lake.” I over-rotated and sprained my wrist trying it once.

    But awareness of what one’s body can actually do is key — which I think is part of the point here.

  44. When my mom was “morbidly obese”, she married a man 11 years her junior, whom I met in college!

    When she finally starved herself down to a “normal” weight, at the urging of her doctors, her hair fell out and her teeth were loose. She also developed NALD (non alcoholic liver disease) from losing weight too fast.

    I’m 5’2″, 225 lbs. I hike, dance, swim. I’m dating three men who think I’m incredibly hot, and two of my ex-boyfriends are still begging me to marry them.

    Not only is weight not the only factor in “healthy”, it certainly isn’t the only factor in “sexy”.

  45. Thank you SO MUCH for this. I have been having this argument with the doctor, and others, for awhile now and have been feeling at the end of my rope. I cannot qualify for a breast reduction until my BMI reaches 27– period. I’ve been trying to explain to people that BMI measurements are bullshit, and this slideshow proves it. Again, thank you.

  46. Gertie, assuming that means you have to lose weight to qualify, that fucking ENRAGES ME.

    First of all, when I got down to a size 4, I was still a DD. I had started out as a DDD, so for me, 65 lbs. = one cup size down. Not everyone who loses weight loses boob.

    And when I was a size 4 and a DD? The boobs were still way out of proportion to my body, as you can imagine — and if I hadn’t been young at the time, they would have been causing back pain just as they do now.

    Second, since we know virtually ALL dieters regain every pound lost, wouldn’t it make a hell of a lot more sense to operate on someone while her weight is stable, to reduce the risk that she’ll just gain weight and end up with overlarge breasts again anyway? I mean, I suppose if you’re a heartless, money-driven plastic surgeon thinking, “Hey, maybe I’ll get to operate on her AGAIN down the line!” then such a sensible course of action wouldn’t be in your best interest. But if you care about the best interest of the patient? Much better to do the breast reduction while she is in the weight range she will probably be in for the rest of her life.

    Third, the reason women seek out breast reductions is usually that they are in pain. So once again we have an example of doctors saying, “We will not give you treatment for your PAIN until you lose weight.”


  47. Aye, I have huge boobage that is painful. NHS (National Health here in Scotland) won’t operate at my weight because they consider anything above a BMI of 27 to be “risky”. I am the first to agree that I am fat, even very fat (I wear a size 18 US). After a car accident in 2001, the back pain made it difficult to be active and coupled with PCOS I gained a lot of weight.

    I lost 35 pounds two years ago and have managed to keep it off. I am physically active and eat healthy and even stopped smoking six months ago. I find it difficult to do more than walking as exercise, though, because of the size of my breasts. Wearing a bra, even a properly fitted one, amplifies the pressure on the middle of my spine and affects my breathing.

    They will not consider that I am also a very muscular woman, who can drop a dress size but actually gain weight. Also, they will not deduct the breast weight from their expectations either.

    Yesterday the doctor dismissed me and my questions, but then had no problem prescribing me pain killers.

    Anyhoo, I have been feeling so frustrated at being ignored but you and your slideshow make me feel like I’ve been heard and that has helped me tremendously. I am going to continue my path to better health, and will find a way to finance my breast reduction surgery on my own.

    thanks Kate!

  48. Gertie, as someone who has actually been through a breast reduction, I can tell you two things:

    1) It is not a panacea. I went from a 38HH to a 38DD and I still ache (it’s definitely better, but I was off-balance for a few years and I still have upper back pain). I completely think it was the right thing to do, but I know I had higher expectations than were appropriate. I also lost sensation. That, my friends, was the biggest damn bummer EVAH. Very individual and personal decision, but just so you know: you might not get the relief you’re looking for. Can you see a physio or an osteopath over there?

    2) I actually gained weight after the surgery. See, until I got the girls lopped off, I didn’t realize I had a ginormous belly. When I saw it I was mortified and depressed. Hello, comfort eating and staying in bed when I wasn’t at work. :( I have gotten over all that now but the belly is still there, looming larger than ever as though a tribute to the Missing Girls.

    I’m sorry that you evidently have a useless physician (I read your encounter on your website…whoo, that’s rough). I imagine that (s)he is just following the NHS protocols, but still…stoopid. My heart is with you.

    Oh, and congratulations on quitting the smokes! While everyone else bickers about how important losing OMG all that fat is to your health, the smart doctors are saying it’s better to gain weight because of smoking cessation than it is to keep smoking so you don’t blow up into a big fatty cow. Wev.

  49. Thanks for that. It does help to have input from someone who’s been there. Based on my size, I will probably require removal and repositioning, resulting in sensation loss– I almost expect it– and at this point I am willing to risk that.

    I don’t know if I have unrealistic expectations with regards to my pain, or not. I’ve been wanting reduction surgery since I was 20 but held off in case I had children and wanted to nurse. I never did have kids, so at 36 I decided to get in the best shape as I could by the time I was 39 so that I could have the reduction and then start 40 off with a whole improved body. I’ve had breasts since I was 8, and they didn’t really change much with the weight, thank gawd. I plan to reduce down to a C cup, and hope that this will allow me to exercise in a way that will increase my back strength and give me the physical freedom to literally climb mountains.

    Doc prescribed painkillers, and also referred me to the obseity clinic. I’m holding onto hope that those people will be better suited to handling this and can get me sorted. Fingers crossed.

  50. Just chiming in on the gym class experiences…My sophmore year of h.s., the very thin, driller of an gym teacher was telling my all-girls class about how important is is to work out. Not a bad lesson, until she started pointing out all of the bad things that could happen to your body, including, in her words, “the disgusting pockets of fat underneath your arms that seem to extend from your chest” while looking at me in my tank top (I often didn’t change into the stupid gym uniform…). Thirteen years later and still remember. And I HATE her. I was 15, DD breasts, and 170 pounds. Bitch.

  51. From age 8, until my first year of college, I myself held many prejudices against fat, . My first roommate, Tina, was a large woman (probably a size 22US) who would kick my ass every single day on the racquetball court. Ten minutes into the game and my (at the time) skinny self would be sweating and trying to catch a breath while she just kept pounding the court.

    Wow, size does not reflect fitness! Being fat does not equate being lazy!

    I am a big (heh) believer in being healthy and active, but I no longer subscribe to the belief that you need to be a stick insect to achieve that. I finally see the true beauty in just being a woman and I think each one of us needs to make an effort to show our appreciation and keep people (like Kristin’s gym teacher) from perpetuating the hate.

  52. This is great! I used to be a BIG triathlete (BMI around 30). I could run a 1/2 marathon in a little under 2 hours and loved it and i could bench press 10 reps at about 120 lbs and carry 2 40 lb bags of dog food at a time. Then i had a huge car wreck (broke my neck but wasn’t paralyzed TG) and over about a year lost about 40 lbs. I figure at least 15 of those were muscle. I am now in the “normal” category with a BMI of 24. I can barely run 3 miles without being sore for 3 more days, i can barely lift my 25 lb daughter (and my hand gets tired holding a cup of coffee for more than a few minutes). I’ve never been so weak and unhealthy feeling in all my life. Yet everyday people say “you look GREAT…you must have fully recovered…you look like you’ve been working out (huh? working out was what i was doing when i was “obese”)…” etc etc…inane comments that equate thin with fit/healthy. My office manager weighs the same as i do but has about 1/2 the body fat (we’ve both had ours calculated). SHE looks fit and healthy but VERY built while i just look kind of average.
    I would like to see a slide show with a bunch of people who weigh the same but look very different.

    And medical literature is finally catching up (although the doctors are not) to the fact that it’s HEALTHIER to be active and fat than inactive and thin.

    I truly believe i wouldn’t have done as well in my accident if i hadn’t had some extra weight on me. My nutritional status was horrid for a long time (which is why i lost weight) and i probably would be very ill right now if i’d started out in the “normal” category.

    Great stuff! Thanks for posting it (and glad i came across it, rather randomly).

  53. Oh, and speaking of smoking, I read somewhere that smoking a pack a day adds the equivalent of 150 lbs of extra weight in terms of health “risk”. The average person gains 30 lbs when they quit smoking so most people are still coming out ahead in the health game. (in the body image game, well, that’s a different story, obviously).

  54. So, you’re saying somebody who’s 300 pounds or so has the same health risks as a smoker? Last I read, smokers have a 6000% greater chance of premature death (i.e. getting lung or mouth cancers) than non-smokers, whereas 300 pound people have health “risks” exactly equal to people currently in the “normal” categories (best health is in the “overweight” group.) So, where’s your data to justify comparing people with “150 pounds of extra weight” to smokers?

    I guess you think you’re supporting fat acceptance, but you’re still bashing fat people. (Or, at least, people fatter than you are.)

  55. Wow–great site. I love the illustrated BMI. Right now I’m in grad school with a ton of Type A neurotics who would just as soon gain 5 pounds as get anything less than an A+ in a class. As they reach their late 20s they freak out because they’re not as lithe as they once were, and most of them have developed sports/exercise injuries. There’s just no moderation here…COOK whole, healthy food, eat in moderation, don’t binge when stressed, and do exercise that doesn’t harm your body. I think everyone leaves their brains at work. It’s nice to see some refreshing, non-guilt-ridden perspective here. Thanks.

  56. Well, it seems there is no category called “healthy.” Yikes. And here is sit, morbidly obese, but on my way to the gym. This is so sick, and I am so embarassed to see that our society still buys into this outrageous thinking.

  57. A million blessings on you for this project. It’s uplifted me in ways it is impossible to convey. Most of the time I just can’t “tell” what I look like. My BMI, at 30.2, says I’m obese, but I feel kinda okay — healthier than most “normal” people I know and not all that bad looking. At the same time, I gained a lot of weight over the past few years (a pretty healthy diet, but enormous stress and not enough sleep) and many days, barely recognize myself, and mourn the loss of the body I used to have — and the different way people treat me and look at me now, and the assumptions they make about me, etc. As a result, I avoided sexual intimacy like the plague the past few years (burying something that had been so important and fun to me), assuming no man would find me attractive anyway. But recently (of course, while I was doing what I love at a time when I was truly happy and oblivious and least expected it), I met a really sweet man that I really hit it off with. He kept pursuing me and I kept assuming I was misunderstanding his intentions. I was really dense about it. Even once he made his attraction clear, I still had my doubts. I just couldn’t believe that he could really be interested in me “that way”, because no matter how much we have in common non-physically or how well we hit it off, I just couldn’t get past that fact he must find me unattractive because I’m obese and he is an extraordinarily fit cyclist with a gorgeous body and years younger than me. But after viewing these wonderful photos, now I see myself in a new light — apparently the one he’s been seeing me in all along. It’s too late tonight, but I can’t wait to tell him tomorrow — no, show him — that I’ve put the doubts that held me back with him to rest. So give yourself a big round of applause, cuz thanks to you this fat chicks gettin’ her mojo back.

  58. Thank you for doing this. BMI is a very messed up concept and your slide show was a beautiful way to dismantle all too powerful stereotypes. I am someone who has battled anorexia for years, yet have rarely been “underweight” – the BMI had done my head in a number of times. Especially when folks tell me I can’t have an eating disorder because I’m not under 18.5 on the BMI chart.

    Your work is beautiful, as is each person (and cat) that submitted a picture. Thank you.

  59. I love that I found this! Speaking of fantastic health advice from your doctor, you kids will love this. I am obese at 5’4 188 size 14 (I am strong as hell, thank you muscles!) and travel a lot for my job. My doctor pretty much always reminds me how OBESE I am and how i really need to get my BMI to healthy (hum…my BP is 117/62 all other health tests say i AM healthy) place. She suggested when I am out with clients for dinner I try a few of tricks that her friend (BTW, a friend the the Doc. said had an eating disorder!!!) does. “Just push food around on your plate. Don’t actually EAT it. Just make it look like you ate it. And order vodka sodas.” Wow, thanks Doc!

  60. I just mentioned in front of my whole class (40 people) that the BMI is inaccurate. We are supposed to do the skin caliper BMI next week in class and I am unwilling based on research and the reality that the BMI is very inaccurate with just 5 measly little numbers between “normal” and “obese”. I am so fucking sick of this supposed Health Promotion class that every single student is required to take.

    The teacher even mentioned that the insurance companies are the ones that use the BMI to determine what type of coverage people deserve! I am so sick of big business telling me if I am healthy or not!

    I think I will send him to this website for an explanation as to why I refuse to do the skin caliper test. If you know of some good source I can which refer to the inaccuracies of BMI, I would greatly appreciate it.

  61. Beth,

    A good place to start is over at Sandy Szwarc’s Junkfood Science ( She has ongoing items of interest (and then some), and also has links in the right hand column to a series she did a couple of years ago for Tech Central Station. There are also plenty of books around (Google: “obesity” & Paul Campos, Glenn Gaesser, Laura Fraser, Gina Kolata, Dean Edell… ) Happy reading!

  62. Beth, if you can get your hands on the full text of this 2006 study published in the Lancet, you’re good to go. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in MN looked at 40 studies covering 250,000 people and found:

    -the underweight group had an increased risk for both total mortality and cardiovascular mortality
    -the overweight group had the least risk of both
    -moderately obese people (BMI 30-35) had no increased risk in either category
    -those with a BMI greater than 35 had no increase in total mortality but the highest risk for cardiovascular mortality — which was only slightly higher than the risk for the underweight category

    Interestingly, the abstract says nothing about the “normal” category.

  63. I feel a little confused. I watched the slideshow, and I felt the categories the individuals fell into according to what was indicated were accurate. I guess it doesn’t feel good to be labelled “overweight”, “obese”, etc., but the people pictured in those categories had noticeable extra weight. And the those labelled “normal” or “underweight” appeared to lack extra weight accordingly. Not trying to be mean, it’s just an observation.

  64. Anon, we’ve been through this about 80 times already. Your “observation” is profoundly unoriginal. And it would seem most of the people viewing the project disagree with you. *shrug*

  65. Blah blah fat-people-look-fat-cakes. Not everyone’s gonna get it; what can ya do.

    Incidentally, does anyone ever say they’re not trying to be an asshole when they’re not trying to be an asshole?

  66. Oh look! Anon knows exactly what the ideal weight for human beings is; see, if you’re above it, you have “extra” weight; if you’re below it, you “lack extra” weight. ANON HAS DEMONSTRATED THAT S/HE KNOWS THE MEANING OF THE WORD “EXTRA” IN RELATION TO AN ARBITRARILY DEFINED “NORM”

  67. Yeah, anon, haven’t you learned anything from this site? Geez, fat people are angry and defensive about being fat, duh! Do you have to throw it in their faces?

  68. Who knew it was such a hotly contested title?

    It’s particularly awesome when non-readers seek out the blog in order to be snide and sarcastic… about how angry we are.

  69. On the personal experiences with gym class thing (and I’m in the slide show – gray sweater and jeans)…

    I was another kid who weighed around 200 in high school. I had mixed feelings about gym class. I liked playing sports, but hated distance running. I had good lower body and core strength and better than average flexibility, but very little upper body strength. 40 situps? No problem. Pull-ups? Forget it. I used to walk or bike the 3 miles to school, and I was in the marching band, so I wasn’t in horrible shape. I could sprint up to 600 yards, but no way was I going to run the mile. I walked it in 14 minutes.

    Back in the day (early 80’s) they didn’t test BMI or single out the fat kids like they do now. I mean, I wasn’t exactly the gym teacher’s pet and I was one of the last picked for teams, but I think it’s worse for fat kids now. I didn’t love gym class, but it didn’t ruin physical activity for me, either.

  70. “THANK YOU for showing the full range of real, beautiful women (and cats). Women are human beings, not numbers on a scale.”

    Whoever posted that was right on the money. I’m so sick of women being told they have to be like toothpicks to be healthy. It’s disrespectful on so many levels.

  71. When talking to my doctor once, I mentioned that i knew i needed to be lifting weights or something like that more: lose a little fat and gain a little muscle. I like this doctor quite a bit, but he pulled out the BMI chart and said that i was on the low end of normal, almost underweight and so i should not worry. He basically said that women are too concerned about their weight. That may be true, but it is not true for me and not what I had said. The BMI chart he used was based solely on weight and height (which is not indicative of body composition). As we know, muscle weighs more than fat. If I gained muscle and lost fat my charted BMI may remain the same, but my body composition would have been altered and my energy level would be better which was what i was wanting to achieve. I am more concerned with what I can do and how I feel.

    I couldn’t get the link to the Lancet article to work (for some reason this page is still loading for me and so the link wouldn’t function), but it would be interesting to see if they looked at body composition at all or solely the BMI chart. It is actually possible to have an ‘unhealthy’ level of body fat and fall in the ‘normal’ range on BMI, just as it is possible to have a ‘healthy’ level of body fat and fall in the overweight range. It is very silly that we are all aware of this and yet BMI is still being used. It is really time we demand physicians use metrics that actually relate to health so that they can advise us realistically.

  72. After looking at all the pictures it seems that BMI is quite accurate after all. Sure, there are some exceptions and there is some inaccuracy at the thresholds, but overall it is pretty damn accurate. Really, all the people where I was thinking they do not look overweight or obese were right at the limit for their respective categories. And obviously, somebody with a BMI of 25 is not going to suddenly look different from somebody with a BMI of 24.9.

  73. Yes it is, Joie, and he’s about to be banned, since this isn’t the only thread where he’s dropped in to enlighten us without reading a word of the site.

    And obviously, somebody with a BMI of 25 is not going to suddenly look different from somebody with a BMI of 24.9.

    Gee, ya think? And ya think maybe that’s THE POINT OF THE PROJECT? Since everything from the way people are treated by doctors to whether they can get health insurance at all is determined by those arbitrary thresholds?

  74. So you have people who weight 140-150 pounds, and within that category you have a whole bunch of people who all look very different from one another. Short, tall, skinny, fat…

    What this made me think of, oddly enough, is that right now I am the same weight I was when I got married. And you can fit two of me-now in my wedding dress. I, er…took up a number of activities (rollerblading, yoga, bellydance, rugby, biking, hiking, and pilates) in the six-plus years since my wedding.

    Same BMI (33.7), same person, two completely different sizes and fitness levels. That says better than anything to me that BMI is pretty useless as a measure of anything real and substantive.

    I wonder if I can get my rugby team to take pics in uniform for the flickr stream?

  75. Nifty slideshow.

    As a very very fat woman myself (my dress size is 6x. I don’t know what I weigh as I am off the scale when my doctor insists on weighing me), I had a bit of a revelation watching the show. All the underweight people, lovely as they doubtless are, kinda made me flinch a little bit. I am clearly a horrible bigoted person. Sorry thin people! I can’t help my instincts, but I do seriously respect your bodies, even if they make me want to make you a cup of tea and a plate of dinner. I’m going to work on this prejudice of mine that I didn’t even know I had, before I end up checking Satan’s spreadsheets in hell for all eternity.

    Secondly, I have to admit, my reaction to all the so-called overweight /obese/morbidly obese people was the same: “Come *on*!” e.g she/he/they is/aren’t overweight! They’re perfectly freaking normal.

    In conclusion: I take your point.

  76. I should apologize. I am trying to “enlighten” the anti-fat individuals of the internet by posting a link to the BMI project. It’s safe to say any new trolls you are getting are coming from extremely hostile spaces to begin with. I post at a lot of message boards where insecure men worship supermodels who are probably suffering from eating disorders. Needless to say, anybody above a size four is “fat” to them.

  77. Not only is this a great slideshow (blows Inconvenient Truth out o’ the water), I was surprised at the guys’ pics. I’m 5’4 165lbs and my boyfriend is 6’2 and 138, so I know he’s thin…but the men who are supposedly overweight? Some of them had visible stomach muscles! It is also shocking to see other women who share my numbers and realize that my self-perception is so off base. It has taken me twenty years to realize that I don’t need to lose weight.
    Also, I think gym teachers are programmed to target fat kids. I think mine gave up on me in eighth grade. It wasn’t until I started backpacking and doing yoga that I realized “exercise” can be fun–and I am good at it! Shock and awe! Now if only the insurance companies would realize that we can be “overweight/obese/morbidly obese” and still be healthier than many thin people…

  78. Some irony, for whatever it’s worth:

    I’ve been having some trouble with my health lately. For a still-mysterious reason, my weight is dropping like a hot rock. This morning, my weight was 103, which puts my BMI at 18.2 – officially “underweight.”

    The irony? My bust, waist, and hip measurements are exactly the same today as they were when that BMI Project photo was taken (you can look it up, but I’m 115 in the photo). My BMI could be “normal” or “underweight” in that photo, and no one would ever know the damn difference. Because visually, you can’t.

    Go figure.

  79. That is so true, Dani. People have this deep need to believe they can diagnose whether someone is “too thin” or “too fat” from a picture or their clothes size or appearance, and you CAN’T. You cannot understand or control others in that way. People just need to recognize this and deal with it.

    I hope your health improves and you find out what is causing the changes to your weight and the problems you are experiencing.

  80. Incidentally, we occasionally get hits from people who are googling things like “what size would I wear at 5’4″ 175 pounds” or similar queries. Sorry, folks, we just can’t answer that, and neither can anybody else.

  81. Attention everyone: From now on, every single “I don’t get it, fat people look fat” comment on this thread will be deleted. Usually I gauge based on whether it will be fun to bat you around, but hear this: from now on, you’re ALL fucking boring.

  82. I know, it was a good batting too, but overall OMG SO TOTALLY YAWN re: disingenuous concern trolls.

  83. I asked for an explanation.

    Rather than saying “LYKE OMG YOUR POINT IS SO BORING!” How about you try to explain yourselves.

  84. No, you didn’t ask for an explanation, Andrea. You made a REALLY BORING POINT, which has already been addressed numerous times in this thread.

    And if you actually want an explanation, you can read the fucking blog.

  85. And if you actually want an explanation, you can read the fucking blog.

    Noooooo don’t make me thiiiiiiiiiink

  86. I love people who don’t read more than 3 comments before them, let alone some of the actual blog they’re commenting on, yet feel entitled to demand that we drop everything and explain basic things to them.

    See those 400 other blog posts? THAT’S WHERE WE EXPLAIN THINGS.

  87. You so totally rock! Pictures are worth a million words…

    My medical clinic recently announced that as of Jan. 1, they will start documenting BMI for all their patients. I can’t imagine what they think this will accomplish. Oh wait. It’s for our own good.

    Unfrickingbelievable. I feel like I should fight it somehow. Any tactical suggestions welcome.

  88. Perrin J – I think you should fight it. I mean, has anyone ever tried? What if the nurse asks to weigh you, and you just say “no, thank you.” Passive resistance, my friend.

    I don’t mind knowing my weight *for myself,* because it’s just a friggin’ number, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow them to weigh my moral value, even if if my personal doctor does think it’s for my own good. Hell if I’m going to passively contribute to his delusion by allowing him to keep weighing me. So there.

    (Big talk: I’ve never actually done this, but I TOTALLY WILL the next time I can afford to visit a doctor).

  89. I always refuse the scale. ;) I’m very polite about it; I simply say, “No thank you,” like I would say, “No thank you, I don’t care for dessert.” So far they’ve never made an issue out of it. They might come down on me like a ton of bricks, though, now that they’ve decided it’s some kind of critical vital sign. :(

    Really, unless you’re going to be receiving anesthesia or some other medication that is dosed according to body mass, there is no absolute medical need for them to know exactly what we weigh. Why can’t the doctor just make an eyeball estimate?

  90. I’m impressed and inspired! I think you may have just convinced me to stick to my resolve next time I’m asked to step on the scale. Thanks!

  91. Wonderful….Simply Wonderful. Have been “lurking” here for awhile and love all the wonderful and inspiring posts and peeps here….

  92. Hey Kate! The BMI project is great!

    But other than the whole BMI thing being a complete hoax (and people still believe in it), I’ve heard that people were gonna adjust the “normal” range further down the scale for Asians just because we’re supposedly smaller.

    Way to go on making us feel worse about our bodies.

  93. Soooooo, is there a population anywhere in the world that is good to go according to the Powers That Be? Or are they saying that all of us are unhealthy and need to change?

