3 reasons I don’t care about your BMI

why-i-dont-care-about-your-bmiHi, I’m a registered dietitian & nutritionist and my BMI is 26.1.

If you’re not familiar with the BMI, it stands for Body Mass Index. It’s calculated by dividing your weight (in kg) by the square of your height (in square meters). It’s something a Belgian mathematician and statistician came up with back in 1830 and that health professionals still currently use today. 

A value over 25 falls in the “overweight” category.

Confession: I’ve been in the “overweight” category most of my adult life. 

In my adult life, my BMI has ranged between 22 and 29 and I spent the most of these years in the “overweight” category.

And guess what else changed with any of these big BMI changes? Nothing. 

A lower BMI didn’t make me feel any healthier. A larger BMI didn’t make me feel much different health-wise either. No matter what my BMI was though, I was very successful at feeling miserable and obsessing about food and how I looked

Healing my relationship with food is changing how I work. 

As I’ve been healing my own distorted relationship with food in the past years and finally feeling more confident with my body the way it is, I am now questioning many of the current standard practices in my field of work. One of the many changes I’ve made is ditching the BMI. 

Hi, I’m a registered dietitian and
I promise to never calculate your BMI!

Even though I hadn’t been discussing it with my clients lately, I was still in the habit of calculating it and letting it influence me subconsciously. But now, I’m completely done with it! Here are 3 reasons why.

REASON #1
Dividing your weight by your square height doesn’t tell me anything about you or your health.

As a registered dietitian, I was taught to take the BMI number very seriously (at least in non-pregnant adults that are not heavy weight lifters). I was told that it was one of the best way to decide whether someone was at a healthy weight or not. 

Do you know who came up with the BMI cut-off point of 25 to define overweight and 30 to define obesity?
The answer: the pharmaceutical industry.

The pharmaceutical industry, which has a vested interest in making us believe that fat is dangerous — and that they have  a solution — wrote the BMI standards that are currently used. – Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramore in Body Respect.

Your BMI number (and weight for that matter) doesn’t mean anything.
It doesn’t have anything to do about your health or well-being. Nor your happiness.

Across every category of body composition, unfit individuals have a much higher death rate than those who are fit, regardless of what they weigh. – Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramore in Body Respect.

What this means is that you can be healthy (and happy) with the body you have now.

The science is clear on that:

  • Anyone can improve their health WITHOUT losing weight, no matter what their size is.
  • Constantly trying to lose weight actually HARMS your health. 

Healthy weight? It doesn’t exist. I repeat, there is NO such thing.

I know it might sound crazy but there is no specific weight that will make you healthier. Adopting healthy behaviors will, but NOT losing weight.

Still not convinced? I completely understand. It took me some time to digest this. The medias, pharmaceutical companies, health professionals and basically our whole culture and EVERYONE around us have been trying to make that message stick in our heads. They have been very successful at making us believe these things but it’s not too late to wake up. I highly suggest the book Body Respect by Linda Bacon, PhD and Lucy Aphramore, PhD, RD for a ton more science on the topic.

REASON #2
Even if it meant anything, there is very little we can do to change it.

I mean, I have been trying to control my weight for about 20 years.

This is partly what got me so interested in nutrition. I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Nutrition, completed a dietetic internship, have 10+ years of experience and worked with hundreds of people and still haven’t been able to figure it out.

The majority of people who intentionally try to lose weight will regain their initial weight loss — and biology directs the process. – Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramore in Body Respect

Again, science shows that over 95% of us trying to lose weight don’t keep it off for long…

Not having a BMI between 18.5-25, which is supposed to be the “healthy” range, doesn’t mean you’re lazy, have no willpower, eat too much and move too little. It simply means that your body is comfortable at that weight.

Your body has a weight setpoint (a preferred weight that can fluctuate by 10-20 lbs) where it feels safe. When you weight goes to one extreme of that range, your body will do everything it can to bring you back to that setpoint.

That mechanism is particularly effective at the lower end of your setpoint. This means that your body will do everything it can to make you gain weight when you’re restricting your food and losing weight.

  • It will turn on your appetite to push you to eat more.
  • It will make you lose your desire to move so you don’t burn as many calories.
  • It will slow down your metabolism so you can conserve your fat stores.

We cannot change our weight setpoint. The only thing that can change it is dieting and it only works in one direction: by increasing it…!

With the research we have to date, it is NOT ETHICAL to recommend any kind of dieting. – Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD (on the Food Psych Podcast)

So what’s the point? Biology will always win. 

REASON #3
I have better things to do, and so do you! 🙂

I have spent about 20 years of my life, which is more than half of my life at this point, obsessing about food, diets, exercise and my body. I spent so much time, energy and mental space in the hope of finally reaching a weight that could make me happy. 

What I forgot all along is that I didn’t have to go from A (where I am) to B (losing weight) to C (be happy). I can simply skip B and be happy where I am right now. And that’s what I want for you too! 🙂

My goal, for myself and my clients, is to better understand what foods and other lifestyle strategies work best with our body to feel energized, strong and healthy. It doesn’t matter what your scale is showing. 

It’s time to put the BMI to rest once and for all (and I would even add your scale too!) so we can all move to better things. Do you agree?

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Do you have a distorted relationship with food, health and your body?

p.s. if you feel like you could have written this letter, you should check out my free online training “The Whole Batch Syndrome.” Click on the link to find out if you have the symptoms and how you can start healing your relationship with food and your body. ♥♡♥

Your (overweight, healthy & happy) registered dietitian & nutritionist,
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2 thoughts on “3 reasons I don’t care about your BMI

  • So much truth in this article. BMI is a useless concept in my opinion. It doesn’t take in to account muscle/fat ratio or bone health. There are so many factors associated with health and weight. Too many people strive to be super slim and look like models and end up sacrificing their health for it. Unfortunately it is hard to shift the idea of slim being the most healthy and beautiful option.

    • Thank you so much for commenting Elizabeth and I agree our culture and society doesn’t make it easy for us… but the only way to change things is to stand up for ourselves and unite! <3 Glad to have you on board!

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