The BMI Scale – Medically Accurate or Mentally Detrimental?

The BMI Scale - Medically Accurate or Mentally Detrimental?

Mia Roldan

 The Body Mass Index has been used for years, but is this scale truly a measure of health, or does it cause more harm than good?

The Body Mass Index (BMI Scale) was created in the 1830s by Belgian sociologist, statistician, astronomer, and mathematician Lambert Adolphe Jaques Quetelet. Jaques was many things, but not a physician. When creating this theory, he only used white Europeans in his studies – which makes his theory unreliable for various demographics of people. 

The BMI formula was created to quickly measure how close to obesity a person was. The formula uses a person’s weight divided by their height. In theory, a high BMI indicates a high body fat index. However, this scale doesn’t account for proportional differences between muscle and bone. A relatively fit person with good muscle tone and lean body mass will present as overweight or obese, even though they are technically healthy. 

This flawed system has been upheld for years, but what damage does it cause mentally? 

The National Eating Disorders Association says that a BMI screening alone cannot cause an eating disorder- at-risk individuals may be triggered by receiving a BMI report card. 

Many are concerned about the impacts that the BMI scale could have on children and young adults. 

We interviewed a couple of students and asked them what their stance on BMI is. When asked if she believes that the BMI scale had a negative effect on her mental health, Maggie Cvitkovich said that “Yes, it made me want to starve myself when they told me I was overweight, even though I’m just tall.”

Another student, Grace Keighley said that “It (BMI) is unreliable, and gives a false perception of body proportion.”