The FYI on BMI

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If you are reading this blog you’re probably very familiar with all things diet and exercise such as online scientific calculators which can calculate your perfect weight range for your height, age, and gender. You may also be well acquainted with calculators that figure out how many calories you should eat per day in order to lose 1-2 pounds per week.  These scientific instruments can be helpful if you have no idea how much you are suppose to eat or in what range you should be sustaining your weight.  Often times they are just another stumbling block to our health and healing.  I had a run-in with one such calculator that I will never forget.

27 years ago when I was preparing for my wedding, I fell in love with a dress that definitely required me to  lose a substantial amount of weight before the big day. I was in love with the dress and I was determined to get the weight off.  I had gained 15 pounds in the year and a half that we were dating because of all the extravagant wining and dining my fiancé was showering upon me.   Back in the 80’s there were diet centers popping up all over the place. We didn’t do our dieting online. Most dieting places were set up with a scheduled weekly weigh in ( kind of like going to the doctor’s office for an appointment .)  Each individual would receive a meal plan specifically designed for their lifestyle and number of calories needed to lose 1-2 pounds per week. During my wedding planning and diet center visits, I took a temporary job at a spa in a prestigious hotel in Atlantic City.  It was a great place to work and I loved working in the environment of health and wellness while I was trying to get to the size I needed to look nice in my wedding dress. I was working out every day and my co-workers were a huge encouragement to me.  The day came when I reached my goal weight, my dress fit me perfectly and I was feeling really proud of myself for the hard work I had done over the nine-month period that I invested in trying to attain a better physical self.   I was at work one day when the spa technicians were chatting about their love of the invention of the BMI indicator. They had these nifty little gadgets that when attached to your body would tell you exactly what percentage of body fat you owned.   I was curious to know what my BMI was yet a little nervous at the same time. The male technician attached the instrument to my arm and I watched him scratch head in amazement as he read the number… 33.4 %! He looked me up and down in amazement scrutinizing my body to see where I could possibly be carrying 33% body fat .  He determined that there must’ve been some sort of malfunction and he tried his nifty, new gadget again.   After one more careful analysis the number came back again reading something in the low 30s as my actual body fat percentage. I suddenly felt a pang of disappointment even after all of the hard work I had done.  How could I let one little machine tell me that what I saw in the mirror and what I could see in the way my wedding dress fit my body, that I was a failure?  It took me time to shake off that experience.

A few years later I met a very experienced personal trainer who was able to explain to me that your BMI has as much to do with your genetics as it does how with hard you work out, diet and so on.  I almost let one tiny little machine steal my joy from all of the hard work I have done and all of the things I have learned about my own strength And determination.   How did I not figure this out on my own? Every little girl and boy playing on the playground knows that people come in all different shapes and sizes. Maybe you were the extremely thin, little kid on the playground that no matter how much you ate you were always skinny. Or maybe you were the little girl who thought about ice cream and cake and gained 5 pounds(that was me).  Were you the kid I envied greatly who was just a normal weight and size and we’re completely oblivious to all of it?  Certain genetic types, I learned from my faithful personal trainer friend,  just have the genetics which store more fat. Certain ethnic backgrounds, as we know, will tend to store fat in particular places on the body quicker than other ethnicities.

If you saw pictures of my mom and my aunts, you would see that our body type is more round and soft.  If you take the BMI (weight (in pounds) divided by height (in inches)) you supposedly get your BMI.  That number makes my BMI almost in the teens instead of the low thirties!  I am guessing that in reality, I fall somewhere between these two numbers.  Guess what?  I don’t care.  There are as many articles on the internet refuting the benefits of BMI calculation as are there are in favor of it!  The bottom line to all of this nonsense is that it is so important to not put too much emphasis on any one idea flying around out there in the medical/natural/holistic world.  We know that there will always be another new concept, another new gadget, another new diet and another new unattainable standard that the world will try to set for us just so they can line their pockets with more money!  So today my point is that science can be a great tool for us but only when used in balance.  Any time we allow the scale, a calculator or what someone else says or thinks of us determine our worth for the day, we lose a little piece of ourselves.

Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

 If you are stressing about what may be some unattainable goal set by a standard of perfectionism today, I encourage you to release yourself from the stress and give a little wiggle room to be human.  Embrace your unique shape and peacefully begin to make some changes that will benefit your health for the long run.
I would love to hear from you.  What scales and calculators have been of help to you?
Which ones have made you feel like a failure?

Donna

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