    Any big famines going on right now? Maybe those people would be healthy . . .

  94. I’ve heard that people were gonna adjust the “normal” range further down the scale for Asians just because we’re supposedly smaller.

    Yeah, and all exactly the same!
    I’ve come to the conclusion that “professionals” who rely on BMI have never met any actual people, especially actual people who have boobs, muscles or come from what might be called “sturdy peasant stock”.

  95. Paging sweet machine… this is both ludicrously off-topic and way late, but would you be willing to share some of the places where you like to shop for clothes? I absolutely LOVE your outfit in the BMI project. If you don’t wanna divulge that’s no problem, I just thought I would ask.

  96. What is interesting is when you are technically overweight but still wear a size 6. What’s up with clothes sizing?

  97. Are you sure Moxie is only 1 foot tall? Is that standing all the way up, or just measuring her legs? Because even a 12-week-old kitten is a good foot long if you stretch it out and that looks like a fully grown cat to me. I’d give her at least 2 feet, maybe 2-1/2, and that would probably ratchet her down to “barely overweight” at 12 pounds.

    But DGMS about vets and their attitudes about cat weight. Two of my cats are 20-pound bruisers, and yet one is much more “girthful” than the other one. And the second one, who’s actually a bit heavier, is constantly in motion, wanting to play fetch all day long. But to the vet, weight is weight. Bleh.

  98. Meowser, I think the measurement for Moxie was height at the shoulder, not length. And in fact, she’s under 12 inches by that measurement, but the BMI calculator would only take heights in feet.

  99. I have just lost track of time because I was reading your blog – the time in Denmark is now 2:52 am and I was supposed to have gone to bed three hours ago!!! I am so glad that I found it!!!

    I ended up on this website tonight because a “friend” (I’m using quotation marks because she is a dear friend but is kind of preachy when it comes to weight and won’t let my “overweight” be) told my that I most assuredly have BED – why else would I be overweight, and what else would be the cause of my depression? I didn’t have the courage to tell her of then, but now I will. As I said she is preachy about loosing weight because she’s lost a lot of wait, but ho – she’s put it on again!

    I have never really been bullied about my weight directly but of course by society in general (yes, Danish society is also prejudiced against people on the high end of the weight scale – pun not originally intended but left in when noticed ;o) ). In Denmark we don’t have to take the test you have been talking about but everybody have to have check ups by the school nurse – here I was singled out and had to go see her once a month instead of once a year to “keep my weight in check”. And even though I got a small flag the days I had lost weight (the Danish national flag named Dannebrog is used as symbol of celebration e.g. for birthdays, wedding, etc. – so in this case it meant the same as a gold star), the humiliation of having to go to the nurse in the middle of classes all the way through the school far outweighed the positive feeling the flags was suppose to give me. And then imagine the days when I didn’t get a flag…

    Luckily my present doctor asked me in my first consultation with her if my weight was something she should address. I said no I was fine with it and she has only mentioned it one time since then (when I had an ultrasound made to confirmed gallstones she simply said “your liver shows up a bit diffused but that’s normal with your weight” – and that was the end of that comment).

    So in general I am perfectly fine with my weight but I do have a few family members and friends who are preachy – ironically most are heavy too and preach because they themselves are trying to loose weight and think they are doing really well that way. I have not been ably too stand up to them before but, as a mentioned earlier in my little novel, now I have a basis to do so!

  100. Line Thy, I am always sad but not surprised to see that the situation for fat people is often the same or worse outside of the US. That weight monitoring program you had to do in school must have been really embarrassing. On the positive side your current doctor sounds great!

  101. See now – I notice some things about ALL those people, that they have in common: 1) each one is, without exception, DARLING; 2) each one looks interesting and friendly; 3) each one without exception looks like someone I’d enjoy having a cuppa and a chinwag with; 4) one of them has a tummy I’d like to smooch. MOXIE!! It’s MOXIE (what on earth were you thinking?) {{laughing}}

    Last summer I drove a support vehicle for people on a 500-mile bike tour. The *majority* of the riders, ALL of whom covered the whole 500 miles, were over 40, and would also be described as “obese” or “morbidly obese” in your slide show. There are MANY people who, being stout to greater or lesser degrees, are nonetheless as hearty and healthy and buff as one of those alleged paragons in TV exercise videos. Saw it with my own eyes. So there. Shut up. {{grin}}

  102. scg, thanks! Let me try to remember for that outfit… At the time that picture was taken I was wearing 12/14, so some of my clothes were from plus stores and some were from straight stores. For that particular outfit, I got the little cardigan at Urban Outfitters (their L fit over my E-cup boobs! Worth a shot for inbetweenies or not-so-endowed fatties). I’m pretty sure I got the t-shirt at a now defunct store called Tiger Tiger in Seattle, but I can’t remember the brand — it might have been local. And the skirt I got at a thrift store in Vancouver. I did very well thrifting when I lived in the PNW! But in general when I’m an inbetweenie, (besides thrift stores) I shop at H&M, Old Navy, B & Lu, and Torrid (mostly on half-off clearance). Now I’ve lost some weight because of illness, and I’m baffled as to where to shop!

  103. Yay! Thanks so much for the info. I am about to quit my traditional office job (engineer at a consulting firm) and embark on an as-yet-unknown different career path, and in between jobs at least (and maybe beyond if I end up working alone or in a little more creative environment), I want to start expressing my own fashion sense a little more. You folks in the slide show offer some great inspiration. :)

    It is at least good to know that Urban Outfitters might be suitable for the more well-endowed (American Apparel [which is next door to the local UO], I’m looking at you with loathing on this score). All of the Hip Young People at UO make me break out in hives and I end up racing through and never trying anything on.

    I will venture into H&M again too. Though I feel I should boycott them on principle since they got rid of the awesome Jytte Meilvang line they used to have. The overdyed purple dark-wash cuffed capri jeans from that line that I used to have were pretty much the coolest plus-sized garment I ever had, especially 6-8 years ago when you didn’t have a lot of options in the first place. I love LB in many ways but it couldn’t hold a candle to H&M’s departed plus line.

    Thanks again!! Your friends are very talented jewelers too. The necklace is gorgeous.

  104. ha…at 5’3 and 147 I’m apparently “overweight”, according to the BMI.
    I like the slideshow. Puts things in perspective.

  105. Right on. This BMI photo is ‘food for thought’ and yes, with some folks BMI just doesn’t compute. I mean – it made me think of my own situation and my weight. Some say under weight – and I say – spot on. Thanks – you’ve lifted the largest eating day of the year.

  106. LOL. I liked the way you proved whatever point you were trying to prove by this slide. I loved it, to say the least.

    I’ve been through some weight loss programs and doctors can’t really explain why I seem to register heavily on the scales yet I have visibly lost a lot of inches. I quit the programs and just made a variety of not weight-loss but health maintenance exercises and diets to suit my mood and lifestyle. Admittedly though, I am currently violating them in favor of “holiday bliss”. LOL. Anyway, thank you for this post. Your blog is really informative.


  107. Well, the situation over here in Asia (especially in Taiwan, Korea and Japan) is pretty bad. It doesn’t help that streets are choke-full of size 0 girls. So even if you’re a normal size 8 or 10, you’re still considered fat.

    And I weep for myself and my friends. I’ve got friends who weigh in at 120 pounds but are still hell-bent on losing weight. It’s so hard to win when men over here are narrow-minded bigots who choose to ignore anything above a size 10. They already have an idea of what ALL girls should look like: skinny and with long hair. No wonder we’re all looking the same these days.

    I just wish the Fat-Acceptance movement would gather more support here. People have simply decided that being fat is bad and that’s the end. Everyone loses hope after a while of being on the heavy side.

  108. One thing that I think a lot of people don’t know (or don’t want to admit) is that the BMI was never intended by its creator to be a diagnostic tool of any kind. Most doctors don’t know this, or won’t admit it if they do. Look up “Adolphe Quetelet” sometime; he was an early social scientist who wanted to categorize people based on their body-mass index, not diagnose or treat them. The Wikipedia page on the BMI says as much under the “Accuracy” subhead: The BMI is meant to broadly categorize populations for purely statistical purposes.

    Using the BMI to measure health is like using a scale to measure distance. The tool is not designed for the purpose it’s being used for.

  109. Hi Kate,

    Sorry, as a social scientist (and brand-new to this blog) I make a point of telling people about Quetelet every chance I get. I apologize; I didn’t see mention of him on the site, so I thought I’d put out what the original purpose of the BMI was supposed to be. My bad.

  110. Adam, we can hardly complain about people going into detail about exactly why BMI is and always has been a crock. I get all spittly about Belgian statisticians every so often, but it’s good to have the backing of a social scientist.

    And I really liked “using the BMI to measure health is like using a scale to measure distance.”

    All the media circus about “60% of adults overweight or obese!” should really be reading “statistical measure no longer describes population!”

  111. Sorry for the attitude, Adam. You had the misfortune of sounding vaguely like people who come in here and say things like, “BMI was never meant to be an indicator of health, but FAT IS STILL UNHEALTHY, LET ME EDUCATE YOU SOME MORE.”

    So, I was snarkier than I needed to be. My bad, actually.

  112. It’s okay, Kate. I didn’t mention that I’m a Big and Not Tall gay man (370 lbs, and 5’10”), so I totally get the whole “hard to find clothing” thing. And the self-image thing. And the interaction-with-people thing. (Context is such a necessary thing!) If anything, I was being mildly snarky myself, at the people who still believe BMI is a valid diagnostic tool. I’ve had arguments with doctors about this every time I go to get my medications renewed.

    I discovered your blog the other day through a link elsewhere, and I’ve been reading avidly and nodding my head off. Thank you for being here and saying what you say. It’s much appreciated.

  113. this is still flawed…
    For example, Jessica the “overweight triathlete” on your flickr page. I use her as since she and I are the same height, and look about the same size but she has about 25 lbs of (presumably) muscle on me, while I still classify around normal.
    On the BMI wiki it says it’s a “means of classifying sedentary (physically inactive) individuals with an average body composition”, so Jessica probably doesn’t even qualify for this classification scale
    Also, isn’t there a more accurate measurement system where the doctor actually uses calipers and all kinds of equipment to obtain a more precise BMI? I know I saw something like this on a science show years ago, but I’m not sure if it was BMI or some other standard of measurement.

  114. Courtney, I’m not really sure what point you’re trying to make, but no, there is no way to “obtain a more precise BMI.” BMI is your weight divided by the square of your height — that’s it, that’s all you get. What you see in the project is THE measure being used to determine things like who’s insurable, who can adopt, who can immigrate to New Zealand, who’s part of the “obesity epidemic” scare stats. Yes, there are (expensive) tests to determine your body composition, but that’s not what people use, now is it?

  115. Calipers and whatnot can measure your body fat, to give you an idea of your fat/muscle ratio, which BMI cannot. Two different measurements.

    The BMI wiki doesn’t mean shit. I’m sure someone added the “sedentary” line to account for the muscle factor, but doctors, insurance companies, and everyone else FJ just mentioned don’t take muscle into consideration. Just height and weight, period. Which is ONE reason (there are many besides the “muscle is denser than fat” argument) why BMI is a load of crap.

  116. I’m 6’7″ and it’s a real joy here in the UK to watch the doctor take out his/her ruler – extend the line on the chart (which generally stops at 6’5″) and explain to me that I’m morbidly Obese – I mean, they don’t even have a proper chart, who are they to tell me that!

    Love the blog by the way!


  117. The site inspired me to figure out my BMI, 25.7, which is overweight. I’m a tall 6’1″ male, who weighs 195. I have been doing ashtanga yoga for a year & am in fantastic shape. My body fat is very low. No person alive would call me fat or say that I could or should loose any weight.

  118. Not so, Alejandro. Every time a news article talks about the 60% of the country that’s “overweight or obese,” they’re talking about you, my friend.

  119. Wow, this is fantastic. I found you from a link on another site this morning, and I’ve spent the last hour+ reading the comments.

    Isn’t it sad that this is the first thing I’ve ever read about BMI being a crock? I’ve always felt conflicted about it, b/c according to the BMI I waver — EVERY DAMN DAY — between “normal” and “overweight” at 5’2″ and mid-130s, but when I exercise more I get heavier with muscle and end up solidly in the “overweight” category even though I feel better! But I just assumed those charts had some concrete medical truth behind them. Aargghh! It makes me so mad that BMI charts are taken as gospel, and what makes me even madder is that I fell for it!

    From now on, I’m tossing BMI right out the window, and I’m sending more people to this site. It’s an eye-opener, so thank you.

  120. I wonder what they have to say about my big fat ass. WIC told me Aiden is just under obese & when I went to the doctor with him they (both female) were like…um, no! He’s actually a normal weight & a rediculous height, making him super skinny. What medical school did that broad graduate from? Probably didn’t.

  121. Another project you could put together, to make the message even more powerful — show the range of variation between people of the same height with the same BMI. It would be harder to put together, but it would hammer the point home stronger.

  122. I’ve only recently found this blog and sooooo love it.

    Wanted to chime in on gym experiences. I know why I don’t like sports or exercise and the mere sound of a ball bouncing in the neighborhood can send me into a panic attack. Thank my high school gym coach, Coach Partch.

    He loved the guys, hated us young women. He allowed (even encouraged) the boys to throw balls at us when we were walking to and from class. I was knocked out cold by a basketball on the way to the locker room and was told “boys will be boys.” He yelled and screamed and failed me from one quarter when I was unable to run the mile because I was one day back from recovering from a dreadful flu and barely able to stand. I could not walk hardly, let alone attempt to run.

    Yes, I am overweight. I’ve been overweight all my life, some more than others. Anyone else tired of hearing “if only”? I’ve been told I’d be so pretty if only I’d (lose weight, stand up straighter, not breathe through my mouth, ….lose weight–yes, that’s the one I hear the most!).

    My BMI says I’m obese, heading towards Morbidly Obese. Most people wouldn’t believe that, although many agree I’m “overweight” but “not that much”-thanks god for a decent height and a frame that hides some of it. :) I’m still struggling with accepting myself, obviously, but I am starting to try.

    I’m better about self-confidence and self-esteem thanks to my husband, who loves me as I am and never comments about my weight (although he has pointed out that I seem happier and feel better when I regularly walk or swim–and he’s right, so why don’t I do it more often and stick with it?). I’m working on that too.

    My new year’s resolution list, for the first time in my life, will not have “lose weight” on it! That feels great to say. I am going to have “increase walking, swimming or other activities that make me feel good” and “eat more fruit” because these things tend to make me happy–not because they will get me to some other goal.

    Sorry for the long post, but this blog has been inspiring since I found it about two weeks ago, but I’ve never written to say so. Thanks! K

  123. You have got to be kidding. This is all simply anecdotal evidence and has no basis in determinations of mortality.

    The BMI is generally recognized as a guideline to healthy weight. If you don’t recognize the medical establishment, then what are your criteria for belief?


  124. I love the slideshow…it is a perfect display of beauty and health…it also made me laugh because BMI is ridiculous

  125. Hey Shapelings, I approved Jim’s comment for you guys, as a Festivus present. Go to town! I’m giggling uncontrollably, myself.

  126. *stares blankly at Jim’s comment* *snicker..snort…giggle*

    He’s serious about that question, ain’t he?
    *wipes eyes*…ok.

    All I have to say to that one is…the BMI has determinations of mortality? Cause, see, according to the BMI, I’m morbidly obese. Which means, I should be like…about to die. RIGHT NOW. But I’m feeling rather groovy, ya know?

    So, it seems that, based on your own comment, dear, that Kate’s right in saying BMI is bullshit. But that’s just my analysis.

    Happy Festivus, y’all!

  127. My favorite part is that disputing a statistical descriptor of population that is being inaccurately used as a predictor of health means that WE DON’T RECOGNIZE THE MEDICAL PROFESSION.

  128. My favorite part is that disputing a statistical descriptor of population that is being inaccurately used as a predictor of health means that WE DON’T RECOGNIZE THE MEDICAL PROFESSION.

    I have to admit he’s right, actually. If I ran into the medical profession on the street, I might very well mistake it for, say, the legal profession.

  129. Oh dear.

    Jim, first off, this project isn’t actually saying anything about mortality rates. It’s saying here are some people, what they look like, and what BMI category they are in. To give us all a realistic picture of what all that looks like.
    Gee, the nerve of a bunch of people of different body sizes and types to anabashedly SHOW themselves.

    Second, the medical community itself is producing the studies that show everything we talk about in this blog. But the money that pays for the messages YOU apparently hear is coming from – you guessed it – the diet industry.

    Third, every single study I have read shows:
    1. fitness is a good predictor of mortality. weight is not, except when you’re a little “underweight” or extremely “obese”. In any case difference in mortality that correspond to different BMIs are statistically negligable compared with, say, how I’m likely to live much longer than you because I’m a woman and women live longer than men. (Studies on animals show that castration lengthens life in males. Perhaps you should try that of you’re so interested in longevity.)
    2. the “overweight” category is the one associated with the lowest mortality. (some in the medical community react by saying overweight people are still at risk cuz they might BECOME obese. so apparently it’s best to be thinner and already be in the category with higher mortality, so that we wont be at risk of getting into a category with higher mortality. ya. makes sense.
    others react by saying well mortality isn’t everything. ya. funny how that only comes up when they see that “overweight” is associated with the lowest mortality.)
    3. this one is KEY: whatever the category associated with the lowest mortality – there is NO evidence that becoming fatter (if you’re under that “ideal” weight) or thinner (if you’re over it) causes you to acquire the health characteristics of those who are naturally at that weight.
    one big reason that there is no evidence for that is that no large group of people has been found that has successfully permanently changed their weight (up or down) from where it naturally is when they aren’t trying to influence it.

    tell men live longer than short men. does that mean stretching men to make them taller will make them live longer? why don’t u try it and let us know how it works out.

  130. *oops i meant “tall men”. doh.

    According to some evidence in animals, perhaps tall men who are castrated would live the longest… interesting.

  131. Hey, thanks for the Festivus present. I’ll answer cggirl’s reply since she has the most coherent points.

    Fist, let me say It is really nice to get three slow pitches in a row.

    From Ageing Research Reviews, Volume 1, Issue 4, September 2002, Pages 673-691, Longevity, mortality and body weight notes that excess body weight takes life off of you at the rate of -0.4 years per kilogram.

    And yes, they did use body mass. And yes, they used physically fit people. And yes, they noted that larger-framed people suffered more. So if you are tall, then you might want to actually be on the low side of the normal range, not on the high side, because your weight is high to begin with.

    And this is just one study- if you would like more recent reporting there is the U.N. report on diet and disease as well as the National Geographic special report on longevity. Or take a look at anything by John Robbins, among others.


  132. Jim, BMI was invented in the Victorian era by a Belgian statistician, not handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai by the Big Guy Himself. Assuming it had even been devised as some kind of means to measure health in the first place, it is simply not relevant to society two centuries on. We are larger all told – as in taller, broader, better off nutritionally than we were then. Furthermore, some bright spark deciding to lower the cut-off point determining who was overweight 150 years down the line rendered millions previously considered a healthy, desirable weight by your all-knowing, never prejudiced, mates, the medical establishment, overweight overnight. Not only did this create the spurious ‘epidemic’ our various governments are publicly wringing their hands about, it also widened the gulf between Victorian society and our own even further. BMI is an arbitrary, essentially flawed, archaic load of old twaddle that can’t differentiate between fat and muscle mass. It is a wholly unreliable indicator of health.

    And just how much “excess body weight” takes life off of you at the rate of -0.4 years per kilogram, may I ask? Are we talking ounces, pounds, stones, tons? I believe true giants don’t live very long but giants aren’t any more typical of run-of-the-mill society than the half-ton-man invariably wheeled out as sure proof I’m going to peg it before you do – a fact, incidentally, I’d hotly dispute since female longevity tends to run in my family, fat notwithstanding.

    But here’s the thing, Jim, life isn’t a competition to see who can live longer than who. And like it or not, we’re all going to die, you included, regardless of what you eat, how much you weigh or how much you exercise. Me, I’m for quality of life and the quality of mine has improved immeasurably since I stopped beating myself up for being fat.

  133. Me, I’m for quality of life and the quality of mine has improved immeasurably since I stopped beating myself up for being fat.

    Nononononon, buffpuff. The correct response is to thank Jim for his concern and immediately stop being fat at him. After all, he took some his precious time to come to a fat acceptance site and set us all straight. The least we could do is stop accepting out bodies and devote our lives to fighting biology.

  134. You’re right, Sniper. Jim is in fact the very embodiment of Christmas Spirit, what with the sharing and caring and all. I should learn to be more gracious. And illogical. Hey, there’s my new year’s resolution right there!

  135. Oh, and can I also just point out — as I’ve probably already done on this thread — how much I love it when people scoff that this project is “just anecdotal”? As if my intention was to pass a Flickr photostream off as a rigorous scientific study?

  136. Buffpuff, you kick so much ass, it’s a wonder there’s any ass left when you’re done.

    (of course that’s strictly anectdotal evidence on my part.)

  137. Oh, I’m so glad Jim came back to give us more to work with, I was getting worried that his original comment was too flat-out dumb to be much fun.

  138. Hey, uh, Jim, not to discount your (single) reference as (necessarily) biased, but the promo copy for this publication includes this: “The cellular and molecular underpinnings of manipulations that extend lifespan, such as caloric restriction, are being identified and novel approaches for preventing age-related diseases are being developed.”

    I find it (more than) slightly possible that maybe there’s an agenda behind the framing of the results of the particular study you have referenced, though I will admit I haven’t yet found it online to review thoroughly.

    Don’t suppose you have a backup study to reference?

  139. P.S. The “medical establishment” has a pretty questionable track record. Malpractice insurance is crazy expensive for a reason.

  140. But you guys! Jim has a vaguely worded statistic! I TAKE BACK EVERYTHING I’VE EVER SAID ON THIS BLOG.

  141. Jim,

    First of all you describe “3 slow pitches” but u completely ignore that last point, which i find particularly important – the one about how whatever mortality is found among the naturally thin or fat or what have you, there is no evidence that purposely trying to influence weight will cause people to acquire the health characteristics of a person who naturally has the weight/BMI in question.

    You also fail to realize the first thing i mentioned – that the BMI project isn’t trying to “prove” any of this stuff. It’s just showing what people look like at different BMIs.

    Also, I fully agree with Tari about studies… and of COURSE i can’t possibly have read and reviewed every single study out there. But for what it’s worth, there is an overhwleming amount of evidence in the actual studies showing how little it matters if ur fat or thin and how the “overweight” category is, if anything, associated with the longest life. Oftent he results get totally mangled in the media. I keep finding more and more studies such as this one:

    That’s just one example but that blog shows how commonly results of studies are misrepresented.
    In fact that blog probably references your own favorite studies and what it ACTUALLY shows versus what the researches have to pretend it shows in order to get more grant money and justify their existence..

    And if u ask urself why things are misrepresented – the answer is simple. “Obesity” researches need to keep the idea going, the idea that obesity is bad, because that’s how they get more grants for studies from – guess who – the diet industry.

    That blog – junkfoodscience – is just one source of course. There are many sources for this information.

    Again, I’m not sure any of that is even relevant because it doesn’t show how purposely changing your weight might influence ur mortality. Namely, because there are no statistically significant groups of people who manage to do it. And even fewer people who do it without anorexia or bulemia or a horrible disease that emaciates them, or some such thing.

    Jim I used to think like you as well, honestly. It took a long time for the overwhelming evidence to finally click with me. So I understand that things we commonly hold as true are very difficult to shake. Therefore, I sincerely doubt that I’m changing ur mind about anything.

    Which leads me back to – the BMI project is pictures of some people at some weights. Why on earth would u find THAT objectionable?

