Between the warnings about serious global obesity problem and the news that colleges are issuing mandatory Fitbits to track students' exercise levels, we've been hearing a lot about the weight and waistlines of our youth lately.
But one Indiana school took it too far last month when they asked a group of eighth graders to weigh themselves in front of the entire class (um, mortifying) and then calculate their Body Mass Index for a health assignment. (Find out what you need to know about body fat testing.)
One student, whose BMI technically classifies her as "obese"—something that actually happens to a lot of people despite meeting other more reliable standards of health—wasn't going to take the exercise in school-sanctioned body shaming sitting down.
Rather than calculate her BMI (which measures your weight against your height) for the assignment, she wrote a letter explaining how the measure is flawed and grossly oversimplifies what it means to be healthy and fit.
The letter, which has since gone viral, totally nails it. "Let's say there is a fairly athletic woman who maintains a decent diet, she's five feet, six inches, and she weighs 190 pounds, but 80% of her body is muscle," she writes. "That doesn't matter when calculating BMI! This woman's BMI would be 30.7, and she would be labeled obese. Does that make sense to you? Because it sure doesn't make sense to me."
It also doesn't make sense to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, who—in their official definition of BMI—note that it should not be used as a measure for health or fatness.
The bottom line? BMI is just one of many tools that can be used to screen for potential health issues like diabetes or heart disease, but in no way does one simple number have the power to classify total health. (P.S. These are The Best (and Worst) Ways to Measure Body Fat.)
We're with this student—it's time to stop using numbers to make us feel bad about our bodies.