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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my good friend, Lauren, author of Lauren Fowler. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and yoga teacher who promotes a non-diet approach to nutrition and health. She wants everyone to connect to their bodies intuitive wisdom rather than following diets. She encourages the tools of intuitive eating and health at every size. Stop by LaurenFlower.co to read more about nutrition, intuitive eating, heart-based health, and yoga.}

At my last physical a few years ago, the nurse weighed me and asked me a few questions before the visit.

She mentioned “Oh, I see your weight is healthy and within the normal BMI,” and without hesitation asked “So, I’m assuming you eat pretty well and exercise, then?”

She made the automatic assumption that because my weight is within the “normal” BMI (body mass index) range, I must be healthy.

While I do make a point to take care of my body by eating nourishing foods and moving my body, I do it for my health and well-being, not my weight.

In fact, now-a-days, I have no idea what my weight or BMI is, and it’s not an important measure of health for me. For my clients, I never use BMI to measure health.

One interesting tidbit I found is the creator of the BMI scale was not a health professional but instead a statistician and it was never meant to be used on individuals – just populations.

Here’s why I don’t use the BMI scale:

1. It’s a flawed measurement.

Athletes – with a high muscle mass – may be considered overweight or obese. Without knowing anything else – they eating habits, sleep patterns, stress levels, or more – we cannot assume how healthy they are. A high BMI does not mean they are unhealthy.

On the other hand, other athletes like runners may be at the low-end of a normal BMI. It could be assumed they are healthy, but many of them may have lost their periods or are struggling with eating disorders. Again, you cannot determine health from BMI or appearance.

It also does not account for bone, muscle, or fat proportions – just total weight. One statistician measured 1000 people with a BMI of 35 and found a hugely varying body fat percentage – between 18-47%!

What you can do: Ditch the BMI scale, and the weight scale for that matter! As I share in my ebook, “Scales are for fish.”

2. You can’t estimate someone’s “ideal” weight.

From a health at every size perspective, your “ideal” or healthy weight is the range you easily maintain when you are eating nourishing foods, moving your body, and generally taking care of yourself. For one person, this may be within a normal BMI range, but for others, it may be above the normal range.

For each person, it’s healthy for them based on their health behaviors, not their weight. This healthy weight range is unique and may change a little bit throughout life, but you can’t force yourself into a different body shape than your natural predisposition. Yes, your body may change based on how you eat and move your body, but for example, I have curves and would never be healthy if I was stick-thin. On the other hand, many people who are naturally thin also have a hard time gaining weight and are perfectly healthy at their natural size.

What you can do: By focusing on taking care of your body, your body will find its healthy size. It’s also important to accept your body where it is now, regardless of how or if it changes in the future. You don’t have to proclaim “I love my body” affirmations daily (especially if you don’t believe them), but start to live IN your body and appreciate everything it does for you.

3. It’s body-shaming.

It makes me terribly sad to hear real stories from clients how body image struggles started or worsened when they had to be weighed and measured at school, in front of their peers. Some schools now “grade” kids on their BMI! For kids who are still growing on their own unique growth paths, one single BMI means nothing. Even worse, if the child or teenager starts to restrict or change their eating behaviors related to this, it could even alter growth.

We should be supporting kids and teenagers to develop healthy habits to nourish their bodies rather than teaching them to look a certain way. This pattern teaches teenagers dieting habits that may lead to eating disorders or disordered eating patterns that can continue for life.

For adults, it leads to the idea that everyone can – and should – be within a “normal” BMI range. While many people certainly COULD lose weight using diets or restrictive eating patterns, the eating behaviors wouldn’t be sustainable or healthy for that person.

What you can do:

  • Take a health at every size perspective.
  • Focus on taking care of your own unique body and its needs. My definition of health includes not only physical health through nutrition and movement but also sleep, stress management, and emotional, mental, social, and spiritual health.
  • Practice body positivity. Accept your own body by appreciating what it can do. Start to recognize and appreciate the beauty of body positivity. Bodies of all shapes and sizes do exist, and when we celebrate all bodies, the culture of body shaming and promoting the thin or fit ideal can change. This is not about promoting an unhealthy lifestyle because you can’t assume someone’s health based on their body shape or size.

How can you switch your focus from weight to health? I’d love to hear from your in the comments!

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