    Hmm.. I suddenly have an urge to post pictures of myself in a bikini all over the web and be fat at everyone. :)

  142. (argh. as usual i cringe at all my mistakes and typos but y’all get what i’m saying.)

    and shinobi and sniper – LOL! :)

    incidentally Jim the only reason my responses seem more in depth than some others is that these lovely readers here have already gone into this so many times. and kate herself has a whole section on it.

    i’m just repeating what they already know and have said a thousand times. and they know they can’t force u to further educate urself on these issues and question the commonly held beliefs and stigmas so they don’t bother…
    i’m not sure why i’m bothering. it’s certainly not christmas spirit because i’m a huge jew.

  143. Oh thank GOD! Someone has the sense to stand up to the nonsense (and no sense) that is the BMI scale!

    Too lazy to figure out body fat percentage! No consideration for muscle mass or bone density.

    Obviously a system invented by professional administrators, not biologists.

    Why hasn’t this been trashed yet? We were better off with the old life insurance height/weight scales.

  144. Brilliant! Thanks for putting the photostream up and having this discussion going.
    Anyone remember the “Guess your weight” carnival game? I always love playing that one, b/c I always stumped the game owner. I’m 5’2, US size 10, and weigh 170lbs. I think the highest guess I’ve ever gotten was 140lbs. Yet according my BMI, I’m obese. Funny, I just thought I was athletic. :-)

    Too often, fat is looked as this horrible specter that automatically makes your life a nightmare.
    Increased fat is associated with health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, as mentioned earlier in the comments. But like most things in life, there’s negatives and positives.
    Women with more body fat have more natural estrogen post-menopause, as fat tissue is a source of estrogen. Heavier people are less likely to get osteoporosis for a host of reasons, including the increased hormone production and the fact that increased weight makes the skeleton stronger in response. A lack of body fat will affect fertility and stop menstrual cycles, as the body will think that there isn’t enough resources to ensure a proper pregnancy.

    But that’s reality. Too bad it’s so much easier to say (and spin) “fat=bad; no fat=good” instead of teaching moderation and showing that everything has two faces. But that’s a lot more words and not as “sexy”, eh?

  145. Oh my god, Victor, are you fucking serious?? THERE ARE FAT PEOPLE IN SOME OF THOSE PICTURES? Kate, we’re doing this all wrong! VICTOR SAW SOME FAT PEOPLE!

    I know I should stop approving comments whose sole content is “you guys, you know that slide show where people are labeled overweight, underweight, normal, and obese? Well I think some of them are overweight, underweight, normal, and obese.” But I just find it so terminally funny when someone feels the need to comment on a blog ABOUT FAT to tell us that WE ARE FAT.

    God, we need BMI Project Bingo. Victor’s going to come back and tell us that this isn’t a scientific study and we should have been more objective. And then I’m going to ban him.

  146. Dude, BMI Project Bingo would be brilliant.

    Victor is like the woman on “Don’t You Realize that Fat Is Unhealthy” who said that we must not have been talking about fat people, because they are unhealthy.

  147. I know I should stop approving comments whose sole content is “you guys, you know that slide show where people are labeled overweight, underweight, normal, and obese? Well I think some of them are overweight, underweight, normal, and obese.”

    Yeah, especially because I keep deleting them before I realize you’ve responded! :)

  148. Yeah, and last week (or at least last month) I was probably the one going “oh my god I never want to hear negative shit from anyone again.” It just goes in phases. No idea why my dander is up right now, honestly.

  149. bmi is pretty bullsh*t on the skinny end too.

    i’m 5’6″, and between 100-105lbs. this makes me apparently seriously underweight but i have NO health problems and killer stamina. i out-eat my husband [who is, to be fair, also really thin, but his bmi comes out as normal], and can lift much more than i weigh.

    i have itty-bitty part-asian bird bones, i guess. my sister is a couple inches shorter and about 90lbs, and my brother is about 6′ and a whopping 145.

    none of us are at risk of starving to death. we are too in love with krispy kreme.

  150. Great site — more, more, more! (I love the idea of “what X lbs looks like.)

    A recent article from the NYT talks about how not smoking, not drinking too much, eating enough fruits and vegetables, and getting some exercise contribute to longevity. This sentence struck me as really important, and supports the “anecdotal” evidence that commenters have given about healthy obesity:

    **”The benefits were also seen regardless of whether or not people were fat and what social class they came from. “**

  151. It is totally ridiculous the unfortunate thing is that soo many people buy into it. I wish we had the money to make this ad that we could broadcast widely.

    I’ve seen it a few times and it still makes an impression.

  152. One of my friends on Livejournal included a link to this and I found it amazing. I always knew how useless BMI was, but didn’t realize how much so until I saw it. According to BMI, I am “obese”, and 1.3lbs from “morbidly obese” and I have to lose 25 lbs to be “normal”… I wish I could send in a picture so you could see how screwed up it is! LOL! All the women in the slide show are beautiful!

  153. As others have said, awesome slide show. Thank you. But
    I have a question about the Flickr site — am I missing the
    category labels? My apologies; I hate to put it that way. But
    it helps to recognize that the same labels encompasses so
    many different sizes and shapes. I’m trying to educate my-
    self as fast as I can.

    Thank you.

  154. StarWatcher, when you go to the Flickr site, click on “View as Slideshow,” then when the show comes up, click on the first picture you see. It will start showing comments that include height, weight, BMI, and concordant BMI category. Hope that helps!

  155. I’m new to this blog, and it is amazing. This project really opened my eyes – I think all of the women, men, and cats involved look great! I have a feeling I will be coming back to this site constantly in the next few months, just to keep my sanity. Because you know its a crazy world when I can be preparing to graduate college summa cum laude, while holding down a job, and doing community theatre, but when my amazing fiancee (who loves me the way I am, thinks diets are stupid, and tells me I’m sexy) proposed my first thougt was ” Oh crap, I have got to lose at least 50lbs or I’m going to ruin my wedding day and entire marriage”. Thanks for at least opening my eyes to the craziness. You guys are GREAT!!!

    PS – Apparently I’m almost “morbidly obese”

  156. Kate,
    Love your website! I own a small pilates/yoga studio and I am thrilled with your words of wisdom. Everyday I find myself educating clients that being “overweight” is not unhealthy. Keep shining your light of beautiful truth.
    ps. Do I have your permission to add your web address to my resources page?

  157. Wonderful slide show!!

    Do you have room for a picture of a 4’11” 125 lb almost 39 year old whose doctor keeps pushing teh weight loss?

  158. Great project!
    I’m 5’4″ and 165 lbs. I work out several days a week, I’m training for a triathlon, and I have killer legs. It is completely ridiculous that I am a mere 10 lbs from being considered “obese”. I have never been happier with my body! While I do plan on losing some more body fat through my training, I know I’ll still remain upwards of 150lbs and still be completely healthy (and hot!).

  159. This is so nice to see. I have been so depressed about my BMI lately. I am 5’4″, I weight 153lbs and, according to the personal trainer at my gym, my BMI is a massive 35, meaning, I believe, that I am severly obese. My blood pressure is consistently excellent, I have the lowest cholestrol my doctor has seen in a while (his words!). I could do with going to the gym more and toning up, but I am having a serious problem with hating my body since I found out my BMI. I need to read here more, and hopefully it will help. I think I look a little overweight, but how can 153lbs be severly obese??

  160. and by the way, I really envy and appreciate all of you that have such a healthy view of your body. It is really inspiring, and I hope to get there soon ;) I’m 34 so I should be ok by now!

  161. Good catch, apricotmuffins — Lucy, I’m sorry I missed your comment. To put it in perspective, I’m 5’2″ and 185 lbs., and my BMI is only 33.8.

    You need a new trainer.

  162. Oh, hey, Lucy, I’m 34 too and I just learned about body acceptance. Yeah, we all “should be ok by now,” but we’ve all been forcefed some pretty fucked up stuff. And I’m not talking about baby donuts.

    Also BMI is an insanely inaccurate measure of not only your health but your worth.

  163. Thanks for putting this together. Shows how we all are differently shaped and proportioned. Great job and thanks to those who donated their pictures.

  164. Great slide show! So, if we can all see that BMI “measurement” is bollocks than what does that do to the governments contention that a large number of the population is obese? For that matter, the scientific papers that only used height and weight (BMI) in historical studies that looked for links to obesity and cancer, heart disease etc. I suggest that they need to look a lot deeper in those studies because it is not enough to just say “Oh, those people died because their BMI was high”. Um, I’m pretty sure that people with low BMI’s get cancer and heart disease too! In fact, I haven’t seen anything that shows a definite link between high BMI *only* and heart disease or cancer….I think there is something more specific going on that causes heart disease and it is found in both low and high BMI’s. I guess what I’m saying is that the BMI is inadequate, possibly even useless and should not be used.
    I brought this up on another message board that I frequent where there had been discussion of BMI and I showed pics of myself and then told them that according to the BMI calculator I was obese. Nobody believed it. My own Dr. doesn’t believe it and is not telling me “OMG, you must lose weight” (thankfully, she is an enlightened Dr but there are many who are not!)

  165. This website actually got me to cry a little – I’m 5’6.5″ and weigh 211 pounds currently. I have a BMI of 33.5 according to that. I’m dealing with recovering from ED-NOS, and this has been bookmarked as something really important to remember.

    Thank you for making this.

  166. This is no troll. I don’t know where to begin. I’m a college student with a history of anorexia, so I know that I have skewed perceptions of ‘the right weight.’ In my recovery I learned that I can’t pay attention to what I eat at all or I am prone to start skipping meals again. Recently I did get on a scale and when I found out my bmi was “all the way up” to 23.4, I cried for almost an hour. So that’s one half of my interest in this.

    The other comes from the fact that my campus has experienced some hate crimes against homosexuals in the last week. t’s also gotten me to think a lot in terms of my own prejudices. I realized that I have been harboring one sort of rather overwhelming prejudice that I’ve never voiced (properly anyway) for fear of getting ostracized from many of my friends. I am terribly bigoted against fatness. I’ve been aware of my aversion for a while, but always been able to wave it away as a ‘silly’ thing, my ‘fatism-haha’ and never thought deeply about it. I noticed a few days ago, on a friend’s facebook page that she joined a group of Kate Harding fans. I had no idea who she was, and did some investigating. When I logged onto this page and found out she was a fat activist, the disgust and feeling of ‘oh get over yourself .. you can ‘fix’ your ‘problem’ slapped me in the face and all of a sudden I understood I sounded JUST like a homophobe–something I abhor.

    I then realized that I harbor a lot of those same feelings of disgust deep down for some of the people I care most about. Or worse, I “forgive” them, in particular, because they’re my friends, but I know I would judge them if I ran into them on the street. Its the exact same thing that one of my friends does to me; he tries his damndest to ignore the fact I’m bisexual in order for us to remain friends. I knew all of a sudden exactly how it felt to be one of those people. It was such a jarring moment. All of a sudden I was more empathetic to the criminals. You’re not proud of your bias (necessarily, some people are); it fact it can make you feel awful. I don’t know what I’m going to do now; I’m not there yet, but I know I need to come clean to my friends that I’ve marginalized.

    Does anyone have advice for someone like me? I’m trying to change my perspective, but it’s hard. I should be in the perfect position to understand that not everyone can or should pursue society’s image of what’s right (or in my case, my own) but it’s not clicking.

  167. missm, that’s a tough one, and we’re probably not qualified to answer it. That’s code for “you should probably talk to a therapist about it” — because I’d guess that it’s almost certainly tied to your ED history and whatever is at the root of that. Then again, we do have some therapists floating around here, so maybe they’d be able to point you in the right direction. It seems to me like something you just have to work through with someone who is qualified to help you dig into these issues without judging you, but without letting you off the hook.

  168. missm, Sarah in Chicago recently did a post on Shakesville about trying to come to terms with her own prejudice — except in her case, the prejudice is against bisexuals. She has lots of great insights and the comments there are full of lots of great advice. Since you know what it’s like to be hated for being bi and have already made the connection there, reading that thread and thinking about it in light of your own views on fat could be helpful.

  169. missm, in addition to what FJ and Kate have said, it might help you to dig through our archives and read some of the posts detailing what it feels like to be on the receiving end of fat prejudice. You can also check out First, Do No Harm to see what institutionalized fat prejudice looks like (though there are some anorexia/ED stories on there that might be triggering for you — I’m not sure). Either way, I encourage you to stick around here, read the archives, listen to what people have to say about what it’s like to be fat.

  170. I think its awesome that missm has the courage to post that comment here. Just saying – thankyou for showing us that we are opening peoples eyes. It means a lot to me (even though i never blog, im just a tag-a-long) and im sure its encouraging to all the fatosphere bloggers.

  171. thanks all for putting me right about my BMI. My trainer told me that the way he calculated my BMI (with callipers) was more accurate than me just reading my weight and height on a chart and calculating it that way. Is this BS then?

  172. By definition, the BMI is ONLY calculated by weight and height. Caliper testing is almost always for body fat percentage, and a 35% body fat is not unheard of in females of childbearing age.

  173. missm, thank you for having the courage to post your comment! i don’t know about more regular contributors, but i personally find it extremely encouraging that 1) kate’s blog is attracting attention from people who would otherwise dismiss fatness as a problem to “get over”, and 2) that the bmi project, the blog, and everything else has challenged your perceptions! that’s fantastic! i don’t know how one goes about modifying deeply held biases, but i would imagine that your revelation is a huge step in the right direction. and, indeed, i would venture to suggest that the fact that your friends are still your friends–despite their sizes and your admitted bias–suggests that maybe you aren’t as bigoted as you think you are!

    even as a fat person, i have had a long-standing knee-jerk aversive reaction whenever i see another fat person. i read somewhere a long time ago that a useful exercise is to try and think of at least one positive thing about the appearance of every person you see, no matter how minor. eventually you become aware of the snap judgements you are making, which doesn’t necessarily change your opinion but at least brings it to your attention where you can challenge it if you want.

    good luck!

  174. I like your slideshow. I am also one of the people that fits into the overweight category (my pic is on my profile). I am training for the Country Music 1/2 marathon, and I work out 4 days a week. I feel healthy and fit, but being in that overweight category still bugs me. It’s nice to see beautiful women in all categories.

  175. I’m definitely bookmarking this slideshow. I’ve always thought the BMI was completely worthless. I’m heading into medical school soon, and I know I won’t be using it as a deciding factor for ANY patient.

    I myself generally come from Nordic/Celtic ancestry. Those vikings weren’t exactly dainty. Along with my permanently blinding white skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, I’m very solidly built and muscular at 5’6″ & 200 lbs. I also have a 30DDD bust and a big butt to match. I always run when taking stairs if people are out of my way and I can also bend backwards while standing to touch my head to my heels.

    My grandmother was known for going to carnivals and never losing at those weight guessing games. Those guys tend to be eerily accurate, but they where always about 40 lbs too low since she only looked like she was about 90 lbs. She looked like a stiff breeze could have knocked her over.

    And yes, gym class was hell.

  176. I am “obese.”

    I work out 6 days a week.
    My resting heartbeat is that of an athlete.
    I wear a size 8.

  177. Yeah, I not only work-out 5-6 days a week, eat lean and generally avoid junk, I had a screening yesterday, and although my real body fat percentage is 22% (7 caliper measurement process), my BMI is btwn 25-26% (Overweight). What a bunch of Hooey! Oh and I wear a size 4 btw! What the hell is wrong with these people? It really got my goat yesterday!!! Sorry for all the exclamation points…but I work my butt of to be healthy and the standards that are set are ridiculous.

    The worst part is that the screening is for my health insurance premiums at work…how dare they use such archaic methods to measure me by.

  178. I’ll add a picture as soon as I get some, I don’t have any where I’d be sort of normally visible and some funky self-portrait like left hand photographing the right one is no good.
    I’m in the overweight range and call me a troll or not, I want to be like 15 kilos lighter – gained these as a side effect of antidepressants and it doesn’t feel like me.

    I have one little story to share, though. My mother seems to have anorexia by proxy. I’ve been listening all my life how fat I am, how fat I’ll be if I don’t stop eating that much, that I would maybe even look quite pretty if I only had a bit of strong will and lost 20 kilos – this being said when I did damn lot of dance and could be barely any leaner. I have a heavy frame and wide shoulders and apparently my mother thinks wide silhouette = big = fat = obese, will die soon in pains. The other day I was told that I should deal with my obesity. I asked wtf and was explained that I must have at least 105 kilos and that it is obese indeed and that being obese means that I’ll sweat,stink, look awful and people wouldn’t like me. I was around 85 kilos then. I didn’t say anything because I found out that with this point of view, there’s nothing to be done. I only discovered that my mother is talking total crap when she said the numbers and when I calculated that if she says I could look pretty with around 50 kilos, it means that to get her appreciation, I’d have to starve myself to death. Still, years of working on my self-esteem took its toll on, erm, my self-esteem. Only when I started dancing (being told that I’m stupid to play ballerina when I’m old and useless for serious dancing and that I should find some real workout) I discovered that my body is something else than an ugly sack of fat. Sigh.

  179. THANK YOU
    finally someone pointed out that BMI hates skinny people too. i’m 101 (on a good day) and 5’5″ I eat FINE my doctor constanly reassures me i’m not underweight, but according to my bmi reading i’ve got one hell of an eating disorder.
    thank you thank you thank you for showing that curvy people can be beautiful without bhating on the skiiny ones.

  180. Also, I’m going to interject that the fat side of my family has some serious longevity. My grandfather died a week shy of turning 89 and my grandmother just passed in March and would have been 88 last week.

    But you know, OMG teh fattyz are going to die young.

  181. Quote: #
    Rebecca, on April 18th, 2008 at 2:00 pm Said:

    …but I work my butt of to be healthy and the standards that are set are ridiculous.

    The worst part is that the screening is for my health insurance premiums at work…how dare they use such archaic methods to measure me by.”

    One surprising thing I heard recently is that the BMI was tightened up recently (I am not sure how recently) so that fewer people are in the normal and more are defined overweight. I am still trying to figure out why they would do that, with all of the yawning lack of evidence that fat is the devil.

  182. every picture is beautiful, I loved watching the slideshow.

    Cassie’s picture is sexy, I must say, and the last one of Kate exercising is the other favorite, strength beautifully captured on camera.

    They are all so real and I wish there were more pictures like these all over the internet and magazines of what women really looked like.

  183. I’m currently in BMI hell. I do weigh a little more than I would like to, but I eat (usually) healthy and take care of myself. From years of competitive Irish dance, and then a college on the side of a mountain, my legs are mostly muscle. There’s definitely chub on me, but it’s mostly confined to my thighs, butt, and D-cup boobs. All in all, I think I’m reasonably healthy, and bloodwork confirms. My BMI is currently 31.

    According to a doctor at the VA hospital in DC, I am “too fat for the Peace Corps, and should join weight watchers.” Purely based on my BMI, said straight to my face when she can SEE that I’m otherwise healthy, having just done my physical. I’ve never had someone tell me I was fat before, and it was really hurtful.

    Me and my dad

    That’s me with my dad. Apparently I’m obese. I always knew BMI was stupid, but I never realized how emotionally damaging it could be.

  184. I’ve been wrestling with the fact that though I fit the same size clothes as a friend of mine but I weigh 40 lbs heavier! It just doesn’t make sense… I’ve been looking for height/weight images of real people and this page was really great to view. Thanks so much for making it. The diversity is as beautiful as the BMI is shady. I also loved the little bit of queer visibility with Teh Portly Dyke’s pseudonym. Yay for dykes taking up space (pun, ha!) on the web!

    Keep up the good work.

  185. I’d really like to get in touch with the poster Ali just above – but she is probably long gone. I was in the Peace Corps with a BMI of probably around 35 or so…it meant I had to get some extra medical tests but they accepted me with no problem. There were a couple of other girls who also had to have those tests, and one of them was significantly thinner than me. I don’t think you can be too fat to be in Peace Corps, but it was hard for me to make the decision to apply because I was afraid of really sticking out as a fat person in some area where people are undernourished and therefore hardly anyone is fat. And also, I was afraid … of confirming everyone’s prejudices that Americans are all fat. Seriously, we had one volunteer who was told by the locals that she couldn’t be American because she was thin.

  186. I found this article thoroughly enjoyable…

    It’s amazing how we can be labeled one way just by a measurement…

    It really doesn’t speak to a person’s actual look and health.

    Sheesh. This was really eye-opening…

  187. Funny. My BMI is 33.7 and my boyfriend’s is 33.3. We are both “obese.” I wear an 18. He wears a 36-waist. We’ve both been ridiculed by people we consider friends over our bodies, and neither of us are happy or comfortable with it. We eat well and exercise when we can, and still, one of my friends doesn’t ant me to hug him because I would “crush him.”

  188. hey everybody…it’s been a while since this was posted but I thought I’d share my story.

    I remember I was a bit stockier when I was younger, and had a bit of trouble with my weight, but that was fixed with eating healthier.

    middle/high school gym wasn’t too bad for me – I was a fairly “normal” size, and actually enjoyed sports and such, but those Physical Fitness Tests were horrible – I don’t have great arm or core strength so I stank at the sit ups and pull ups, and a medical condition means I can’t run for more than a few minutes without practically dying. Too bad they didn’t test leg strength, I would have blown everybody out of the water!…

    in my teens I fenced a lot (5 days a week, 2 hours a day) and was prescribed Adderall for ADD, and this made me my skinniest. It kept my weight around 140-150 at 5’8″, which is in the “normal” range. However, I only got there by eating maybe 2 sandwiches a day, and doing a lot of exercise. That’s hardly healthy.

    Over the summer before freshman year of college, I stopped fencing and taking my adderall, and went up to nearly 200 pounds. My doctor was confused, which made sense…but my mom’s reaction to it was the worst. She basically said “oh, she’s just this heavy because she’s not on the medication…once she’s on the Adderall again she’ll lose weight and be healthy again.”

    um…what? First of all, what kind of message is that to send to your kid? It’s better to be medicated and thin than happy and healthy at a larger size? Nobody should need to take any pills or medication to lose weight. If you need to, then it’s really no point, because a) you probably shouldn’t be at that size anyway, and b) how will you keep it off when you stop the pills? because I was actually giving my body the food it needed, I may have gotten heavier, but I was also stronger (I wasn’t getting as tired as easily).

    I’m now back to eating healthier and exercising, and have stayed the same weight, so I know that this is probably where I should have been all along. And the flickr picture set definitely helped to make me feel more comfortable about my body, and accept that I’m just built differently than some people. It’s been an issue I’ve dealt with since I was a kid (I remember worrying about my weight since I was in the single digits of age) but I’m starting to realize that hey, I’m healthy, and just because I’m bigger doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or anything like that.

    So thank you very much for this whole project…I wish more people realized that you don’t have to be a size 2 (or 4, or 6, or any size) to be healthy and happy.

  189. WOW. You MADE my YEAR.

    I am so tired of this country’s views of women’s weight…and it is WOMEN.

    I used to teach 8th graders in inner city middle schools…right around the time when size ZERO came out…I used to explain to my girls that this meant you were making it your goal to DISAPPEAR.

    Through grassroots information sharing we can stop all this crap and really make a difference….tell a woman she’s beautiful today…just a random stranger…I do it all the time…

    Thanks again.

  190. Wow, I don’t feel so…wrong…being classified as “underweight.” I’m so tired of dr’s prescribing all sorts of “supplemental drinks” to try and get me into the “normal” rating. My body is apparently happy to be where it is thank you very much.

  191. THANK YOU for putting this together, it is incredibly beautiful and poigniant. I can’t believe people tell me my daughter is “fat” between 6 months and 18 months. We are beautiful at all sizes!

  192. Seeing this made my day. I think BMI is a depolorable “tool” for classification. There isn’t a one-size fits all measurement for bodies – sorry folks. True health is indicated by several criteria.

    I applaud you!

  193. if you ever open submissions, let me know…! this is wonderful. i hate the bmi standards because there is no room for larger framed people and smaller framed people and its just ridiculous!!!

  194. Just wanted to add my thanks for this.
    I was brought up to believe I was fat even before I was. My mother, bless her, has fat-hate even though she’s big herself. I learned not to listen, although it took me nearly 30 years.

    I also wanted to add how photogenic all the participants are. It seems when you’re happy in your own skin you look better and you photograph well.

