This is why BMI is BULLSHIT.

Your BMI (body mass index) is just a ratio of your height and weight. Your BMI doesn’t indicate your body composition (see photo)…nor does it show your health/ dedication/ work ethic/ value (not pictured, because none of these things can be represented in a photo or captured by a number).

Looking at the lower right hand corner of the photo, you can see that my body fat percentage is 19.9% and my BMI is 24.6. This means that based on BMI alone I am .4 away from being in the “overweight” category… which is clearly not true. While BMI can be useful for aggregate data, for individuals it can be very misleading.

So if you are pursuing fitness for health reasons, be sure you’re tracking a metric that can actually show improvement in the area of health that you’re concerned about–for instance blood pressure or cholesterol–rather than using BMI as a stand-in for these things.

Ditto for BMI and fat loss: if you’re trying to get leaner, track you’re body fat percentage and circumferences as those will give you a much better idea of what’s actually changing than BMI or bodyweight.

And yes, health and fat loss are two different kinds of goals.

I shared the above photo on social media yesterday and it got a very strong response. Many people commented on how doctors, teachers, trainers, and other professionals have pigeonholed them with their BMIs.

They shared stories of how teachers insisted that their BMI made them overweight (even if they really weren’t), which led to obsessive exercising and disordered eating. Shorter folks mentioned the frustration of struggling to get to (or stay in) the very narrow “normal” margin for their height. Some even commented on how their high BMI lead to health professionals and insurance companies withdrawing eating disorder treatment because their BMI mistakenly indicated that they were no longer unwell.

And many more shared stories of the stigma of having an “obese” BMI for most of their lives, and how discouraging it was to be chased by this metric– even after losing a significant amount of weight.

These struggles speak to me personally, and they go hand in hand with why Bold & Badass Fitness is a body-positive gym: it is BULLSHIT for coaches to reduce people to numbers.

Magazines and media, as well as many health professionals still encourage a quantitative view of health: weight, BMI and bodyfat are a reductionist way to evaluate true health, and they leave individuals poor self-esteem besides. This view also leaves folks with very little understanding of how to become healthier other than becoming smaller.

These numbers can often miss the ways that individuals who are overweight by BMI standards are strong or fit by others AND how people with “normal” BMI may have poor nutrition or other health problems that aren’t reflected by that one number.

As a body-positive gym we help people with all kinds of bodies embrace self-compassion and self-love first and foremost. We teach healthy habits without judgement, and always seek to improve quality of life for all of our members regardless of their size.

If that means weight loss for some and not for others, fine.

But functional movement patterns, good nutrition, and having lots energy and vitality will always take precedent over numbers. Each one of you is so much more than your BMI.

Emily is the owner of Bold & Badass Fitness, as well as one of the gym's coaches. She is passionate about social justice, powerlifting, science-fiction, and her chirpy calico cat, Koshka.

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