Body mass index, or BMI, is a measure to determine if a person is overweight. It’s just weight over height squared. (Calculate yours here.) In any sensible society, this would be recognized for the very approximate measure that it is, since muscle mass or bone structure or fitness isn’t taken into account.
Of course, there’s no sense at all in the way our society sees weight. Putting aside the health insurance incentives, that little BMI number tells you just how much you should hate yourself – a little? a lot? never leave the house again? Even if the BMI tells you that you’re not a grotesque hippo-whale, the deluge of fashion/celebity/porn culture means that somebody else will – I once heard a claim that every woman who “took care of herself” should look like Padma Lakshmi.
Fortunately, Kate Harding’s new project, Illustrated BMI Categories, is a fine antidote. She has posted photos of people with a range of body types, along with their heights, weights, and BMIs. Looking at it, I realized that I have no idea what real people weigh – most people were way heavier than I thought they were. (And since I am way heavier than people think I am, I should know better.) For women, I kinda think that everyone has these Cosmo-Maxim-trashy-novel numbers stuck in their heads – 100 lbs is tiny, 120 lbs is hot, 140 lbs is curvy, 160 lbs is obese, 180 lbs is inconceivable.
But don’t worry. If all this BMI crap gets you down, treadmill-cat will show you proper fitness technique.