  195. I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful and inspiring project! I came onto the web looking to discover my ideal weight and was buried in websites that suggested, according to my BMI, that I was “overweight.” I actually found your project via a link from an insurance newscast website. I was horrified and somewhat disgusted with myself when I found out I was “overweight” with a 25 BMI.

    However, after looking at all the pictures of the beautiful women from your project I feel even prouder and more accepting of my body. I eat well, am physically fit, and have no medical conditions to report.

    I felt GREAT about my body before I even came onto the web and I find it extremely disheartening to experience how fast and hurtful specific words and terms or measurement systems can cut into one’s confidence so fast. Thank you for this wonderful project that promotes the idea of healthy body images…keep up the great work!

  196. Shucks..I’m getting all teary eyed. This really put some things in perspective. My BMI is 22.1 (that is, if I round my 5’5 and a half frame up to 5’6. Lowering it to 5’5 increases my BMI significantly to a number, despite this awakening video, I still feel horrified disclosing.) and I found myself admiring the bodies of those who were considered “overweight” more often than those that were “normal”.

    What the hell? Who propelled this stupid measure of health into popularity?

    Last night I wore a real skanky dress. I was initially scared shitless when I realized there’s a little layer of fat covering my ribs (when the hell did that appear?) but I later decided it was cute, not gross.

  197. The key is that there are many different body types.

    One does not expect a Chihuahua to be like a Saint Benard, or a Basset Hound to be like a Greyhound, so why on earth are people expected to be all the same? (No, I am not comparing women to dogs, that was just an easy comparison of how different a species can look from one another, since most people are familiar with the different varieties of dogs.)

    Look at the different body types on the athletes you see in the Olympics, and the different things they do because of the different body types. Then there are those that are doing the same things, that STILL have different body types, like the gymnasts.

    Having variety in our body types is how we have survived for so long. It’s important to understand that we have developed for different climates, terrain, and cultures.

  198. I love this, came across it by mistake on flickr I think… Do you know of any other art or project where people tackle the issue of obesity that I can look at? Thanks for your work, Lou

  199. It’s strange…
    I always thought I was overweight, and my bmi is 22 (well with in the normal range) and after looking at all of these people the ones who are normal look skinny and the ones who are overweight and obese look healthy.
    It just shows that people (or at least I do) judge themselves to harsh.

    I know for a fact that I am lacking in nutrients and without a doubt I could say that most of the girls who are overweight and obese are a million times healthier then me.

    Yet muscle has a lot to do with it (it weighs twice as much as fat)

  200. It’s disturbing to me that the difference between ‘normal’ weight and ‘obese’ is a mere 30 pounds.

    Seems kind of silly… I could fluctuate that much over a couple of months!

  201. Hello Kate,

    I’m sorry I’m late to comment on this project. It seems to me that insofar as fascism might be defined as the intrusion of aesthetic categories into political discourse, we live quite literally in a “body fascist” society. The BMI categories are aesthetic ones, not medical ones; that much is clear. And to judge by the responses here, they’re not even the *right* aesthetic ones!

    I wanted to know what you think about something that hasn’t I think received much airing in the comments so far (I scanned rather than read in detail). Some recent PSA campaigns in the UK have focussed on waist-hip ratio as a predictor of so-called obesity-related diseases such as type II diabetes. The available medical evidence seems to suggest that this (even cruder) calculation is a better predictor of these kind of health problems, though still scarcely perfect. I wanted to suggest that maybe the reason that people react with incredulity to the BMI categories you show in the slides is that the people photographed there, I think without exception and regardless of size, have a healthy-looking *shape*: that is, basically, a low waist-hip ratio. The “normal” and “underweight” people probably have some of the highest waist-hip ratios, and the “give ’em a donut” reaction is probably translatable to “they look like they need more hip fat!” There are lots of issues that I’m interested in here, including the equation of fat with deformity, but I wonder if you had any thoughts…
    Best wishes,


  202. Hey,
    I just happened by your site, and I’d like to tell you what a breath of fresh air it is!
    I’m currently in the military, and I know the BMI matrix rather well, as I have to go through a taping, weigh in and other poking and prodding every six months.
    I’m average size, but according to their standards I fall on the far end of obese. Nevermind the fact that I can run the mile and a half and stay neck and neck with young 18 year old men, or that I can do more push ups than them, or do the required amount of sit-ups times two…
    I think that there’s a problem there. I have to bi-annually go into the medic and get a waiver, saying that I am healthy. I have no history of diabetes, thyroid issues or anything else, I just don’t seem to lose weight.
    I’m rambling though, but I appreciate this blog very much. Like I said, coming from a world of tape and measurements, it is really good to know that there are people that appreciate people of all shapes.
    Kudos to you all for upkeeping such a wonderful site.

  203. AMAZING! I was a fat kid, then lost 5 stone in my early twenties. It’s a constant battle to keep it off, and I do go up when I relax. Found a happy medium where I don’t have to kill myself to stay skinny, and my weight doesn’t go into orbit when I have a weekend away. For some reason, when I’m heavier, I don’t put weight on so quickly.

    Anyway babbling. At my ‘slimmest’ (which was still heavy for someone of my height) I was 140 pounds and I’m 5’3”. But I was a size 10 (UK). I was happy with that! Buy my BMI was still high. I was pretty muscly then as did lots of weights and put it partly down to that, and partly down to the fact i’ll always be heavier than lots of other people my height, even though I was a size 10.

    Now I’m a 14, and would be probably be classified as obese, or even morbidly! But I think I just look slightly heavier than average. I don’t mind. And my boyfriend doesn’t seem to mind at all, quite the opposite. I’ve learnt that my actual weight or BMI doesn’t mean I don’t look good, and stopped measuring myself against that. If I’m excercising and fit, and can wear the clothes I want to, I’m happy. I’ll always have to keep an eye on it and will always go up and down a little, but I’ve stopped comparing myself to 8 stone celebrities, it’s just not worth being miseable for! Hardly eating and excercising hours every day is not my idea of a fulflling life. Everyone’s different, as long as they feel happy, who the fuck else should care enough to comment on it? Bizarre attitude if you ask me.

    Great site, really entertaining and makes many poignant, well points.


  204. I have always thought that BMI was accurate, but looking at the pictures now, I really don’t think it is fair or accurate at all. There is a huge psychological difference between normal and overweight, yet on this system, it can be as little as 0.1 difference.

    I think that because so many Americans are considered over weight that America has become so overly-conscious about body size and shape (according to statistics, I’m no so convinced that something like 60% of Americans are really over weight/obese ~ its probably based on this flawed system). Too much hype has been brought about by all of this.

  205. Wonderful slideshow, thank you! Like Wendy Juniper, I’m short (5′ 2″), and according to the BMI standard am obese at 155#. But I’m robustly healthy, more so than my coworker who is much taller and the same weight. Even though I’d like to weigh less, my body seems to prefer to lurk at this weight. As long as I know what triggers jolt me into eating poorly, I stay at this weight. And since I exercise regularly and like the way I look (as does my husband), perhaps I can now work on accepting that face in the mirror.

  206. Wow. So many comments. I knew there’s something wrong with BMI standards. This is proof. It would’ve been great to see their actual weights, heights and BMIs, though.

    But it’s a fantastic project and I’ve sent this link to many friends of mine. Thank you.

  207. A good point here.
    Hi. I’m a lingerie model signed by a large modeling agency. I fit into the usual sizes required of models of my type, and my BMI ranks 30 – apparently I’m obese.

    My waist, incidentally, is 12 inches smaller than either my chest or my hips. And, though I have fat on my body, I do not have much, par indication of my chosen career.


  208. I must say that I nearly cried when I saw the pictures of the “morbidly obese” women. They are so beautiful. I fit in the same category, and I’m starting to think that I might be beautiful too…


    Apparently the BMI does take into account differences in body shape- surely the NHS wouldn’t lie or used flawed analysis, would they? However, when I used the calculator just now, it didn’t ask me anything about my body type (broad shoulders, wide bones at wrist and ankle) so I am wondering if- oh actually, it’s all bullshit!! According to this Evander Holyfield would have been in the overweight range (6’1″, 208lbs) in his light heavyweight days- and told by his doctors to lose weight no doubt!!

    All of the people in the slideshow look beautiful, happy and healthy. Isn’t that good enough?

  210. That’s insane!!! Like, wow. I mean, people who are exactly the same size fall into different categories? That’s ridiculous! I agree with Chickfactor, isn’t the fact that they look happy and healthy good enough?

    Not for doctors I suppose, who like to blame everything on being overweight, including the sniffles.

  211. I have only just seen these pictures (I’m at work so the slide show wouldn’t work so I looked at the Flicr set instead), and I would like to just say WOW. These women look fantastic, and I again echo what everyone else here says, that the ‘overweight’ women look far from that. If I saw any one of them in the street, I would never think of them as being overweight in a million years. As someone who is new to FA, after years of dieting and gaining, standing currently between 225 and 260lbs at 5’9″, I have days where I love my fat body and days where I hate it. Today I have been having a hating day after being squashed on an airline seat just a couple of days ago. These pictures have reminded me again that I am normal. We are all normal. Our size does not change that. Stupid BMI can try, but it’s not going to beat me!

  212. Wow, I have been annoyed by the BMI-BS for some time. I am 5’9 170 lb male and I am considered overweight based on BMI. I have 52 inch shoulders and I wear 32 inch jeans. I have really modest bulk and eat healthy and excercise regularly and only hope to achieve “tone” in the gym. WTF is this based on? Concentration camp averages?

  213. I am astounded by how ridiculous the BMI calculations are. Where I work, we are having our BMI as an “unofficial” rating that is being used to give us a discount on our health benefit payments.
    However, I do not know how “unofficial” it is and it is being calculated in towards our discount.
    I am 46 years old, 6’2″, weigh 225 pounds and stay in pretty good shape. I am listed as “overweight” and I am at the end that is approaching “obese”.
    As much as I complain as a man, I am painfully aware of how women get the more scrutinizing spotlight.

  214. I haven’t read through every single comment thoroughly, but something I’ve noticed that seems only to be addressed in passing is the fact that BMI is NOT the same as body fat percentage. BMI does not take into account body composition or build. Just as an example: I’m a 5’4″ woman with dense bones and a lot of muscle who, at 165 lbs still wears a size 8 or 10. Based on BMI, I’m overweight; based on body fat percentage, I’m not. I’m not necessarily saying that having a body fat percentage in a “desirable” range is reasonable for all people, just that it’s not the same as BMI. Not even close.

  215. I am SO glad that you did this. I’m 5″2, with E cup breasts and I weigh 10 and a half stone. Apparently I am overweight and close to obese.. I’m 17, and I really worry about the way I look (Most teenagers do I guess! :P) But this just shows how stupid the BMI idea is! Thank you!

  216. Wow, this really too me by the cuffs and knocked some sense to me. Yesterday- just yesterday, I said to my sister, I cannot wait until Im not obese anymore, and she said – you’ve lost a lot of weight, youre not obese anymore.
    And I said, yes I am – the BMI indicator says so.
    Because I’m used to allowing things that do not know me to pass judgement on me.
    I’ve got to be tired of this by now. It’s outrageous.

  217. As someone who has a BMI of 21.7 (dead centre, according to some scales!) and probably no muscle, I found this quite interesting. I think I’m one of the few people that the BMI is actually accurate about. My highest BMI was about 26.7 and I think somewhat overweight would have been a fair description for me at the time.
    I see a some friends who look about the same as me or perhaps slightly bigger get classified as overweight or obese… and I always find it quite bizarre.

  218. You can’t imagine how shocked I was recently to discover that I’m at the absolute highest weight for my height to be considered “normal.” I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who, after looking at the number and then looking at my body, found the whole thing to be pretty ridiculous.

  219. What about a person who weighs, say, 295 lbs and has approx. 5% body fat? The BMI would STILL claim I’m obese. Say WHAT? Mean to say that the only way I can be “healthy” is to be emaciated? Good grief. Who thought up THIS crap? More junk science from someone receiving a huge research grant, I suppose…

  220. I hope people will respond to my comment and help me understand. I am so confused by the purpose of this project.

    I’ve never read anything that said BMI was a concrete method of measuring “normal” body weight. It’s a guideline. Guidelines are generalities. Generalities do not apply to everyone, there are always exceptions.

    I also don’t understand the insult behind the words overweight or obese. These are clinical/medical terms, with clinical/medical definitions. If they apply to you, then okay. What is the problem? (I would be considered “morbidly obese.)

    The slide show above shows pictures of beautiful women, along with their weight classifications. When I say that I don’t understand the purpose, I mean that I don’t get what this is attempting to prove. Many of the women fit their classifications, this doesn’t make them any less wonderful. I’ve been reading several Fat acceptance blogs over the past few days, and something I’ve seen multiple times, is women embracing their size and self in real life. They’ll tell stories of friends who say, “Oh, you’re not fat”, and they’ll correct them, “Yes, I am”, and that is a moment of triumph for them, of accepting themselves. I feel like this slideshow, and the uproar against BMI is encouraging the opposite. It seems like I should look at these pictures, and think, “Oh, she’s pretty and interesting, she couldn’t be obese. That must be wrong.” Isn’t that the same logic well-meaning friends use when they say, “You’re not fat like them”?

    If you truly love and accept yourself, why does it matter where you fall on a number scale? Why is it necessary to negate your placement or the validity of the system because it files you in a category you don’t like? If we are really accepting ourselves for who and what we are, why act as though a little(or big) number undermines everything we stand for?

  221. MarlieNow, you’re missing the point. The point is that those BMI classifications are often the ONLY justification used when a person [usually a woman] is told ‘you must lose weight or you will die OMG NOW’. Regardless of health status, diet, lifestyle, muscle vs fat, anything else, if your BMI classifies you as obese in the eyes of the medical field, you must lose weight. You are not healthy. Heck, you’re barely even human.

    It isn’t saying ‘no, they CAN’T be obese, they’re pretty!’ it’s ‘Look, they’re normal, but modern medicine is convinced they’re about to die. This isn’t right’.

  222. Thanks for explaining. I understand where you’re all coming from a bit more.

    I’m going to do more research on the subject. The only time I’ve heard BMI mentioned on my preferred news outlets, they were pointing out the flaws in the system. I don’t think the news programs I watch are that great, so I assumed that was common knowledge. But I know assumptions are often wrong, and I would like to be better informed.

  223. Whats really interesting is that I pulled up these pictures as sort of a “how you you percive yourself” self-therapy, and I self-identified as looking like Fillyjonk and Sweet Machine’s pictures.

    Not only are they both shorter than me, but they weigh at least 80 pounds more than I do. Perhaps I should explore this further.

    These pictures would be so valuable as a poster! I would buy one for every girl I know!

  224. I have a fatal, progressive, neurodegenerative disease. My neuro is great about my weight, but other docs have acted like I should be on a diet. I feel like screaming” I’m going to freaking *die* you morons, so what if my BMI is 33. I’m sure it will go down rapidly when I am, oh, no longer able to swallow!” What is with the &%#! medical profession?
    Great slide show!

  225. It’s very interesting to see. On both ends some of the underweight people don’t look so and some normal people do look it. It’s completely off on the overweight stuff on some people.
    BMI is very inaccurate with health in general. I was very severly anorexic and I actually bloated up at my lowest weight so BMI did not state how bad the situation was. You could still see it was bad though because I just looked awful. They find with people starving in times of famine bmi is almost useless because of famine oedema. They have found the the people who come in with the higher bmi’s are more likely to die.
    I also was in treatment where they would put everyone up to a 20 bmi and everyone looked totall different and some still looked really underweight.

  226. Dang, I just sent an email with my pic and bmi stats. Should’ve read the whole post first huh?

    This project really saved me. I had just come home from the doctor where they told me that I am morbidly obese and will now have diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and die a horrible death. I wear a size 20 so now I’m going to die? Wha?

    I went online looking for *anything* that could help me figure out why a number was telling me that I was a Dead Chick Walking.

    Looking at all of the people- some even like me- helped me realize that it’s just a number. If my doctor can’t see past an antiquated and flawed system- then I need a new doctor.

  227. Great project. I am 5.11″, weighing in at 210 LBs and according to the BMI measurement I am “over-weight” bordering on “obese”. I did laugh at that if you look at my body frame.

  228. oh, my THANK you!

    I’m 5’2″ (5’3″ on a good day) 165, and I wear a size 4/6 pant – however, at 165, I’m “obese”

    When I was 140, I ” wore a size 0/2 pant (I could shop in the kids section), you could see my ribs and ab muscles… I was anorexicesque and not particularly healthy, and if I gained 1lb (which can be accomplished by a hearty breakfast), I would be “overweight”

    I’ll have to revisit and read ALL the comments – but just wanted to say THANK YOU for this website!

  229. Thanks to your interview on Q this morning, I’ve discovered this *amazing* blog!

    I’m 5’2″ and weigh 140 pounds, making me overweight according to the BMI. This scale doesn’t care that I’ve got tons of muscle density for my height; instead, it says I need to lose 15-20 pounds before I can safely consider myself normal.

    Thanks BMI, but no thanks.

  230. I get your point of course, but half of the pics don’t show enough detail for us to really see anything. Also, how about putting the ‘stats’ up on each picture so we can get an idea of the height to weight ratio? You’d have to change it from automatically advancing to clicking a ‘next’ button so we could have time to read and think. Otherwise, your blog here is very good. I’m a guy and I’m right on the border of ‘obese’ so it’s not just a female phenomenon. (By the way, ‘chubby’ F’s are very very sexy!) THANKS!

  231. Found this via the Internet somewhere… I’m not sure where.

    Anyway, I’m 5’4, wear a North American 14/16 pant size (which is equally as useless as the BMI because sizing varies so much)… and have a BMI somewhere around 28-29.

    But I’m physically healthy. I’m in shape. I walk, due to lacking a vehicle. (A trip to get my groceries is nearly a mile each way.) I don’t get winded going up stairs. Running is hard on my lungs due to breathing conditions I was born with, but I’d feel otherwise fine to run a bit. Not the stereotypical ‘fat chick’, eh?

    For my height, I’m on a large frame – big hips, long torso, C/D cup breasts, North American size 9 shoe – and I don’t know that the BMI takes things like that into account. If I dropped down to 110-120, I think I’d feel skeletal.

  232. I love you for this.

    I’m 5’3,” and currently 144 lbs, and right around a 10/12 pant size (wide hips for the win!).

    OH NOES! I am overweight! I must be 136, maximum, to be “normal.”

    I’ve been that thin. I never dieted (I resolved while still in middle school that I would not subject myself to that), but I could afford a gym membership, which I enjoyed, and I was a solid size 8. I had no desire to be a 6, which I knew wouldn’t be healthy. 136 lbs is a limit for me, but it’s the lower limit, not the upper one. I don’t care what the arbitrary chart has to say about it.

    Thank you so much for the visual confirmation that there are so MANY people who, like myself, do not and should not conform to these ridiculous and irrelevant standards.

  233. On a personal level, it is such a relief and I am so glad to see such a great illustration of just how (un)helpful the BMI is. I have never been in the ‘normal’ weight range, but when I have dropped enough weight to be ‘overweight’ (still 5 kg over ‘normal’) I looked like a child whose bones had just experienced a big growth spurt but whose tissue mass had not caught up. I was all elbows and knees! It was enough for my mum to start telling me she was concerned that I might be losing too much weight!

    However, the government is always going to insist on having a ‘standardised test’ to gauge the extent of the ‘obesity epidemic’. It’s what governments do. How else are they going to fill all those tables in reports and set ‘targets’. What is needed is a better way of measuring levels of health in the population. But, how can that be done in a quantitative fashion? It’s a real challenge.

    As for all the self-righteous anti-fat muppets who are always just a trifle too quick to judge… well, I wonder what’s lacking in their lives that they need to look down on other people to feel good about themselves?

  234. But, how can that be done in a quantitative fashion?

    Life span works pretty well! (The problem is that it shows things are always improving, not that we’re constantly in a state of crisis, so it hasn’t exactly caught on…)

  235. I think its also interesting to note that even though I do not look overly fat, which i am, i have no shame in my game, my doctor told me that i am SUPER MORBIDLY OBESE. Now I am not very tall and weigh around 350lbs and I feel this statement is incorrect. My bmi was i do believe 60 or something. Either way, i feel its a crock!

  236. I love this project. It is so validating to see how beautiful so-called “overweight” people, “obese” and even “morbidly obese” people, can be. I’ve thought, all along, that BMI made no sense (even assuming fatness was an important marker of health, which it apparently isn’t, BMI doesn’t take build, bone structure and muscle tone into account).

    Here it was telling me that at my lightest adult weight – a weight reached after a severe crash diet that had me losing my hair – I was “overweight”, and at my typical weight, which I’m finally learning to accept and be happy with but which I never thought of as “DEATHFAT”, I am morbidly obese. I knew, intellectually, it was meaningless, but it was difficult not to question myself, to wonder if my body image was distorted. Not that being fatter than me would be a terrible thing, but the BMI seemed to be telling me I didn’t know how fat I actually was – and I think I do, thankyouverymuch.

    Seeing the other women with the same numbers as me really helps me to realize that, regardless of BMI labels, I can possibly really look the way I think I look – and I’m ready to accept that, and throw this BMI bullshit out the window once and for all.

    I noticed that, when other comments include height and weight, etc. I find myself slipping into comparison mode. In the back of my head a little voice is saying “she’s smaller than me and insecure, maybe I shouldn’t be so confident” or “she wears DDD (like I do) and considers that oversize, maybe I shouldn’t be happy with my body”.
    It makes me think that saying a particular weight is “too fat” or “not *too* fat” or “too skinny” or any other value judgment is damaging – it reinforces this way of looking at our bodies – putting them into categories and trying to make them measure up to some arbitrary ideal. (I’m not saying DDD might not be too big for somebody else, but claiming it is objectively oversize would be a problem. It’s not oversize for me.) I think it’s easy to feel justified in attacking the body type glorified by the media – skinny, big boobs, etc., but that is a trap which reinforces the good body/bad body mentality we need to overcome.

    Bodies shouldn’t be subject to such judgments – as the fat nutritionist (who is AWESOME) said “your body is your home”, and because of that, these kinds of external criteria don’t work. I’m beginning to think of my body as innately good, rather than as something to mold and control, and it is incredibly liberating.

    Sorry for being so long-winded, and thanks again for doing this project!

  237. That was jolly interesting. I was struck by how often a person labelled ‘overweight’ was what I’d consider normal, and a person labelled ‘obese’ was only what I’d call overweight. Not all the photos let you clearly see the size and shape of the person’s body, because of their pose or the lighting, but many of them are quite thought-provoking.

  238. ditto to all the ‘awesome’ comments. it’s funny how the pattern that emerged to me was “boobs = obesity” (which plays out in my own body, too). no wonder we needed implants to reconcile our opposing desires of the female physique.

  239. I think this project is fantastic.

    I recently had to get a copy of my medical records from my school’s health clinic, and made the mistake of reading through them before I handed them over to my new doctor. More or less every sheet referred to me as a “Morbidly Obese Female” (or sometimes the even more offensive sounding “Grossly Obese Female”, I’m not gross!) regardless of what I had gone in for. As if that’s the only defining factor worth writing about me, or related to the ear infection I had last spring after swimming in a pool, or my tendency towards seasonal allergies.

    Of course I understand there is some necessity for a standardized measurement of weight and height and my reaction to the terms used in my records was probably overly sensitive. I am unhealthy because of my weight. However, making me (or anyone else) feel dirty because of what they weigh is unnecessary and will likely only add to one’s problems.

    All in all, it seems using the BMI Index is neglectful of medical professionals both because it is a hurtful and ineffectual way of ‘summing up’ a person, and because it is a system so arbitrary that it cannot possibly predict a patient’s actual state of health.

  240. I have a question for the community here — what is the solution? Is it to:
    1) redefine normal, or
    2) come up with less-offensive terms that don’t degrade those they are assigned to

    I ask because the implications are very different. If you redefine normal, the mocking is simply shifted to those who are currently labeled “normal” or “underweight”. It seems nobody will ever be happy with terms that categorize them as abnormal.


