Monday, December 3, 2012

Hey, Seventeen: BMI is BS

You know one thing I hate? Fashion magazines. The even pages tell you how gross/fat/unfashionable you are. The odd pages tell you what to buy to fix yourself. Do I give a crap what Blake Lively wore on the red carpet? I do not.

You know another thing I hate? The Body Mass Index (BMI), a formula which estimates your body fat based on your height and weight. I'm as concerned about American obesity as anyone, but BMI is such a blunt instrument that it's kind of worthless. Weighing someone doesn't tell you if she eats a balanced diet, exercises regularly, or takes care of herself. I've been lifting weights for twenty years. I'm heavy as lead, but not fat. Lucky thing I'm a grown-up girl who can tap a doctor on the shoulder to look up from the chart before talking to me about the BMI nonsense. Mr. FiveDollar works out like a beast - he could do fifty push-ups with the doctor on his back, and he'd still have to listen to a lecture on BMI.

But suppose we weren't adults who could shrug off a formula that didn't evaluate us properly? Suppose we were teenage girls, constantly bombarded with a message that our weight was our worth? How crappy would it be for a magazine directed at kids to invite them to plug in their weight and evaluate themselves? It's not like American girls are making themselves crazy over this shit, right? Oh, they are?

So, it was particularly disappointing to see that Seventeen Magazine had published the BMI table on their website last week. (Yeah, seriously, Seventeen is still around! Who knew?) Worse, the table mischaracterized underweight girls as normal. Because, when you're inviting girls between 12 and 18 to reduce their entire worth to a single number, why bother to proofread? You can read the whole story here. Yes, the link was removed after thousands protested in an online petition. And, yes, Seventeen tries to combat eating disorders with their Body Peace Treaty and blog. But there's an inherent conflict in a magazine that uses images of emaciated celebrities to sell crap to impressionable kids and its pledge to promote healthy body image.

Let's take a look-see at what articles are trending right now on

Ah, yes. A veritable AP course in enlightenment, civic engagement, and self-esteem.

When I imagine my daughter as a teenager, I think of her racing down a field, accidentally/on purpose whacking another girl with a hockey stick. I imagine her yelling at me and stomping off to her room. I do not imagine her as a stick figure in stilletoes and a short, strapless dress. I guess we won't be subscribing to Seventeen magazine.

Today's $5 is for the National Eating Disorders Association. Because our girls deserve better.

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