  241. At the top, you said the slideshow is “to demonstrate just how ridiculous the BMI standards are”. That message did not come through for me. The only message I got is that if you take pictures of people in all different kinds of lighting, wearing all different kinds of clothes, in all different kinds of poses, in all kinds of environments, from all different kinds of angles, it’s pretty tough to draw any conclusions about anything.

    I hope that doesn’t sound snarky. I just feel that if you showed this slideshow to a hundred random people WITHOUT telling them it had anything to do with health or BMI or FA, and you asked them what the purpose of the slideshow was, they wouldn’t come up with anything.

  242. One other thought: do you object to the concept of BMI or the presentation? In other words, suppose that instead of “underweight”, “overweight”, etc. you had the following:
    “Category 1 : you should ask your doctor if adding more calories to your diet would improve your overall health.”
    “Category 2: studies indicate that, by most metrics, the healthiest people are in this category”
    “Category 3: nothing to worry about, but you might ask your doctor to do some basic checks (cholesterol, BP, A1C) to see if changing some diet and exercise patterns would help”

    And so forth. Basically what I’m asking is, are the words themselves (“overweight”, “obese”) too judgmental, or do you object to the whole BMI idea?

  243. are you still looking for pictures?

    I happen to be an example of the ‘underweight’ despite having rolls worth of fat. I just don’t have much muscle, and my bone structure is fairly delicate, so I don’t tip the scales.

    When I was 14, before I got tall, my BMI was ‘overweight’. On that note, high schools should never, ever give their students a BMI. It’s barely justifiable for an adult, but kids who are still growing don’t fit into their system at all, and it tears developing self esteem to shreds.

  244. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthanyouthankyouthank you: For…everything. Inspiration, sanity, good journalism, and good humor!

  245. I really needed to see this. I have lost a lot of weight (115 lbs) and still plan to lose about 40 more. However most people (basing it on looks) think that will get me to an unhealthy number but that was putting me on the higher end of the normal BMI. I am really working hard on accepting my body, but I know I am going to get to that number at least once, even if it is too low. But I am trying to focus more on my health than on the scale at the moment, as abhorrent as I find exercise.

    This slide show really made me realize how skewed my body image is though. I can’t help but compare myself and the person I figured I looked most like was an inch and a half shorter and 45 pounds heavier. I don’t know, that just kind of came as a revelation that what I see in the mirror might just not be the truth. When I look at the pictures I think every single person in there is beautiful. It makes me think maybe I can try and think that about myself, regardless of what size/weight/BMI I am at. It is going to be a hard struggle but I hope I can get there.

  246. I had forgotten all about this — and gosh, I was such a fat ass. Look at me. Disgusting. Just a pathetic example of what it means to be a decent American woman.

    I’m glad this is out there and getting fresh press. It was such a brilliant idea!

  247. To Josh and k1023, the problem is not that the words are offensive to some people, it’s that the formula is *completely* wrong. Someone’s weight/height has nothing to do with their individual state of health.

    I’m a naturally large-framed, large-breasted woman and, when I lost weight and got down to a BMI of 25, several people told me “Don’t lose any more weight, will you? You’re thin enough.” An asian woman can carry too much fat despite fitting into a healthy weight range. I have a friend who can almost bench-press her own bodyweight yet, because muscle weighs more than fat, is described as obese.

    Measuring fat % and cardiovascular fitness may be a better measure of health.

  248. In college a friend was in ROTC, and he didn’t match their weight/height charts. He didn’t have any fat on him, rock solid, but he was built square, ape arms, heavy large chest — so they told him to lose weight, but the more he worked out (and he made us go out and pace him on running, and try to encourage him to do more) the more muscle he put on, and the worse he looked on their stupid charts, eventually they had to admit he didn’t have any fat to give up.

    Sometimes I wonder if the BMI is only right for some folks, and doesn’t take into account some body types. I am morbid obese, but I don’t wear that large a dress size, not unhealthy, or look that bad — I am tall for a woman, and very broad shoulders, and hip bones – does the BMI take into account body types?

  249. hot DAMN I’m glad I saw this.. I’ve been curious about the accuracy of BMI and I am ecstatic to learn that it’s essentially bullshit. yeehaw. thank you very much for this.

  250. Oddly enough, the same link that brought me to your wonderful slide show also linked to a BMI calculator and an ‘ideal weight’ calculator. Too bizarre! Thanks for an enlightening discussion of how the medical/diet industry tries to make us feel terrible about ourselves. Remember how one of the commercial diet plans started out by advertising how people (read, women) went from a size 22 to a ‘healthy’ size 12, and in a few years was bragging about how a size 8 had gotten down to a sexy size 2? I don’t mind so much that they keep raising the hoop we have to jump through, but I do wish they wouldn’t set it on fire first.

  251. OH MY GOD!!!!! Thank you SO MUCH for this!!!!!!!! I have been fretting recently because even though I wear a size ten, don’t appear fat and to top it off work out 5 days a week and eat very well, I weigh about 185 and at 5’8 that makes me quite “overweight”. I was so worried that what I saw in the mirror was different from how I actually looked- I liked what I saw but what if I was deluding myself into thinking I looked like something else! This project is amazing and I have just discarded all of that! THANK YOU!!!!

  252. Fabulous! My sister and I are the same height but while I have a “normal” BMI, she’s considered borderline obese because she plays college basketball and is RIPPED. Her body fat percentage is way lower than mine, but according to BMI, I’m the healthier one…even though we wear the same size clothes. Thanks for putting this into a format that people can see.

  253. There are times when I have to return to this page to hold onto my sanity. I really love this slideshow.

    I just came back from the doctor today. He barely took any tests and didn’t ask me about my lifestyle at all, but still felt the need to urge me to lose weight. I’m “overweight.” He read my BMI off of a chart on his wall that had been printed from the internet, off of, I shit you not,

    I tried to talk to my parents about this, and they seem to think the only reason he pissed me off is because I don’t like hearing “the truth” about myself. Because apparently, according to them, I do need to lose weight. I feel like I’m going crazy. My blood pressure’s great. My cholesterol is normal. I don’t have any breathing problems or heart conditions, or diabetes. I have no health problems at all, but for some reason I’m recklessly putting myself at risk by remaining the same weight that I have been for the last four years. Like I’m going to die of Fat at any second. Is my body really that offensive?

  254. Yes i am delighted to have found this site. I live in Scotland and the site was recommended by Lee Rand a journalist of The Scotsman daily newspaper. She had headlined the columns ‘ Shapely and timely resuce from myself’ – and would appear to have spent most of her life trying to stay the one weight.
    Some times you read something and you could have written it yourself.
    I am 5.4 and 12 stone therefore obese by BMI standards. I have spent the last 35 years trying to keep my weight down. I have tried every diet under the sun, but as stated on the site – weight always creeps back up again.
    Most times I must admit it was because I had stopped smoking, the weight went up, I went on a diet. Then started smoking again.
    This is not helped by the fact that my husband is very weight concious and makes comments about everyone on tv if they are the least bit overweight.
    Therefore I have found it very hard to feel possitive about myself – BUT FROM NOW ON – I will visit the site every day and try and see myself through other peoples comments.

  255. I am a mother of two daughters. As an adolescent I was overweight and unhappy — teased, bullied, shamed, and self-hating. When I was pregnant for the first time I made a vow that in our house we would not obsess about weight. Health and self-acceptance would be our goals.

    Today I have two BMI-“normal” fit and healthy 12 and 15 YO daughters…who both compare themselves to all the “pretty” girls in school and in magazines who are underweight, believe their bellies and thighs are “disgusting” and hate the way they look. And they will not listen to any adult (including our family doctor) who tries to tell them otherwise. My older daughter has a friend who is bulimic and says “I know you don’t approve, good nutrition, self-acceptance, blah-blah-blahditty-blah, but look how great she looks!”

    Popular culture is SO toxic for young girls.

  256. This is fantastic thanks! I was amazed that the women with my height and weight, listed as overweight, looked really good… and dare I say slim? have shared with all my girlfriends… thanks againt for the ego boost :)

  257. I do think there needs to be an improved standard, which takes body composition and frame size into account. Two people with the same BMI may look very different based on their frames and their relative percentages of muscle and fat.

    However, BMI should not be discredited. The truth is, our country is in big trouble as far as extra pounds are concerned. We should love ourselves at any size, but we should also strive to take care of our bodies as best we can. That means taking professional advice, including about BMIs and waist size, seriously.

  258. I have just read through the long list of comments. It seems that a few people who have made a similar comment to mine have either been labelled a “troll” or told they are making a “boring” point. Whereas the consensus comments are cheered on. I thought we weren’t about labelling or name calling!

    For the record, I am not a troll. I certainly don’t think anyone should ever be made to feel bad about their body shape, whether in gym class, in the doctor’s surgery, online or anywhere else. Human beings come in all shapes and sizes and I understand that as well as anyone else. It doesn’t mean that it’s not useful to have information that might help us manage our own health, or the health of our families.

    I’m aware that there are flaws with the BMI system. It’s not so great if you are very short, very tall, from another ethnic background (eg. Inuit people often fall into the overweight/obese category), or very athletic (muscle weighs more than fat). It was my understanding that it works most of the time for people of Caucasian heritage and average height who are not super-athletes. That fits my profile so I appreciated the insight derived from BMI in helping me set a goal for weight loss and getting down from an “overweight” BMI of 27 to a “healthy” BMI of 24. It wasn’t about self-loathing, it was an act of self love. It wasn’t about feeling bad about not being a size 10, it was about nurturing my body and long-term health.

    The Lancet article you linked to was very interesting though. I’ve also seen a lot of research showing that fitness and activity is more important than fat. It’s harder to measure people’s fitness though, especially in a doctor’s surgery.

    I guess, in terms of public health policy, if you are going to get rid of the BMI as a measurement, you need to replace it with something. In the UK, they use waist measurements instead – if your waist is more than 32 inches then statistically you are at increased risk of certain illnesses. There are probably flaws with that too of course.

    Some people may say you don’t need to replace it with anything at all, but statistics can be very useful when setting public policy, deciding where to allocate resources, giving people information on how to manage their own health.

    I also think it’s good to have some sort of objective measurement – yes, ideally one that works so it doesn’t have to be BMI – as a yard stick. Otherwise, it’s too easy for our perceptions to be skewed by what we see – on the one hand by the population getting heavier on average (making heavier weights appear normal) and on the other hand by the media and anorexic celebrities (making abnormally low weights appear normal).

  259. PS I don’t think “normal” is a useful term. I’ve usually heard 18-25 BMI described as a “healthy” weight range, which seems more useful and to the point.

    No point labeling people as normal/abnormal.

    Also “normal” is usually a synonym for “average”. But the average weight can be an unhealthy one.

  260. I’m back! I would encourage everyone to check out the Flickr set rather than the slide show if possible. It’s quite revealing because you can see the actual height, weight and corresponding BMI.

    Firstly, many of the women described as “overweight” here are only marginally so. If someone has a BMI of 25.3 (for example) they are not going to look different to someone in the “normal” weight range. What does that prove? The stated purpose of this post is about the arbitrary nature of the categories and the obsession of modern medicine on the BMI.

    I seriously doubt that any doctor is going to give them guff for having a BMI of 25.3. I was about 7lb overweight for years (BMI 27) and I never once had a doctor even mention my weight.

    Secondly, it seems that the project organisers is going for the heaviest category wherever possible. I guess this helps make the point but it’s arguably a little misleading.

    eg. Both these women have a BMI of 25. This places them in the “normal” range of 18-25. But the label says they’re “overweight”, which is not true even by the flawed BMI measure. and

    another eg. here the label says this woman is “borderline overweight”. She isn’t – her BMI fluctuates from 24.2 to 25. This is well within the “normal” range.

    There are also countless examples where someone is described as “three pounds shy of overweight/obese”. But if they are three pounds OVER, then they are just labeled as overweight/obese without the qualification.

    I hope you’ll let my comments stand – I’m trying to add to the debate in a constructive way. I’ve also give you a stumble and linked to you on Twitter.

  261. That means taking professional advice, including about BMIs and waist size, seriously.

    One of the biggest problems with this sentiment, however, is that professional advice is often dangerously biased *because* of the arbitrary importance assigned to BMI. (Please do check out that link for some eye-opening stories.)

  262. Attention NYT readers and other new SP readers:

    1) Welcome!

    2) If you leave a comment on this post about how the BMI categories “look right to you,” it will not be approved, for two reasons. First, that is so not the point of the BMI project, and if you think it is, try again. Second, it is the single most boring comment you could possibly make.

  263. That means taking professional advice, including about BMIs and waist size, seriously

    Fine. You go find a safe way for people to lose weight permanently and consistently and a cure for all metabolic disorders. Then I’ll take you seriously.


  264. Caitlin, I let your comments through mostly so I could respond to the following points:

    eg. Both these women have a BMI of 25. This places them in the “normal” range of 18-25. But the label says they’re “overweight”, which is not true even by the flawed BMI measure. and

    25 is not in the normal range. 25 is the beginning of the “overweight” range, and your statement: If someone has a BMI of 25.3 (for example) they are not going to look different to someone in the “normal” weight range. is kind of the whole fucking point, when medical professionals say that crossing a boundary that is separated by one pound puts you suddenly in need of urgent medical attention, but also less deserving of compassionate care.

    I seriously doubt that any doctor is going to give them guff for having a BMI of 25.3. I was about 7lb overweight for years (BMI 27) and I never once had a doctor even mention my weight.

    Congratulations. Not everyone has that experience.

  265. (Longstanding Caitlin here).

    Congratulations. Not everyone has that experience.


    PS I don’t think “normal” is a useful term. I’ve usually heard 18-25 BMI described as a “healthy” weight range, which seems more useful and to the point.

    No point labeling people as normal/abnormal.

    Also no point labelling people as healthy/unhealthy on something as fucking arbitrary as what they weigh. I feel like there’s a blog about that somewhere, I wish I could remember the name of it…

    I’m trying to add to the debate in a constructive way.

    Oh how lovely. Do you understand that to contribute to the debate you have to understand what the debate IS? You’ve raised absolutely nothing that hasn’t been discussed (and usually torn apart) here already, but you seem to think you’re bringing the fatties the PUBLIC HEALTH TRUTH THEY CAN’T HANDLE, or something. Do some more reading and then try to impress us with your wisdom about our bodies.. I guarantee we’ll still be here.

  266. It’s the “other” Caitlin here… I think it might be something that differs culturally. I see you have commenters from all over the world but the site is US-based, right?

    I think it might be the case that there is a whole different experience in the US health care system to what I and many others have experienced in other countries. I can only base this on anecdotal evidence about – ie. my experience, that of people I know, media, blogs etc, not a scientific study. It’s my belief that where I come from (Australia and then 5 years in the UK), a doctor would not hassle someone who was only a few pounds “overweight”. Maybe that’s different here and I agree that it’s not right if it is.

    In my experience (which I realise may not be universal), most people in the medical profession, media and wider world, realise that the BMI has limitations and is only a general guide. It’s not meant to apply to teens or athletes for example, both of whom feature in your slideshow. The BMI is a sliding scale. There is a big difference between BMI 23 and BMI 43 but nothing magically changes when you go from 25 (normal weight) to 25.1 (overweight) (or 24.9 to 25 if you prefer). I assumed you were attacking a strawperson argument because I’ve never heard anyone say otherwise. I’ve only ever heard the BMI presented as a rule of thumb with plenty of disclaimers. Maybe there is an illogical fixation with the difference between 24.9 and 25 in the US in particular. I’m not ruling that out. It was just natural for me to assume that it would not be dissimilar to the UK and Australia, which have a similar culture and similar level of handwringing over the “obesity epidemic”.

    I don’t agree that I misunderstand the debate, nor that all of my points have already been made and knocked down. I’ve read the entire comments list and that’s simply not the case.

  267. It’s my belief that where I come from (Australia and then 5 years in the UK), a doctor would not hassle someone who was only a few pounds “overweight”.

    That belief is informed by your experience. It’s not the experience of our Australian readers. Sorry to burst your bubble but there it is.

    Even beyond individual doctors’ behavior, the BMI is used for misleading and overblown population statistics. Those scare stories you’ve been seeing in the Australian media about how a huge percentage of Australians are now overweight and obese? What in god’s name do you think those are based on? You think they look at the data and say “well, this person whose BMI is 25.3 doesn’t really seem overweight to Caitlin, let’s not include her”? That “similar level of handwringing over the ‘obesity epidemic'” that you have in Australia IS BASED ON BMI.

    And surely you can see how absurd it is for you to lecture us on how nothing magically changes when you go from 24.9 to 25, except for suddenly being considered “overweight.” OH HEY SOMEONE SHOULD DO A BLOG PROJECT ABOUT THAT.

    I’ve read the entire comments list and that’s simply not the case.

    As it turns out, there’s a whole blog attached to this post! And I looked at the “about us,” and “taking Caitlin in hand and educating her individually” is not one of the stated goals.

  268. Oh, well if she’s read this entire thread, you guys. Why read ANYTHING ELSE ON THE BLOG when you can just bring up the same shit we’ve rehashed a dozen times but disagree that we’ve covered it?

    a) I don’t even have the energy for this today and

    b) I live the UK too — born and raised here in fact — and this

    In my experience (which I realise may not be universal), most people in the medical profession, media and wider world, realise that the BMI has limitations and is only a general guide.

    is DEFINITELY NOT universal, even in the UK. You only need to go to Google for god’s sake, to find 36958392 horror stories (search UK only if you really think we’re that different) about THE DANGERS THAT AWAIT anyone in the “overweight” BMI category, which yes DOES START at exactly 25. That’s the problem, you see, with putting human bodies into CATEGORIES. It DOES MEAN that that one extra pound puts you magically into a category for alleged increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, or wherever the research money is this week — it sure as fuck can put you into a higher bracket for medical insurance. It’s almost as if human bodies can’t be PUT INTO CATEGORIES.

  269. How about some consensus building here? I’m sure we have a lot more common ground than you are giving credit for! *waves*

    I have read a few other things on the blog by the way, as well as a few other fat acceptance / feminist blogs in my time. I just didn’t see anything else here that I felt inclined to comment on. I made a special effort to read all the comments on this particular thread, especially as it goes back a couple of years.

    I was specifically talking about whether doctors would give you a hard time for being a few pounds overweight. I have never come across anyone who thinks that the BMI categories are as rigid as you say that people think they are. I AGREE that they should not be treated as gospel – I thought that most reasonable people, medical professionals and mainstream media included, also agreed.

    Admittedly I have zero experience of private medical insurance, since Medicare (in Australia) and the NHS (in the UK) were fine for me. That’s likely a whole different ball game.

    I don’t think that categories are the problem as long as people take a sensible approach to them and realise that it’s a sliding scale. It sounds like the real problem is people’s understanding and interpretation of the categories.

    BMI itself has specific limitations, such as the fact that it doesn’t account for muscular builds and it should not be used for children and teenagers (though it sounds like it often is, which is a problem). If there is a better system then I’m all for it, but I haven’t seen one yet.

    If it remains the best system we have, then we should use it but recognise the flaws. As long as we recognise the fact that it is a sliding scale and deals with generalities and doesn’t apply to everyone, then it has some utility to it. For example, from a public health point of view we can track the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among different population groups and allocate resources and form policy. Just like we might assign policing resources to different areas of a city based on crime rates.

    The problem is when you start extrapolating from the general to the specific. I thought that it was widely recognised that BMI has limitations and that there is no magical difference between 25 and 25.1. From what people are saying here, it sounds like it is frequently misused and misinterpreted. I’m surprised by that but I have no reason to disbelieve it. The problem with that is not the science but rather people’s understanding of it and the way it’s used.

    It’s the same with anything that goes by numbers. We can’t escape numbers entirely and they can be useful. For example, there are plenty of studies that gauge various things according to income levels – again useful for public policy – but no one is claiming that $1000 extra in income makes a magical difference. In another example, I personally appreciate knowing the statistics on female fertility – 35 might be an arbitrary age for fertility to start falling, but it’s useful as a rule of thumb so I can make wise decisions about family planning.

  270. PS I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m trying to take you in hand and educate you. Sounds like it’s the other way around to me.

  271. How about some consensus building here? I’m sure we have a lot more common ground than you are giving credit for! *waves*

    whoa with the condescending.

    BMI itself has specific limitations, such as the fact that it doesn’t account for muscular builds and it should not be used for children and teenagers (though it sounds like it often is, which is a problem). If there is a better system then I’m all for it, but I haven’t seen one yet.

    It has a lot more limitations than that. The application of the statistics is a problem, you’re right, but “the science” is also really problematic. And I disagree that we necessarily need a measure of population body proportion, to track disease statistics or anything else. That just has not been statistically terribly helpful and seems to be doing a lot more harm than good.

  272. Caitlin, you want to build a consensus that a) you are right, b) since you don’t have personal experience of doctors giving people a hard time for being at the low end of the “overweight” category it doesn’t happen, c) the bloggers and commentors here just doesn’t understand the science behind BMI as well as you do, and d) that no one, you know, sensible actually thinks the BMI categories are some sort of ultimate arbitrator of a person’s health (which tells me you haven’t seen a mainstream news outlet in the past few years, or haven’t been paying much attention).

    I’m not actually interested in building that consensus with you.

  273. PS I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m trying to take you in hand and educate you. Sounds like it’s the other way around to me

    Ohhhhhh I see the problem. You don’t read English.

    Me: “Taking Caitlin in hand and educating her individually” is not one of the stated goals.

    You: I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m trying to take you in hand and educate you.

    Lol. Probably what happened was your doctors did say “Caitlin, you’re overweight” but you understood it as “Caitlin, I’m overweight” and you were like “it’s ok doc, your BMI is only 25.3 so when the medical establishment and the media checked in with me to see if you were part of the obesity epidemic I said no, don’t sweat it.”

  274. Longstanding Caitlin, would you like to build a consensus with me instead? I’m building a consensus about how Delaware doesn’t exist. My reasons are: a) I’ve never been there, and b) most people I know haven’t been there. Which means that the people whose opinions count – i.e. me and the people I interact with on a regular basis – have not experienced Delaware. Sure, sure, there are geography blogs that say otherwise… but goodness, I believe I can tell a good source from a bad one. I’m pretty sure the good ones say things that square with what I’ve experienced — and, as I’ve said earlier, I’ve never experienced Delaware. So there you go.

    In fact, I think I’ll go find the website for a newspaper in so-called “Delaware,” and then I’ll post my hypothesis there. And then when people write back and say, “Uh, hello, we live in Delaware!” I’ll say “Look, I’m trying to build consensus here! What’s your problem?”

  275. (In case it wasn’t clear, my comment above was a friendly playing-along with the longstanding Caitlin and a retort to the newer Caitlin. Yellow Caitlin, I didn’t want you to think I was getting on your case or misattributing your comments!)

  276. @Caitlin It’s not condescending in the slightest to point out that there is middle ground and to want to highlight issues where we happen to agree. Whether you like it or not, it does happen to be the case that we agree on a lot of things and I regard you guys as allies in a lot of wider issues.

    @fillyjonk Uh no, that’s not what I meant and it’s not what I said. My doctors have always been happy with my health, even when I was slightly into the overweight category. They never brought up the topic – I did the BMI calculations all on my own. I realise that others may have a different experience. As for the media, they are usually talking about general trends rather than specific cases, and I happen to think that has some validity as long as you keep a healthy perspective. Obviously we disagree on that.

    I’ll leave it here and let anyone reading through the comments thread this far draw their own conclusions. I actually think the project is great – it’s really interesting for all sorts of reasons to see how the BMI categories translate in terms of real women and their bodies. It’s just a shame we can’t actually have a meaningful conversation about that. (Though, to be fair, your comments policy is pretty clear so I had some idea what I was getting into. There’s certainly no offence taken on my part, even if offence was intended!).

  277. It strikes me that most people, on discovering that a longstanding commentor on a blog posted under the same name, would alter their handle in some way as a courtesy and to avoid unnecessary confusion. I’m just saying.

    A Sarah, I totally got it, no worries. Also, from my obviously COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE alllll the way over here in the UK I would say that absolutely Delaware doesn’t exist. I think there’s some kind of illogical fixation on the putative existence of Delaware in the US, particularly among people who think they live there. Let my greater wisdom fix that for you: you are wrong about your own experience. See? Sorted.

  278. They never brought up the topic

    Yes, but you also think I didn’t bring up the topic about how I don’t want to sit you down and educate you personally. This is because you clearly have no reading comprehension. That was the joke, after I proved that you are not reading carefully. You’re not doing anything ot disabuse me of this notion, by the way.

    And another thing, on the topic of this “consensus” you think we owe it to you to build. (Are you sure you’re not American? You remind me of a Republican demanding “balanced” coverage that acknowledges that Obama is president and also that he’s an illegal Muslim radical Christian non-citizen.) You know, we have tons of readers who disagree with us on various points — FYI we have thousands of readers, way more than you have friends, I’d wager, which is part of why we find your “I’ve never experienced [Delaware] so it must not exist” schtick so unconvincing. Many are at the stage where they believe in fat acceptance for others but not for themselves. Many are actively on diets. The difference is that, unlike you, they read and consider and draw their own conclusions, which either change or don’t change over time. None of them have the fucking nerve to come in here and say “hey, you know what would make this blog better? If you kept everything exactly the same but acknowledged that the obesity panic isn’t based on skewed data, that it’s uniformly unhealthy to have a BMI higher than your ‘healthy weight,’ that weight-loss dieting is a good thing, and that fat discrimination doesn’t exist even at fairly low weights. Then it would be perfect!”

    It’s like this new trend for men writing articles about how reproductive choice is all well and good but what’s the role for men in an abortion? Newsflash: you don’t have a role in everything. In your case, New Caitlin, we are not actually currently hiring for the position of Person Who Comes In, Lectures Us, And Tells Us We’re Overreacting. If we ever are, we’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I hear there’s always room for that viewpoint in a little place called The Rest Of The Internet.

  279. On the other hand I must thank you for giving Real Caitlin a chance to whip out her claws, which always gives me great joy.

  280. Ha ha! Yeah I know I said I was going to leave there … but you guys are funny. I think that’s why I keep coming back, because I do enjoy your comments. I might not agree with them, or find them particularly useful, but the sarcastic humour is kinda appealing even when it’s directed at me. Hey, I’ll be your whipping girl any day, so if a post ever opens up then let me know!

    Sorry, Real Caitlin, I didn’t think to change my name. I can see that might have been helpful, but it did seem clear from the context most times who was talking.

    There was never any intention to lecture or tell you that you were over-reacting. I really am sorry if it came across that way (no sarcasm). I try to be sensitive, understand the debate and express my disagreements pleasantly and respectfully. I may not always succeed. Or sometimes it may be the disagreement itself that causes the problem – can’t help that. Just for the record, I never said my experience was universal or claimed that other experiences did not exist. I’ve never heard anyone compare me to a Bush-ite Republican before!

    On the other hand, I’m not too sure about the existence of Delaware. A lot of corporations claim to be based there, giving me cause to suspect it might just be a giant tax Bermuda Triangle. Thoughts?

  281. I was specifically talking about whether doctors would give you a hard time for being a few pounds overweight. I have never come across anyone who thinks that the BMI categories are as rigid as you say that people think they are. I AGREE that they should not be treated as gospel – I thought that most reasonable people, medical professionals and mainstream media included, also agreed.

    Oh, of course, all those reasonable people whose job it is to deny US citizens access to health insurance simply by placing them in categories marked “too risky.” And all those reasonable doctors who don’t let a pesky “best we’ve got” statistic like BMI when they decide whether to perform surgery or to treat your depression or migraines or to diagnose your endocrine disorder or anything like that!

    New Caitlin, your perspective is steeped in privilege—both of body size/shape and of access to health care—and thus you should probably listen instead of lecture.

  282. Yes, @Sweet Machine, that’s a good point – I am coming from a perspective steeped in privilege, especially in regards to access to health care. It was not my intention to lecture and I am trying to listen.

    I have heard a lot of stories about people being refused treatment when they are obese or morbidly obese. I agree that this is a problem, though I don’t think it’s black and white because there are a lot of complex factors at play. I don’t really know enough about the medical/science side to draw conclusions about whether it’s right to refuse certain types of surgery to an obese or morbidly obese person, except that I know it would really suck if you were that person and I would always err on the side of compassion.

    However, I’ve never heard such stories about someone who falls into the “overweight” category, especially when it’s only just. If people, including GPs and health insurers, are misusing the BMI measure in this way, then I agree that this is a big problem. This is new to me – I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist, just that it’s new to me. I AM listening.

    On the other hand, I don’t regard media articles talking about the ‘obesity epidemic’ as part of the same problem. It seems to me that BMI can tell us things about the population at large but it’s a lot trickier when you drill down to an individual level. The Lancet study not withstanding, it does seem to me that there is a reasonable amount of evidence linking certain public health issues with the fact that the population on average is getting heavier.

    Thank you, @Sweet Machine – this is one of the few responses to my comments that I have found genuinely useful, rather than just pointlessly (albeit amusingly) sarcastic.

  283. Right, but that’s not what you said. You helpfully “suggested” that people should be building consensus and then *waved*. Super patronizing.

  284. the fact that the population on average is getting heavier.

    ahhhhhhhhhhhh what is with people whipping out this highly distorted factoid lately

  285. The waving was meant to lighten the tone – sounds like it had the opposite effect so sorry about that.

  286. “It was my understanding that it works most of the time for people of Caucasian heritage and average height who are not super-athletes.”

    Oh well then it works for WHITE people so it must be useful for health policy because there’s absolutely no evidence that building medical research around white bodies (or male bodies) is highly problematic.

    By the way, unless you’re Armenian, Georgian, Ossestian, or Azeri- you are not of ‘Caucasian heritage’ anymore than Nazi’s were ‘Aryans’. However, if you’re a white supremacist or an early twentieth century eugenicist (in a time machine) I’ll just give you a warning ticket for your blatant use of anachronisms steeped in scientific racism. The next time there will be a fine.

  287. Other Caitlin (cheers), I really did get that that’s what you were trying to do with the waving, if that helps. It was the rest of your post I had problems with, but I think we’re pretty clear on that.

    The problem is that this entire blog, and the blogs listed on the sideline, are full of articles and links that would give you information on why we (in general) think BMI is not just unhelpful but harmful, including the stories Sweet Machine just linked you to, which are all in “First, Do No Harm” (right there on the sidebar).

    It is not actually up to individual members of the blog to explain/remind you of your privilege or decide which stories are most likely to make you personally go “Hey, maybe the fatties are onto something here”. It was very nice of Sweet Machine to take the time to do that, but is no fault of anyone else’s that they didn’t feel like walking you through a 101 today. No one here owes you an education. And part of the territory of being in a position of privilege is demanding that the oppressed group explain their position to you nicely or you won’t listen. It is your responsibility to realise that you have that privilege and move beyond it, and really try to hear what’s being said to you. It’s not fun, but it’s important.

    The Lancet study not withstanding, it does seem to me that there is a reasonable amount of evidence linking certain public health issues with the fact that the population on average is getting heavier.

    That’s nice. You’re wrong, and “listening rather than lecturing” does actually involve LISTENING TO (in this case, reading) the words of others rather than TALKING ABOUT how you’re pretty sure they’re wrong before you’ve even read them.

    You’re paying lip service to the idea of “listening rather than lecturing”, but you really aren’t carrying it out. Try “Don’t You Realise Fat is Unhealthy?” at the top of this page, read Junk Food Science, read First, Do No Harm, read the rest of the archives here or at Just try actually hearing what actual fat people are saying for a bit, and try to understand that just because this issue hasn’t particurly affected YOU doesn’t meant that the use of BMI and its categories — YES EVEN in a general “population monitoring” sense — isn’t causing real harm to real people.

  288. I am definitely not a white supremacist and nor do I think that public health policy should be built around what works for white males. Yikes.

    It’s my understanding that BMI is not just for white people but I don’t actually know the ins and outs of how well it works for different ethnicities. I DO there are specific ethnicities where BMI definitively does not work – Inuit people for example.

    The term “white” is kinda fraught as well and probably has different meanings in different countries. I’m going to take the warning ticket and steer clear of that particular debate.

  289. “I DO there are specific ethnicit where BMI definitively does not work – Inuit people for example.”

    The fact that you see this as an ‘exception to the rule’ rather than a reason to dump BMI is exhibit A of privilege and colonialism.

  290. Thanks, Caitlin. I don’t think anyone here owes me an education. On the other hand, I do think activists better further their cause when they do take the time to educate people rather than ridiculing them, and went they look for consensus and middle ground, rather than throwing rocks over the fence. Hey, people have the right to throw rocks if they want – especially on a space like this blog – but being right isn’t always what’s best.

    We definitely have points we agree on – such as the fact that the BMI measure is far from perfect – and that it’s wrong to assume that things magically change when you go up or down a number from one BMI category to another – and for doctors or health care providers to fixate upon BMI as the be all and end all – and the fact that fitness is more important than weight as an indicator of health.

    It seems we have points we disagree on too, and you know what? That’s okay. Maybe my viewpoint will change over time, maybe yours will, maybe neither or both will. I’ll keep an open mind and I hope even the most hardened fat acceptance activists will too. Most of all, let’s hope the medical establishment and media can cultivate an open mind and draw new conclusions as new data comes to light, whatever the might be.

    Thanks for the stimulating debate. I can’t believe it’s so late already – time to get out of here.

    @fatsmartchick Surely it depends on whether there is a statistically significant number of people of Inuit descent in your country as to whether it’s an exception to the rule or a reason to dump BMI. It’s super-significant for Canada but I don’t think Tonga needs to set its public health policies based on the Inuit.

  291. I do think activists better further their cause when they do take the time to educate people rather than ridiculing them, and went they look for consensus and middle ground, rather than throwing rocks over the fence.

    Really. Middle ground. How much discrimination do you think is acceptable,then? Or could Fat Acceptance be against all forms of discrimination, but only in a half-assed way.

    Disagree my ass. You’re trolling.

  292. I don’t think anyone here owes me an education. On the other hand, I do think activists better further their cause when they do take the time to educate people rather than ridiculing them

    And how would you suggest we do that? Say, by writing a blog about fat acceptance, like the one you’re reading right now, or the dozens on the sidebar? Or what about writing some books on the subject? That might work.

    Enough of this bullshit. You’ve come on this blog uneducated and uninformed and consistently refused to listen when people tried to correct you, you’ve passive-agressively moaned about how mean we all are, and you’ve asserted that you know no one owes you an education and you’re more interested in listening than lecturing while consistently displaying the opposite of both these behaviours. (My favourite part was just then when you tried to lecture us on how to be better activists for OUR OWN CAUSE just after stating you weren’t interested in lecturing anyone. Do you listen to yourself when you speak?)

    If you want to correct your misconceptions and become a useful ally, great, you’ve been furnished with roughly 3000 ways to do that. If you don’t could you please shut the fuck up, because this is getting tiresome.

  293. Really. Middle ground. How much discrimination do you think is acceptable,then? Or could Fat Acceptance be against all forms of discrimination, but only in a half-assed way.

    Exactly. Someone (I think LilahMorgan) posted a really interesting comment on the PastaQueen thread on BFD back in the day about what’s she’d learned in a class on conflict resolution (or something like that! mmm, anecdotal vagary).

    Anyway, the point was that we’re socialised to see “the middle ground” as a desirable position and an acceptable compromise, but sometimes it really isn’t, and that there is no inherent value in “the middle ground” unless it’s ACTUALLY a good solution.

    Which, in the case of social justice issues, it really isn’t. The “middle ground” here is, as Sniper points out, that fat people only get discriminated against some of the time — maybe socially and medically but not in the employment market, for exaple, would that work? Or maybe only people over 300lbs get discriminated against, because that’s a nice round number, and people over 250lbs on alternative Wednesdays? Maybe we get to fly wihtout extra hassle and expense during September-November and January-May, but not during the summer months?

    Fuck that noise. There is no middle ground on human rights. You’re for them, or you’re against them. Waving “middle ground” around like it’s some kind of moral high ground just shows that you don’t have a clue about what’s actually at stake.

  294. Actually I’ve never once complained about the treatment I’ve been getting – I believe I said that I’d read the comments policy and knew what I was getting myself into.

    You are completely wide of the mark about me, my education about the issues, or my intentions. You’ve asked whether I’ve heard myself – well, I have and I must say that I think you are reading it all through a glass darkly. I think you are going to take offence to anything I say, unless it’s along the lines of “Great job, guys! Right on!”.

    I don’t want to be a troll so if that’s how even mild disagreement is construed then I will do as you ask and shut the fuck up.

  295. I think you’ll find I only suggested that as a solution if you have no interest in reading around the issue, correcting your misconceptions or becoming a useful ally. If you do feel that that’s the part that applies to you, that’s unfortunate, but there we are.

  296. I don’t want to be a troll so if that’s how even mild disagreement is construed then I will do as you ask and shut the fuck up.

    It’s not about disagreeing. Sniper is not reacting to you as a shit-stirrer but the rather more subtle but far more common species, the concern troll. I actually didn’t think you were going to turn out to be a concern troll, which is why I let you through the mod queue — again, not about disagreement.

    The “catch more flies with honey” stance is really tiresome, especially given that, as Caitlin points out, there is a whole blog archived here that could probably answer some of your questions, as well as dozens of blogs in the sidebar. Again: people aren’t reacting to you snidely because you disagree. People are reacting that way because you seem to think you are bringing new and exciting information to this blog, on a thread that already had 400+ comments before you got here.

    If you want to stick around, I encourage you to read more of the archives and the links that you’ve been pointed to in this thread.

  297. @Sweet Machine I don’t think I’m a concern troll either, but I don’t feel this conversation is productive for anyone, so I’m choosing to disengage. I have read in this field a little already and I’ll continue to do so, and to explore the links you’ve given at my leisure.

    Please understand that my earlier comments were not simply addressing regular readers – they were intended to address any visitors who came to this page. As I’m sure you know, this thread is attracting quite a lot of traffic from the wider web. I thought that people who came to this page, without the context, and were just going ‘wow the overweight people look normal’ should know about the Flickr pages and the fact that many of the cases were borderline. You might not agree, and to you it may be beside the point, but actually I still think that people should have the information. I realise that you weren’t trying to hide it (after all, I knew about the Flickr set myself from the post itself and an earlier comment) but not everyone would look so I thought it was worth highlighting what I found there (something I didn’t see anywhere else in the comment). It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll draw the same conclusions as me or you but I thought it was useful information, especially for the people who are just dropping into this particular thread and are not regular readers.

    Also in response to some commenters, I was never talking about middle ground on discrimination. I was talking about middle ground on the scientific utility of BMI and the health implications of fat. It’s never okay to discriminate against people and it’s actually two different issues. Health professionals may or may not be wrong about the health implications of fat but it’s not okay to discriminate against fat people either way. Or to put it in another context, the scientific consensus is that having red hair and fair skin makes you more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to discriminate against people with red hair and fair skin.

  298. I understand how BMI is not always a relevant measure of health, and can be used in a discriminatory way, especially by insurance companies. I am 60 pounds overweight, but my BMI still falls within the normal range for my height. I know that I am overweight because, from a starting point of what was my healthy and consistent weight for all of my adult life, I have since gained 60lbs. My sore knees, shortness of breath, and stretch marks don’t lie. So for me, as someone who definitely has added extra pounds that my body is not built for, being overwieght is a health concern. I have also known a few women who weigh the same as me, but they have beautiful curvy bodies, and much more muscle. They are definitely healthy and do not likely need to lose a pound, but they both have BMI’s that fall into the overweight category because of their height. If we lived in a country without healthcare, I would have better and more affordable access, but I’m much more likely to suffer ill effects of the extra weight, whereas both of my friends are in excellent health and physical shape. So obviously using BMI as a general measure of health is illogical. But I do think that it goes both ways. Just because in some cases it is not an accurate measure of the likelihood of physical health does not mean it is so in all cases. I think that willful ignorance is always counterproductive. Each of us knows deep down where we truly fall on the continuum of health. I think that loving and accepting oneself is amazing, as long as we are making an informed decision, and by this I am refering only to when we are making the decision to stay where we are. Obviously there are people who do not have a choice, and they should not be made to feel like they are somehow to blame when this is the case.

    It’s just so hard to tell sometimes which research and information to trust. For example, I came across an article which claimed that people with a BMI in the normal range actually cost the health care system much more than obese people do, which would seem to go against all the hype about obesity being such a burden to the system. But when I searched for the research being cited, it turned out that the reason they found obese people cost less is that they didn’t live as long. Until a certain age the highest expenditure was in obese populations, and then healthy people cost more because they lived long enough to suffer the illnesses associated with old age. It’s interesting how anyone with an agenda can find a study or an interpretation of a study that supports their view. This goes both ways, and I’m sure it happens all the time with companies who stand to profit from the fear of obesity as well.

    I hope no one thinks I’m being a ‘concern troll’, but like I said I’m overweight myself so I’m not coming from a priviliged position, other than where access to health care is concerned. And I am a firm believer in human rights, I guess I just wonder about both sides of the argument.

  299. Sorry that was so long, I just couldn’t help but say something after seeing the argument going on above. I see where you were coming from, “Other Caitlin”, and I don’t think you were being rude or unreasonable at all.

  300. Michelle, I strongly encourage you to read our archives and other posts in the fatosphere. We encourage critical thinking here, and this blog has been around for over two years, which is why it’s galling to have new readers come in and say “but hey, did you ever think that fat might be unhealthy?” For instance, we’ve talked about the study you bring up, as have many other FA bloggers.

    My sore knees, shortness of breath, and stretch marks don’t lie.

    I also want to say, one of these things is not like the others. You know that many, many women and men of varying sizes and fitness levels have stretch marks, right? This is actually a perfect example of conflating fatness and fitness.

  301. I dunno, SM, I think that since blogs are SO EXPENSIVE AND DIFFICULT to start all by oneself, it’s only appropriate that Shapely Prose make a point of giving a full and fair hearing to viewpoints that are contrary to its very reason for existing.

    Plus, I mean, the fat-is-always-unhealthy viewpoint is pretty underrepresented in the dominant culture, right? Sure, you’ve got most TV, magazines, movies, music, slang, and lots and lots else. But what’s the point of even accepting the dominant paradigm if it doesn’t guarantee that your perspective is welcomed ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE, in every last corner of spaces where people communicate? What’s the point of repeating the same old culturally-approved noise, if your entry into any space isn’t going to be greeted by an eager, “At last you’re here! Now please, do tell us where our thinking has gone wrong!”

  302. Michelle, you seem sincere so far, so I wanted to add that my sarcasm above wasn’t directed at you. I was anticipating the same old tired objections to the comment policy that Sweet Machine had just linked to, along the lines of: “You’re oppressing me by not letting me say whatever I want on a blog that isn’t my own, blah blah blah, so much for encouraging debate!”

  303. I was never talking about middle ground on discrimination. I was talking about middle ground on the scientific utility of BMI and the health implications of fat.

    The big point you are repeatedly missing is that those things are connected. BMI is not this objective measure with a few limitations that is just being misused by a few evil doctors. As a measure it is fundamentally statistically and conceptually flawed, and coupled with health and social systems that value certain groups of people over others, it very conveniently is set up to favor the right people. Surely you don’t think the categories are called “normal,” “under-” and “overweight” by accident?

  304. Wait wait. Your intent was not to challenge the bloggers here or engage in dialog, but to use their comments thread to warn the poor unwitting newcomers that not everything said here is right? I… that’s even worse. It’s just super disrespectful of the fact that this is someone’s space. That’s what starting your own blog platform is for.

  305. So for me, as someone who definitely has added extra pounds that my body is not built for, being overwieght is a health concern.

    Not quite. Having sore knees and shortness of breath are health concerns. If these resolve, yet you are still overweight, your health has nevertheless improved. Ergo, “overweight” is not the health concern.

    We have a habit of thinking of health issues that coincide with weight gain as being caused by the weight gain, with no evidence that is in fact the case. It’s not only foolish to assume that weight is the cause, it can be dangerous. Assuming weight is the cause without evidence leads to trying to “treat” the weight (via dieting &etc.), and ignoring the etiology of the problem itself. Is it any wonder, then, that some fat people have conditions that deteriorate over time, when the condition is being ignored in favor of a treatment (weight loss) that does not address it and that has not been shown to address it? (Or to have any other benefits, for that matter, but that’s another conversation.)

  306. I’m choosing to disengage

    Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it. You realize you said this at least twice before, but continue to refuse to shut up?

    Please understand that my earlier comments were not simply addressing regular readers – they were intended to address any visitors who came to this page.

    Oh my god, the fucking nerve of you. The fucking nerve. I know you didn’t read a word I said, but you might dimly remember the part where I mentioned that we weren’t hiring for the post of “official blog contrarian.” This blog, which among other things considers the BMI to be a problematic measure of “health” that is misused both in medical decisions and population measures, DOES NOT ACTUALLY NEED A FUCKING FOOTNOTE SAYING OTHERWISE. This is why I compared you to the bullshit American concept of “fair and balanced” news, which means news fairly balanced with falsehood. You ARE NOT ENTITLED to space here. I don’t know where you got the idea that people reading this blog ABSOLUTELY NEEDED AND DESERVED to have their reading experience leavened by Caitlin’s dubious expertise, but wherever you got the idea from, PLEASE PUT IT BACK.

    God I cannot believe how cappy you make me. I like how A Sarah put it much better, but I just had to yell.

    You know that many, many women and men of varying sizes and fitness levels have stretch marks, right?

    Not to mention sore knees. But it sounds to me like Michelle isn’t doing the time-honored “I’m uncomfortable at this weight, so everyone is” thing (most recently seen, with slight variations, from New Caitlin). I actually hadn’t thought about the idea that BMI can label people as “normal” who are well outside their natural range, and that’s an interesting point.

    Michelle, if you stick around, you’ll see that part of the idea here is to separate physical health and comfort from weight — but part of it is also that if you’ve gained weight well outside your normal range, your body may tend to re-stabilize. (Not to mention that if you’ve gained weight quickly, your body may need time to catch up — build better leg muscles to support your knees, for instance.) So I hope you’ll remember that your discomfort at your current weight isn’t everyone’s, that whatever caused the weight gain isn’t necessarily true of everyone (we hear many people saying “I overate for a year and gained weight, so you guys must be eating ten times as much” — bull), and that it is absolutely possible for you to be healthy at this size as long as you don’t assume it’s a truism that you can’t.

    As long as you promise not to come back if you return to your usual range and say “I just lost 60 pounds and kept it off for 5 years so you guys are fat assholes,” you’re cool with me.

    Oh but please don’t post reasonable comments that also tell the concern trolls you’re agreeing with them.

  307. Michelle, I’m of the opinion that BMI is bullshit, especially given that the lowest end of my healthy weight range is still 5-10 lbs above the top of the range for my height.

    Believing that BMI is a crock means that I have to believe that people can be (and are) healthy both above and below the BMI range depending on build and frame. I do find it interesting, though, that you say you’re 60 lbs over your “ideal” weight and still within the supposedly healthy BMI range. BMI ranges have less than a 40 lb difference from lightest to heaviest, so if you’re still within the “healthy” range and want to lose 60 lbs, you’d be underweight by BMI standards.

    Assuming you (and your doctor) know your body well enough that you can weigh that little and still be at a healthy weight for your body, you should embrace the proponents of abandoning the BMI measurement as a measurement of healthy, since maybe it doesn’t apply to you or your body, either.

    Also, yeah, stretch marks aren’t a sign of being either fat or out of shape. They’re simply a side effect of having changed size. Knee pain can have many sources, and shortness of breath could be a medical condition (like asthma) or a symptom of unfitness. But being fat does not automatically equal out of shape. You have to be very careful about conflating causes, effects, and totally unrelated symptoms of who knows what.

  308. I might add that a sudden weight change (gain or loss) couples with shortness of breath could point to another problem. I wish I had known a fat-friendly physician 20 years ago when I started developing problems. The ones I did see told me to “lose weight” and didn’t listen to a word I said about my diet and activity level. It turned out that my weight gain was a symptom, not a cause. A fat friend doctor might have actually done some tests instead of just judging me – and that would have made a world of difference.

  309. I just did the calculation for what my BMI would have been before the extra weight, and you guys are right, I did fall within the underweight range. I am 5′ 8, and until I was about 23 my weight fluctuated between 100 – 115 lbs. I never considered myself unhealthy as far as my diet was concerned; I ate alot and never restricted myself, but I was not physically active or fit by any means. At the time I wanted nothing more than to gain weight because I had such a boyish figure, I wanted curves. I was teased terribly as a child, called ‘chicken legs’, and once I reached adolescence I was often accused of being anorexic. So the first 15 pounds I gained I rather enjoyed, but the stretch marks that suddenly appeared after about 20lbs really scared me. They literally cover my entire thighs, about 40 separate verticle lines on each leg. So I suppose I do have confidence issues surrounding my weight… actually I must if I’m considering myself at 160 to be 60lbs overweight, measuring from my original weight at the lowest end of fluctuation. Geez, sometimes all it takes is to talk this shit out, you know?

    I do wholeheartedly believe that I can be healthy at this weight if I get myself into shape, it is sortof my plan to try to put on muscle and sort of sculpt my body so that I don’t have to go back to being curveless. My heaviest was 185lbs last summer, at which point I developed the pain in my knees that has not improved since, even with losing some of the weight. I do often wonder if my body is struggling to catch up, as was suggested above, because I do not feel like I have gotten any stronger in support of the extra weight, if you know what I mean. I also now have sore calf muscles left over from overdoing it when exercising almost a month ago. This injury, much like the sore knees, won’t seem to heal. And I see how getting the opinion of a fat-friendly doctor could help, since my current GP immediately dismissed my knee pain as the result of the weight gain, and told me that even as little as 20 lbs is enough to cause serious strain to your joints.

    Sorry for ‘thinking out loud’ here… and I did read a number of the links on this page but I didn’t read the comments policy, so I apologize for that.

  310. Oh, and the shortness of breath is only during activity, but that includes only brisk walking.

  311. Michelle, if your calf muscles are still sore a month after overexerting them, please see a doctor now. That’s not normal. If you’re genuinely out of shape, even brisk walking could make you short of breath, but it’s worth seeing about something like asthma.

    I also agree with Sniper that sudden weight gain is something that should be paid attention to.

    And there are definitely fat-friendly doctors out there. I’m shorter than you (5’4″) and weigh about 10 lbs more, and have rarely had doctors give me crap about my weight. It’s in your best interest to find someone who takes your concerns seriously.

  312. Agreed — and since you’re still within the “normal” range, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about finding a fat-friendly doctor, just a decent one. IANAD, of course, but that degree of muscle soreness and shortness of breath, combined with rapid weight gain, sounds like a concern to me.

    And man, this is such a clear example of the disservice that we do to people by assuming that higher weights are necessarily less healthy. People, including doctors who should know better, are satisfied to put down potentially serious problems to weight gain even if they aren’t actually fat.

  313. If it remains the best system we have, then we should use it but recognise the flaws.

    Um. What?? Or, maybe we could try to find a better system such as, oh, I don’t know, not automatically thinking that someone’s health problems are caused by where their height and weight meet on an arbitrary chart based on MATHS? (I mean, I love maths, but the last time I checked my body does not come equipped with a calculator, or even an abacus, and thus I must assume that it is not in fact directly influenced by maths. See also calorie “theory” which is about as much a theory as Creationism is…)

    Bah. Oh, also, my doctor (who I have been seeing pretty regularly for the last 2 and a half years, during which time my weight went up by a good 3-4 stone/50ish lb and has started to come down again as I am no longer taking the stinking tablets that made me too ill to walk etc – still decidedly in the obese category, though) mentioned my weight to me for the first time ever last week in an apologetic sort of way, in the context of me being diagnosed with PCOS, and basically said “well, PCOS can make it hard to lose weight but also losing weight can reduce symptoms so it might be worth seeing if you can lose a bit of weight…” Funnily enough, this does not make me assume that noone else in my category or indeed below it has ever had a negative experience with a doctor based on their weight/size.

  314. You might not agree, and to you it may be beside the point, but actually I still think that people should have the information.

    Then get your own blog. The “information” you are peddling doesn’t belong in this space.

  315. Man. I felt a bit bad yesterday after getting off the computer because I thought maybe I’d been a bit too mean, but after the “they were intended to address any visitors who came to this page” bullshit I don’t think I was mean enough.

    Heaven forfend that one tiny corner of the internet assert with sound scientific reasoning that using a century-old arbitrary formula THAT THE PERSON WHO DEVISED IT SAID SHOULD NOT BE USED TO MEASURE INDIVIDUALS’ HEALTH is not an accurate or reliable measure of a person’s health or worth. Imagine if a fat (or thin) person read that and, just for a minute, felt a little relaxation in the grip that society has on their self-esteem. Imagine if smart feminist women stated their opinions ON THEIR OWN BLOG without someone to remind them of their place, and that inspired something in someone who was reading here.

    THANK GOD New Caitlin came along to reiterate the same old crap and make sure Shapely Prose readers got, as FJ points out, a “fair and balanced” view that incorporates all the lies we hear from everywhere else everyday. I can’t imagine what other readers would have done without the benefit of her wisdom. Read the material here, weighed it up against other things they’ve heard or read, and come to their own conclusions maybe?



  316. All these Caitlins are making me dizzy.

    Well exactly. The argument “it’s pretty clear who’s speaking in context” ignores the fact that a) people are/were replying to two people but having only the same name to identify them by and b) on this blog, when the name Caitlin’s on the post, the context is that I’m speaking. But Other Caitlin’s entire universe appears to be her and a few other people she knows, and it’s pretty clear to her who’s speaking in context, so what’s the problem?

    It’s an interesting example of her worldview in microcosm, really.

  317. (I actually only came over here in the first place because I saw Other Caitlin’s comment in the Top 5 and was like “I did who with the what now?”)

  318. I think I’m most disturbed by Other Caitlin’s willingness to just see groups like the Inuits as outliers rather than evidence that its a seriously flawed measurement of health etc. Hell, she thinks the people of Tonga, a Polynesian island, would be more likely to find the BMI useful than Inuits. (I’m also pissed she doesn’t know Inuit health is also ‘super-significant’ for the United States and Greenland but I digress.)

    Its a formula based on white, European bodies. That’s only a small percentage of the world. In fact there are studies right now that demonstrate the BMI weights might be too high for people from South Asia, for example. You’d think that would make the fatophobes gleeful to find out because then they’ve got a whole other subcontinent to harass.

  319. So guess what ladies? It turns out that I am your typical medically-ignorant and self hating chubby girl. I know that you all knew that already, but it was news to me! :) And first of all, THANK YOU for the advice, because this is the first time anyone else has suggested that there were likely other reasons for my weight gain and other symptoms. The general consensus from everyone else, including myself, was “put down the fork”… My doctor, who always has his prescription pad in hand when I visit him, ready to give me some pill and then get me the hell out, decided that my pain was because I need to lose weight, and prescribed my an anti-inflammatory/pain reliever for which the side effects included….. you guessed it: weight gain!

    I am a recovering opiate addict who has been on a daily dose of methadone for years. I knew that weight gain was a potential side effect, but I had been on the methadone for over a year before I started to gain so I didn’t associate the two when it happened. What I didn’t know is that there is evidence that the drug (and also the illicit drug use and lifestyle preceeding it), negatively affects bone density, and cartillage and tissue formation. Which would explain why I can’t seem to heal or build enough strength to support the extra weight. It apparently can also cause cravings for sweets. It makes me feel so silly for not being aware of the side effects of the meds I take. I was never informed of these side effects when I started the treatment or when I’ve since raised concerns to both my program doctor and GP. And I was not very concerned with side effects when I started the program because I saw the methadone as the lesser of two evils.

    It’s funny that in my case I used my BMI rating as a way to reassure myself that the issues and generally poor health I am expereincing were not serious enough to warrant further investigation. The first time I did the calculation I was just barely in the overweight category, and right now I’m in the normal category, but I am really not healthy. And it isn’t the weight that is causing me to be unhealthy.

    It is absolute bullshit that so many women will feel horrible about themselves and, even worse, that they could be denied affordable health care and resources because of their BMI category, when there is NOTHING wrong with them AT ALL.

  320. Michelle you may want to check with the clinic where you get your treatment to see if there’s a physician familiar with opiate recovery and methadone. That way you have someone who actually knows the side effects because its not a commonly prescribed painkiller AFIK.

    But I think the most important thing is that you should be so proud of yourself for being clean for this long. It’s not a easy battle.

  321. Thanks guys :)

    fatsmartchick: I believe that for some people with chronic pain the methadone is prescribed as a pain reliever, but for me it’s basically used as a replacement for the illicit drugs that I was doing before (it only helps with opiate addiction though, for me it was mostly morphine, oxycontin and heroin — NO needles though). It’s designed to stabilize you on a legal and affordable alternative to the drugs so that you are able to get your life together, and then eventually you taper yourself off fo it. The clinic where I recieve my treatment is a branch of the OATC (Ontario addictions treatment centres), which only serves patients who are on methadone. That’s why it’s so wierd that my doctor there wouldn’t have even suggested that my issues could be a side effect of the treatment.

    I can sort of understand why I wasn’t given the proper information when I began treatment because they are badly understaffed and at their full patient capacity, but I have spoken with him a number of times since gaining the weight and having the soreness in my knees and legs and he didn’t say much. He must not equate the meds with the weight gain for the same reason I didn’t. I also spoke with him when I became a vegetarian 6 months ago and all he warned me about was vitamin b12 and iron intake, nothing about calcium levels, or vitamin D (apparantly a number of study participants on methadone who were found to have lower bone density were also deficient in vitamin D).

    It’s totally true that we each have to look out for ourselves and can’t rely on anyone else to do it for us. You can’t even trust what a doctor says all the time. Shit, my family doctor even tried to prescribe me codeine for the pain in my knees, knowing full well that I was on methadone and that codeine is an opiate! I have to be really careful with what he prescribes me because I give urine samples on a weekly basis, and a ‘dirty’ sample causes me to lose privileges on the program.

  322. Michelle, have you seen First, Do No Harm? It is another eye-opener for how doctors can really close their eyes to anything besides fat.

    You know, I was on the pill for years before a pharmacist (not a doctor!) told me that taking antibiotics may reduce the effectiveness of BCP. I was fucking furious, since at the time I got regular sinus infections and had taken antibiotics a couple times a year for that and had *never* been cautioned about using backup birth control until then. Even just last year, I got a prescription for an antibiotic for acne, and the doctor didn’t mention anything about interactions. I called him back to ask, and then he said I was right — but I should probably use condoms anyway all the time, because “you never know.”

    I didn’t go back to him.

    My point is just to reinforce what you already know: sometimes (a lot of times) you have to be your own advocate. It sucks, and it shouldn’t be that way, but it can keep you saner and safer.

  323. I wonder why the medical community continues to use it? Because it’s easy math?
    There’s a chart handed out?
    I remember in middle school talking about ecto-, endo- and mesomorph body types, then getting into college and majoring in neuroscience, amazed at the progress in that field in the prior decade and watching the progress over the ensuing ten years and thinking – surely this progress is happening throughout, and most everything I learned in middle school has been debunked – or at least expanded upon. And then I start getting BMIed at the doctor and wonder – how did we move backwards?
    Seriously, it’s absolutely bullshit, we all know it, why is it still being used? How can we change it?

  324. WOW. I always knew that BMI was crap, but I still felt a bit guilty for hovering around the line between overweight and normal. But jeez, these “fat” women are gorgeous (and the thin ones too!), so wtf am I worried about? The weirdest thing about this for me is that Robin looks almost like someone took a photo of me and made me taller and added just enough weight in the right places to get the same shape and proportions. Why is she morbidly obese?! Because she’s *taller*?! I thought BMI was supposed to take that into account but it’s obviously done a poor job there as well. (It can’t be a massive difference in muscle mass, either, ’cause I’m *hardly* lacking in that dep’t LOL.) Thanks for showing me that BMI isn’t just a bit flawed, but something we need to overhaul if not trash entirely.

    Nthing the ‘stretch marks aren’t a health issue’ idea. I got my stretch marks during puberty, and almost all of the growth in my early/mid teens was height and muscle. I already had the fat. My stretch marks are on my thighs and the backs of my calves — the places which have way more muscle than fat. If fat = unhealthy = stretch marks, then I should have stretch marks on my bum and tummy, but I don’t. Stretch marks aren’t a sign of poor health, just a sign that a part of your body grew faster than the skin was prepared for, which can be caused by many different things (like pregnancy, puberty, or even stretch-prone skin and regular weight fluctuation). Even when they’re caused by a lot of weight gain, they don’t affect your ability to do anything or increase your risk of certain diseases. It’s a cosmetic issue at its worst.

  325. Ha! I just looked up my husband’s BMI. He is “overweight.” Funny that a US Marine who runs 8 miles a day with not a stitch of fat anywhere (that I can see, and I’ve seen all of him!) is considered overweight. He’s not even an obnoxiously bubbled body builder type, he’s just solid. How oddly skewwed this system is.

  326. Kate may be “obese”, but I’m “normal”, and I sure can’t lift my ass off the ground like that.

    Likewise, I have a friend in MUCH better physical shape than I am who is joining the Army, but won’t be admitted until she loses weight because according to the BMI, she’s “morbidly obese.”

  327. I was so annoyed when I went to the doctor-with my 6 year old-and the doctor felt the need to tell me that he was overweight-when he (my son) was sitting there. He is very upset about it. Of course the BMI did not take into account that he may be in the 93rd percentile for weight, but is also in the 97th percentile for hight and of a very muscular build. Previous to calculating the BMI the doctor (who hadn’t used this measurement in previous years) thought my son looked very healthy. She did the whole dietary question thing and was pleased that he is rarely allowed any sort of junk food and drinks mostly water. She even looked a bit surprised that the calculation read over weight.

    He is not a small kid, but is very active and everyone I have asked says it is crazy to say he is over weight. I get so annoyed that e doctors feel the need to rely on BMI’s even if it is contrary to everything they are seeing with their own eyes.

  328. LOL. Thanks for throwing the cat in there.

    I’d like to see pics of some ballerinas or dancers in the project. I know it’s stereotypical, but I can’t believe the girl on ice skates has a body that’s entirely “normal” (or, perhaps more accurately, “average”). Women in body-conscious activities like ice skating and ballet usually have very particular body types: small-boned, slender, long muscles, petite (or, if tall, willowy), a certain type of foot and shape of hip joint. When one starts narrowing the specifications, you realize that these body types require at least some genetic gifts – that is, they certainly are not the “norm” against which other people should be compared. The fact is, if you’re going to normalize the bodies of women in activities like ballet, you’re going to have a whole lot of eating disorders going on, which we currently do. Women with “different” body types often find themselves migrating out of the physically unforgiving ballet world and into other genres, like modern dance. I love to take ballet class, but ballet simply was not *designed* – like, fundamentally, as an art form – for larger or muscular women. The woman’s body is necessarily always already part of the ballet aesthetic.

  329. The slide show is wonderful — drives home what I have to remind myself of every time I hit a scale — am I perfect? No. Do I eat healthy and engage in an active lifestyle? Yes. Will my weight affect my health – highly unlikelly. So would I only be losing weight to please society? Pretty much. (FYI – I fall in the high side of overweight, just under obese. I once starved myself out of the overweight category into “normal”… it was unhealthy).

    Elementary School Gym Class horror story: Our height and weight was shouted (or at least it seemed to be shouted) out to a “helper” (i.e. gym teacher’s pet) for her to record…. it was that age where most girls were under 100 lbs. I was over …. utterly scarring and terrible… worse than the pull up failure and my mediocre performance in sprints …

  330. Hi folks!

    I’ll admit straight out that I feel a bit guilty about commenting here… because I’m not fat, never have been (despite what teen Me thought!), and if I’m honest, I have no idea what my BMI or even weight are… Frankly, the last time the bathroom scales were used, it was to weigh suitcases!

    That said, my friends call me skinny, while I think they’re smaller than me – I’m always surprised to find that my size 14 friends don’t fit my size 10-12 clothes.(UK sizes here!) There’s nothing about my personal perspective of my body that wouldn’t be fixed by getting some exercise – sure, my eating habits could be better, but no diet will ever change the fact that I am unfit, sedentary, and (just a bit) lazy.

    So it strikes me as just a little unfair that I’m not fat, while there are so many people out there struggling to ‘lose weight’* who are living much healthier lifestyles, yet constantly being told they’re failures because they don’t meet the BMI standard.

    I’m one of the lucky ones. I suffer from Depression, and that affects my appetite – which I allow to determine my eating habits.

    As a 15 year old, I comfort ate – a lot. I thought I was fat, which depressed me, so I ate more. Yet at my biggest point I was size 14 (UK, remember!), and weighed 10 stone. Chubby, maybe, unfit, certainly, but fat? No.

    At my worst, age 24, I had no appettite at all, ate maybe 2 slices of toast a week, and lost quite a bit of weight and size. Soon after, I went through a good patch, joined a gym, toned up a bit, and at the point where I was happy with my body (i.e. no unwanted wobbly bits, felt good, more energy, etc) my mother started to tell me I was too skinny, and needed to put weight on (after years of telling me to hold my belly in…)!

    Nowadays, at 31, I tend to snack through the day, not a lot, but almost exclusively on cakes and sweets. I spend most of my time sat in front of the computer, and despite the fact that it’s a short walk to the shop, I always take the car…

    Like I said, I’m lucky. But I do know that the last time I knew my BMI, I was just inside (high) normal. And that was when I was eating nothing, before the excercise. The main reason I sought treatment for the depression was effectively because I was starving myself, which wasn’t healthy. And the doc said “You don’t really NEED to lose weight” – as though I told him I was on the atkins diet, instead of how I had to force myself to eat those 2 slices of toast every week…

    At the end of the day, the BMI is a load of BS. Docs who rely on it are, IMHO, idiots. I wholeheartedly support what you’re doing here, and keep up the good work.

    * having re-read before submitting, I just want to share a pet peeve of mine… people saying ‘lose weight’ when what they mean is ‘lose size/get smaller’. As I think you’ve most ably shown here, the weight=size paradigm is, at best unreliable – at worst, downright lies. I never weigh myself (although I allow docs to), I believe that the mirror is the only thing that counts here. If it tells you that you look good, that’s you telling you that you look good, and that’s all you need to know. :) Trite, I know, but still more accurate than that silly chart!

  331. J, the whole point is that the categories are basically meaningless, so it doesn’t really matter if you can “believe” her BMI or not. The slide show is about showing the full range of body types that exist, and that BMI is not a useful measure of anything.

    And while I agree that the aesthetic of what a dancer should look like is extremely limited, so that anyone who does not fit the idealized body type is forced/shamed out of those professions, I’m not at all convinced that it’s because fatter, taller people can’t make the same movements. People who are not thin and slim can be great ballet dancers — or could be, if the community was not so bigoted and discriminatory. (Also, if you think that the limited body types of dancers are unrepresentative of the general population, and that idealizing that unusual body type is unhealthy, why do you want to see more dancers in the slide show? I’m thoroughly confused!)

  332. thank you for posting the slideshow!

    I have started taking a perverse pleasure in telling people that I am “obese” according to bmi.

    I’m currently on the low end of obese. There’s no arguing that I could stand to lose 15-20 lbs (I currently wear a size 12). BMI wants me to lose 45 lbs to be on the high end of normal.

  333. There’s no arguing that I could stand to lose 15-20 lbs (I currently wear a size 12).

    There are those that would disagree. :) There is nothing wrong with being a size 12!

  334. I think a lot of the problems about this have to do with a lack of personalized medicine. Health professionals who don’t treat the whole person, but a series of symptoms in the context of charts of averages.

    I have always been technically underweight, except for a time a few years ago when I was horribly depressed, eating a bunch of crap, laying on my couch, unemployed, smoking too much weed, drinking too much, and trying to figure out why I had just spent several months living with an physically and emotionally abusive guy. Suddenly, when I was emotionally destroyed and physically felt awful, a few VERY body conscious friends were telling me I looked great. Because being my normal, feel good, but much thinner self made them feel bad.

    I don’t “like” being underweight, but I like feeling good, healthy, strong, capable, and confident. I hate that when I am thinner, and feeling good, bigger girls dog on me for being anorexic, for “not being a real woman” and having a very small chest and butt area and hips/waist like a boy.

    Me, just walking around, being me, is not an insult to bigger girls. I am not thin just to make someone else feel bad. I feel guilty sometimes for fitting into the standard of beauty. I don’t try to eat healthy food and exercise because I am competing with other women, but because I am getting older, and I can feel the effect of bad food on my kidneys.

    And for the record, for the commenter above who wanted the “normal” women to eat donuts… 1. I don’t tell you to eat more carrots. (well, unless we were going out to this one cafe with really delicious carrot souffle but that’s different). 2. Underweight and normal girls eat donuts too! I won’t generalize everyone’s eating habits. I eat junk food. I just have to be moderate about it – I have problems with my kidneys (NOT because I am so underweight – because I spent 6 months unknowingly eating and drinking contaminated food!).

    I think in the US we need to change our relationship to food and be more hedonistic about it. This isn’t scientific, but I honestly feel that taking time out to really ENJOY what you are eating, to savor it, appreciate it with friends and loved ones – must somehow relate to being a healthy weight. Does anyone feel the same way or is that just ridiculous, that truly enjoying your food changes the way your body and brain act on the food when breaking it down?

    (Sorry for the long comment, I would much prefer to talk to you ladies in person, you seem like an awesome bunch!)

  335. Jess, you’ll find a lot of company here in terms of your beliefs about food and not bashing thin people. I think you’d enjoy digging through the archives, because we’ve talked before about a lot of the things you brought up.

  336. Oh my, Amanda. I also wear a size 12 (give or take) and, while I might still be healthy 15 or 20 lbs lighter, I would certainly argue that I don’t need to lose any weight in order to be healthy, fit, attractive, or happy with my body simply because of what the tag on my clothing says. I’m just on the other side of “obese” based on BMI – If I gained 2-3 lbs, I would actually be at the low end of obese.

  337. Hey! I am a looong-time lurker brought here by Swistle. To say I love this site is inadequate.

    Here is my issue: our school district calculates our children’s BMIs at the end of every year and then sends a letter home to the parents of each child who is “underweight” or “overweight” telling us that we need to take our child(ren) for a health screening. These letters–which are not in envelopes–are *handed to the children* along with their report card on the last day of school.

    Has anyone else dealt with this in their school district? I am trying to figure out the best way to address it with the school. If this has already been discussed somewhere, please point me in the right direction!

  338. The odd thing for me about the BMI is its complete failure to deal with the fact that athletes are usually heavier than non-athletes of equivalent height, because muscle weighs more than fat. I’m 42 and no sylph–I was not “built for ballet” in the sense that I have hips designed for carrying babies on–but I’ve been dancing all my adult life, and I’m solid. The muscles in my thighs ripple when I plie. I’m substantial, no bones stick out, but no way am I fat by anybody’s measure. But my BMI puts me five pounds into the “obese” category. Geez louise.

  339. This. This is awesome.

    I’ve been saying for years that BMI is an inaccurate and almost totally useless ‘measure’ of health. As someone naturally broad and muscular, I’ve never landed in the normal category, not once in my entire life. The gym I used to attend was obsessed with BMI. There seemed to be a tacit agreement that, regardless of my real reasons for attending (fitness and strength), I should be there to reduce my BMI. I even found a diet sheet slipped into my file at one point.
    So now I’m a little pudgy, and not as fit as I once was, and my BMI is in the morbidly obese category. Are you kidding me? As a UK16, I find that an absolute offense to common sense. Luckily, I have a great doctor who weighs me ‘because I have to’; who has never mentioned BMI to me once; and who, when giving me a diet sheet on my own request, told me that I should just exercise more because the prescribed diet was seriously flawed.
    Does anyone know if bone size/density can affect BMI? I know, I know, the old ‘joke’ of not being fat, just big-boned – but really, I do have large, flattish bones compared to most of my friends, who have little, dainty, fragile bones. Maybe I’m just a cart-horse.

  340. It was such a relief to see this slideshow.

    I have had so many health and mental health problems, even eating disorders in relation to my body, BMI and the medical “community”.

    I remember walking out of a doctor’s office in tears because he was blaming all of my chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety and other stress and health issues on my weight. I was 2 lbs. overweight at the time.

    After being put on medication to deal with those issues I gained considerable weight. I am now off the meds, considerably heavier.. and guess what! All my health issues have resolved themselves.

    Still, every time I see a doctor I receive misguided comments about how to improve my health my getting my weight “at a healthier level”

    I enjoy skating 9 hours a week, biking 3 hours a week and 20 minutes of yoga, pushups and crunches a day while being on a 1200 calorie a day diet is not sufficient for keeping my weight down so they want me to join lifestyle programs and see more nutritionists.

    Apparently it doesn’t matter that I’m actually more comfortable with my body and feel stronger and healthier. They would rather I be thinner.

  341. I am a nurse. I am fat. I love that everything that goes wrong is blamed on weight. I am so tired of being told that whatever problem I have gone to the doctor with is because I am fat. I had hemolytic anemia and did not go to the doctor when I was feeling so horrible because I knew I would be told that I was tired and out of breath because I was fat.
    I assumed that I felt like crap because I am fat and tried to exercise but was not able. Finally a coworker told me, “you look like crap” and we realized I was actually sick, not just fat.
    My hemoglobin was 6 at that point. I had a most wonderful doctor. He was very thin and never bugged me about my weight. I saw him for several years after that until he reitred. He died of a massive heart attack one year after retiring. A sad turn of events for a really good doctor. I have not found another good doctor yet, who does not blame everything on my weight.

  342. Nowheymama, I hope you’re still checking back.

    With regard to your question about your school district — I’m not a parent, so I can’t be a whole lot of use to you, but this thread has a lot of discussion about a quite similar situation (in a college environment) with suggestions and links that you might find useful. (Search the thread for “college”.) I hope that helps. You are so right to be concerned!

  343. Actually, searching the thread for “eloriane” would probably be more helpful, as it would start you at the start.

  344. Thank you, Caitlin! I will definitely check out that thread.
    Also, I just saw the post about the community on Ning, so now I know where to ask questions.

  345. I just found out my BMI, which was, of course, very triggering to me and I’m trying to forget what I read. I am 4 foot 9 1/2 and at 123lbs, I am “slightly overweight.” I was advised to lose ten pounds and then I wouldn’t have the potential for all these serious diseases, like Type 2 Diabetes. It’s all bullshit. I am in recovery for a restrictive eating disorder and have fibromyalgia. Just last Sunday, I started feeling really confused and faint, because I hadn’t eaten enough. Fortunately, I was able to get someone to drive me over to the restaurant they were going to and I felt much better after eating dinner. I really do value my recovery and don’t want to end up in the eating disorder ward a third time, so I think I’ll stick with my current weight, thank you very much, BMI. If the project was still open, I’d submit my picture, because most people see me as thin or average. I think it’s also ironic that every time I’ve been in treatment, there have been womyn there with diabetes who were “average/normal” and “underweight.” It’s all pure BS, plain and simple.

  346. Hi ladies! It was so uplifting to read about women who *gasp* are healthy and happy with the way they look. Unfortunately I am not. I am 5’5 165 lbs due to putting on weight over the last 4 years in college.

    Anyway, just wanted to share a quick story. About 6 years ago, when I was 30 LBS LIGHTER I had a physical. My regular doc was out, so I saw a different doc than normal. Bitch was blonde and about 90 lbs. She proceeded to examine me and tell me that I was overweight and could become obese very easily. WTF?! I was crushed by this. But the next time I went to my regular doc, I told her what the other doc had said. My doc told me that the bitch was using my BMI and that it was ridiculous and useless and that I was perfectly healthy.

    Sadly, this didn’t stop me from developing bulimia. Even thought I am at my heaviest, I am also at my healthiest. I have drastically changed my eating habits and portion control and (through therapy) have realized my attachment to food comes from a lack of love and support in my life (my family is extremely dysfunctional and abusive and my boyfriend is very cold and apathetic) . I run 9 miles a week (3 mil every other day).

    When I was 125 lbs and at my thinnest, I could not even run a mile. Count me in the horrible gym experiences club. At 125 lbs, I was hands down the fattest girl in my class. Isn’t that INSANE??? My gym teacher was constantly “encouraging” me like the time she made me do sit ups in front of everyone and then accused me of cheating when I actually tried. Yeah.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my story and really express my deep gratitude at finding women who aren’t always obsessing about food and appearance and FAT. I’m tired of people thinking that thin=healthy/athletic and fat/not thin=lazy/sedentary. I am on a journey to become healthy and to like myself again, not to fit into a certain size or look like I smoke meth. Thank you ladies for being sane, wise and beautiful.

  347. I feel pretty awkward, having skimmed the comments dealing with the other Caitlin; ahah. ;;; And i really have nothing of use to say, except that this is fairly interesting, especially since i looked up my BMI recently & it told me i was overweight. Which does wonders for the self-esteem, as i’m sure you know; hurr hurr. :\ I don’t even know my exact weight– maybe somewhere between 175 & 180?– & i’m 5’8″ish, so i have no idea what is considered normal, but i don’t feel comfortable at this weight at all. I suppose i’m undermining the purpose of this site by whinging, but um. Yeah. I have no interesting stories or anecdotes, just that some of the pictures really surprised me with their labels.

    -scuttling off now OTL-

  348. Looking at the slide show and reading the comments has been a very liberating and happy experience for me. Thanks to all who participated and all who commented.

  349. Wow, this makes me feel better. According to my BMI I am just below the obese range, though I don’t look like I’m near obese. I am average height and muscular, with a little chub in the mid-section…This BMI thing is not fair! Muscle does weigh more than fat, so how can they just base it on the numbers?!

  350. I’m really glad to see this! I would love to send you pics both pre-pregnancy and postpartum. Pre-preg I was “overweight” even though I think I looked normal and was about 140lbs and now am considered “obese” at about 170lbs. It’s ridiculous!!

  351. Wait I am so confused. My weight fluctuates from 145 to 160 pounds at 5’9.5 and my BMI from 21.5 to 23 and yet I look more like the overweight almost obese people. Do we have different calculation methods or is BMI even more screwed than I thought it was? And sizing- I go from a 6 to a 16 (not kidding) Anyway I havn’t written since early summer but I love this project and your website. It has really helped me try to be healthy as opposed to trying to be skinny and whatever I try doesn’t work so I might as well accept myself the way I am “thick” and gorgeous.
    Though everyone I know uses 150 lbs as OMG SO FAT and I way that or more depending. I am so much healthier than them I eat organic local unprocessed foods and I exercise regularly. And when I tell them off they go hey relax it’s not like your OBESE BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA. And as you probably guessed that makes me mad as hell. They tell me eat eat then defend a model who they say is “just built that way” who confessed to be anorexic! Nothing against naturally skinny people I know plenty – but no one is naturally 5’11 and a size 00. Anyway I just want to say that it is websites like yours that keep me sane in this fatphobic society.

  352. Nice site! I’ve only just found you, but there is some GREAT and very funny stuff here! So true – and no-one wants to admit it!

    Just from the other side for a moment: I’m a doctor and I hate it how people get obsessed with numbers and they always want to know their “BMI” rather than just deal with their health problems. I can LOOK at them and tell if they are healthier/been exercising/eating well/taking care of themselves. When they stop eating CRAP their skin and hair looks better, when they cut the cigs they breathe better – it isn’t all about the number on the scales!

    My mother stresses out about being “morbidly obese” but her *real* problem is that she’s very short! She’s even considered surgery to get rid of those extra 20 pounds – that’s how desperate people have made her about her body. BTW, she wears size US 10 (AU14).

    Thanks for this blog! I’ll read more when I have the time.

  353. I love the slideshow! You should make a quiz with the pictures to see how easy it is to distinguish between the different categories or whether BMI is complete crap… ie, Person A and Person B both look normal, but Person B is technically obese.

  354. Elizabby:

    I can LOOK at them and tell if they are healthier/been exercising/eating well/taking care of themselves. When they stop eating CRAP their skin and hair looks better, when they cut the cigs they breathe better – it isn’t all about the number on the scales!

    Really? You have magical powers which allow you to tell all you need to know, without actually even asking them?? You might want to step back and think about that, especially as you’re a health professional. Being a professional medic does not make you have magical invincible powers to discern all this information as you describe — it just doesn’t, and the assumptions you’re making can lead to a lot of heartache for patients, not to mention harm .

    How many fat patients have been half-listened to, or not listened to at all at the hands of a health professional who has prejudged them on their appearance?! It’s not just about not being rude to patients who ‘look unhealthy’ (according to you). It’s not even only about not making numbers the sole focus (although it’s nice to hear you at least say numbers aren’t the things to live and diagnose by)… it’s about *not judging on appearances alone*. And about *listening* and actively trying to *watch out for your own biases*.

    My mum is ‘obese’ and you’d probably decide from looking at her that she eats ‘CRAP’. This is because she doesn’t always look so healthy — she often looks tired and stressed, gets bad skin and has inherited early rheumatoid arthritis (makes exercise hard, huh?!), had a hernia from over-exerting herself when she was trying to exercise on a doctor’s instructions (again, hard for her to exercise after that), and is constantly worrying about money because their finances aren’t great in this recession and she’s in pain. From the way you write that ‘CRAP’ in capitals, I’m guessing you don’t think much of people who eat what you deem to be CRAP, so if you think you can tell from looking at them that they’re still eating CRAP then I’m guessing it’s not a huge leap to infer that you tell them to stop eating the CRAP. Even though this is not the sure-fire way to helping someone open up and tell you about their problems… If they in fact do have an issue with food, then diving right on in there with assumptions that you a) know what sort of thing they eat and b) know that this is to blame for whatever they’ve come in for will most likely be harmful. Listening and talking about these things in a respectful way (I don’t find the word CRAP very respectful, especially when it’s an assumption about the kind of food a person eats) might work a little better. And you know what? The thing they’ve come in about might not be to do with their diet or their visible physical features, even — EVEN — if these things are affected in some indirect way.

    The central problem could be something else entirely, and I don’t think I’d feel too secure going to a doctor who professes to be able to tell whether or not I eat what s/he deems as CRAP from looking at me. I actually speak from the position of having been very anorexic, but not ‘thin enough’ for the doctor who saw me to take me seriously. Apparently, with my tiny legs and no fat on me at all, my bones were still big enough that it meant I was magically not ill! Even though I wasn’t eating, and when I ate, I purged and/or overexercised straight afterwards, and told the doctor this. Evidently, she knew better from looking at me!?!

  355. Thanks for all of this. I looked up some of my current and past BMI’s, turns out I was overweight bordering on obese when I was in college and working out 5 + days/week for at least an hour! I had this crazy idea that after this baby comes I would try to get down to a “normal” weight, but I think that now I will shoot for “overweight” – i.e. the healthy weight that my body liked to be at when I was in college. :)

  356. Heh. I’m so glad that someone pointed me in the direction of this blog. Wonderful stuff!

    Anyway, has anyone else noticed how the only people who look good in corsets are considered obese or morbidly obese by the BMI? A lot of older fashions seem geared toward people who are not thin, and they look super sexy. I think as far as fashion consciousness goes, if there were more options that were actually meant to accentuate curves and fit real people, instead of ‘hiding the flaws,’ a lot fewer people would feel bad about their body image.

    And a note about health care – I have low blood pressure. I have been told that, were I to live in another country, I would be given treatment for it. Here, however, we are only concerned with high blood pressure, and people tell me that I’m so lucky. There isn’t anything lucky about having a low pulse and very little energy. If I had low blood pressure and was also overweight, people would tell me that I just need to exercise! more! and then I wouldn’t feel tired.

    Kind of like how if I became blind, my bad memory and ineptness at finding my way would be blamed on my blindness, not on the fact that I am just silly and forget things.

    Or how, when talking to people about being transsexual, my changing understanding of my own sexuality is always met with, “Oh, that makes sense. Because you’re body is female, of course you like women,” or “Oh, of course, because you view yourself as male, of course you like men.”

    In any of these cases, it’s all about what is acceptable, and so acceptance movements are important for that – remove the arbitrary standards of acceptance, and then we all get to move beyond this stupid superficiality. Yay!

    Anyway, I’m going to show this blog to so many people. It needs to be seen!

  357. Okay, I officially love this place. For years I seldom went to a doctor because of a string of humiliating experiences. My personal favorite was when I went in to be tested for STREP THROAT and was subjected to 17 minutes (I checked) of lecturing about my weight. For the record, 5’4″ and 185 at the time, and I was wearing a US size 16. I sort of enjoyed replying to stuff like “You need to exercise more” with “More than an hour a day?” (Frequent aerobic exercise has turned out to be key in managing my depression.) But it never seemed to sink in that I wasn’t there to be lectured and condescended to, I was there because I had a 102-degree fever, a sore throat, and swollen glands, and I was pretty sure that “fat” isn’t a risk factor for strep throat.

    My doctor now is awesome, though. She ignores the BMI, uses one of those electronic body-fat-percentage-calculating things, and is much more interested in my cholesterol (low), blood pressure (low), and fasting glucose levels (yep, still low) than in the readouts from the body-fat gadget or the scale. It’s interesting: the most fat-phobic AND the most fat-friendly doctors I’ve seen have both been fairly thin women. Anybody else have similar experiences?

  358. I love the visual representation of BMI, it really showcases just how flawed it is. Thank you for this affirmation

  359. I tried reading everyone’s comments so that I didn’t repeat, but there are too many…

    Technically BMI wise i am in the overweight category (can sometimes go into the obese category). I am often told “you can’t be that fat!” when I tell ppl I am obese (at the times when i am)… I hope that made sense.

    Regarding gym class. I was always very good at sports. In the top hockey team. I was the goally and i could run laps around my team mates in all that padding!!!

    I guess most of the issues i have around my weight come from my mother. She was an elite ballet dancer and had the view for a long time that I should also be like her. We had really massive arguments about my weight and when i started throwing up most meals, she actually was happy, because I could, “use it to lose weight”.

    So I think that this is a great blog and I am glad you are speaking out about the fat discrimination.

  360. @Zenoodle – well, perhaps that was a slight exaggeration, but my main point was that often it is the *patients* who want to know the numbers on the scales and what their BMIs are, more than the doctors. Also, my practice is very particular, and I tend to have a lot of long-term patients – obviously I don’t jump to conclusions the first time I meet someone! But most of my patients are long-term regulars who I see regularly and know well – these are really the ones I was thinking of when I say I can “see” what they’ve been up to, compared to baseline. This is why I used the word “better” rather than “good” – these are people in whom I can see the *changes*, not people I meet and make snap judgements about. And of course I DO talk to them about what is going on in their lives!

    And, also IMO obviously, I don’t say to patients that they eat “crap” – but this comments page is not a professional consult so I don’t feel the need to be PC, and I certainly DO see patients who live on a diet that I consider nutritionally inadequate and calorie dense.

    I apparently haven’t given a very good impression in my first post here, but as a medical professional I have a lot of repeat and happy customers, and I’ve been told I’m a better listener than most. However, I also know my limits, and I don’t deal with eating disorders – that’s a whole ‘nother basket of eggs, and I’ve worked with enough ED patients to know that this is not my cup of tea. If I come across a real/suspected ED, I refer them to a specialist – this needs a special level of care (and psych input) which I can’t provide and I’m not going to do them the injustice to muddle through on my own.

  361. I’m 225lbs (116kg) , I randomly stumbled on this site, and THANK YOU for showing me that I dont have to be so afraid of being me!
    I eat healthy, walk alot and is generaly not lazy or crazy-fit-trainer.
    and I’m starting to see what my BF loves bout me, it isnt the weight, but me as a person (btw, he would be in the catagory underweight… weird:p)

    Thank you again for doing such a good job of changing the world!
    (FK from Norway)

  362. I just want to say thankyou to kate harding.
    I read an article in Cosmopolitan (australia – december 2009) where they compared your fantastic website that encourages people to accept themselves and their bodies in comparison to the website created by MeMe Roth (from NAAO).
    When i read the article i was disgusted by the expectations and beliefs that this woman strongly enforces but thrilled to find the link to your site. Thankyou for sharing your story and beliefs and supporting me and so many others, to love myself.

  363. De-lurking for the first time, because I wanted to respond to J’s comments about ballet and “ideal body types”.

    The aesthetic “type” has very little to do with ballet’s physical requirements or even the requirements of the aesthetics of movement in ballet. A gorgeous arabesque is still gorgeous whether or not the circumference of the leg doing it is X inches or Y inches. However, Balanchine and other choreographers and artistic directors in the ballet world have pushed for this limited body aesthetic and linked it to ballet as a whole (hmm where have I seen this before? OH WAIT MODELLING!). When I was younger, I picked up a book about Anna Pavlova (a famous ballerina), and my first thought was “omygod, she’s fat”. Thank you societal pressures to be thin and vilify “fat”!

    Ballet does require (to be really really good) certain genetic gifts, but they are certain genetic gifts that have absolutely nothing to do with weight, and a whole lot to do with how your skeleton is put together. Its your bones, not your pounds, that determine if you can get your leg up to your ear or your feet in to a perfect first position. That being said, having a less than ideal skeletal structure, you can do pretty well at ballet. Having neither the ideal bone structure (though I’m lucky to have pretty good bones structure in my feet) nor the “ideal” body type, I have been dancing since I was a little girl (I’m now 24 and I’m dancing with women who range up into their 70s, which amazes me and gives me hope that I can do ballet forever!).

    Also, even if someone who is “overweight” and unhealthy, why must we demonize them for being unhealthy. Its not like they did on purpose to spite you, the medical establishment, etc. You would never say to someone who has cancer, “why don’t you just get rid of the cells that don’t go into apoptosis” as if that is a) something they can do and b) something that would actually fix the problem (which it wouldn’t really), why do people insist on saying that “why don’t just just get rid of those fat cells” as if it would suddenly fix everything. GAH.

  364. I would just like to thank all the people who mentioned that BMI does NOT take into account your given “assets” (boobs, butt, bones). Let’s take into account that “the human head weighs 8lbs” do I get to deduct that from my total weight when doing this test?? NOPE. And I’ve had DDD all my life. I’ve lost about 40+ lbs since highschool and the only part of my bra size that has decreased is the width under my breasts!! Boobs are BIG in my family. Whether we are size 4, 8, 12 or 32 we all have wonderful large breasts!!

    The worst part about this test is that it infests every part of you life. I once- no several times- went to the Doctor for allergy tests, OBGYN exams, everything NOT related to weight. And not only have I been repeatedly told that I’m overweight and that the HMO REQUIRES that I am to take a “your fat” pamphlet, but I’ve failed to see how that relates even slightly to my constant sneezing. Is the fat infesting my nasal passages? NOPE. So why does it matter? Why are you telling me this? BACK OFF!!! I’m PROUD of the weight I’ve lost. And I’m even more proud to have such rockin boobs! I even had a “friend” on his status make a comment about the relation of weight and boobage- my response? “I’ve had boobs since I was 11- I’ll have them no matter how big or how small I am but boy, you’ll always be an ASS”.

    Rock on ladies- shake what your mamma gave you!!!

  365. I have been lurking on SP for about two years, and I am a quiet FA/HAES advocate. I love the courageous spirit that all of you SP folks have, and the BMI project has been nothing but inspirational to me.

    I am a *struggling* writer hunting for an agent for my body of work (novels, short stories, plays), and I try to weave in FA/HAES into nearly every story line in some way, and work very hard to present any individual character that is suffering from disordered eating (common in my writing as it is common in real life) in a two-dimensional light. I’m writing it for alls yalls, so wish me luck.

  366. THANK YOU! I always thought it was odd that even when I was on varsity swim team in high school, and at my most fit, that according to the BMI height/weight ratio I was “overweight”. It’s so reassuring to see these photos.

  367. At the invitation of those commenters who invited me to stick around and try to learn a few things about fat acceptance issues, I’ve been trying to do exactly that. I’ve been reading the blog since July, occasionally commenting on other threads. I like the blog – the posts and comments are interesting and topical and the writing is great. This was an issue I was aware of and sympathetic to but not one I had explored deeply before, so hopefully I’ve learned a few things.

    I’m now revisiting this thread to try to figure out how it went so badly wrong last time I tried to comment. Sadly it’s still making me angry and frustrated. If I were commenting today, there are things I would express differently and there are other things where my position has shifted slightly. But I also feel that many of my points were valid but they were twisted. Many of the responses made valid points, but others were ad hominem blatantly misrepresented my position, whether deliberately or inadvertently. My comment above about how everything I said was being viewed “through a lens darkly” seems apt.

    Take @smartfatchick for example. I wanted to respond to her at the time, but I’d promised several times to disengage and I felt I needed to try to get some perspective. In one of my comments I gave Canada as an example of a country where the Inuit population was statistically significant and Tonga as an example of a country where it wasn’t. @smartfatchick’s response was to be pissed off that I “didn’t know” that there were Inuit in the US or Greenland as well. WTF? I’m perfectly aware of this – Canada and Tonga just happened to be the examples I used. What was I meant to do? List every country in the world? Why should the US automatically be my reference point? Americans aren’t the “default human” any more than white people are.

    I don’t regard any particular ethnic group as “default” and any as an “outlier”, I just think it varies country by country. The US is a multicultural country so it’s not really one that has outliers. On the other hand, Japan is a very homogeneous country and pretty much anyone who is not Japanese is an outlier. (And again, I’m using the US and Japan as examples so please don’t respond saying “I’m pissed off that you don’t know that the UK is a multicultural country too”).

    I’ll go now. I know this thread isn’t about me, but I also think it’s long and robust enough that I don’t think I’m hijacking it by dropping back in.

    I’m not a “concern troll”, I just like to discuss ideas. If I drill down on a particular point it’s usually not to make an argument where I’ve already made up my mind, it’s because I’m drawn to explore grey areas – yes this but also this and how do I reconcile the two.

  368. I just found this blog a couple of weeks ago, and finally found this slideshow today. I love it!
    I always hear from personal trainer/bodybuilder friends that the BMI is total BS (Schwarzenegger would have been obese/morbidly obese in his lifting days), however, to me, a bodybuilder is not the norm. I love seeing these pictures and I was surprised how different body weights look on different bodies, and how many of the girls who looked normal to me were actually considered overweight or obese.

    From now on I think the BMI = BS

  369. I just saw this and HAD to comment on this.

    Some years ago, I was really into obcessing with BMI. But today, I weight about 65.5 kg (about 145 pounds) at 1,65 m (5’5″) and according to BMI, I’m near overweight but I’m only a UK size 10 (size 6 for Americans)! How is that possible? It’s no where near a big size, I excersise at the gym 3 times a week plus take a walk on the other days.

    I just came to the conclusion that I’m simply heavier than I look and that BMI is big load of BS! I don’t look/feel fat, my clothes are at a nice size and I feel healthy.

  370. On behalf of my ‘morbidly obese’ super active, awesome, completely healthy 4 year old cat Mutant thanks for including a picture of Moxie. I was just at the vet with him today, you’d think the poor bastard was on his deathbed by the way they were talking about him.

  371. @ kurunner, I think that would be neat if it could be done with permish of the contributors. I can see something like this potentially causing hurt feelings since it requires the person putting together the quiz to openly judge how fat a person ‘looks’. On the other hand, I think a quiz could be effective for those people who see the slideshow and are still unconvinced.

    @Other Caitlin,

    As a white person living in Canada, I can’t say this for sure, but I imagine it wouldn’t be very helpful for an already-Othered person to be further invisiblized as an ‘outlier’ by doctors and government health organizations.

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