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A 14 Year Old Girl Teaches Wellness Vendors How BMI Works

Do you know whether heartburn pills are safe for long-term use?

We often point out that the average eighth-grader knows more about math than wellness vendors do. But that’s OK. No one expects wellness vendors to know math better than an eighth-grader.   However, we do expect them to know wellness better than an eighth-grader. But it turns out at least one eighth-grader also knows more about wellness than wellness vendors do.

Within the last few months, we and others have explained to wellness vendors why their obsession with BMI is misguided in many ways. It turns out that BMI misses both people who are healthy but fat, and people who are unhealthy but thin. No surprise, given that BMI was invented by a 19th century mathematician more concerned with measuring whether populations as a whole were not getting enough food than whether individuals were getting too much.

Now, along comes an Indiana teenager to teach wellness vendors about the other harms of BMI — what it does to people’s body images.  She was classified as obese, and yet she is a high school athlete.  You and I should be so healthy:

A 14-year-old girl who carries 175 pounds or more on a 5-foot-7 frame, such as Tessa’s, falls into the obese range, regardless of how muscular her frame may be. Earlier this year, Tessa writes, she started having doubts about her body — not unheard of for a teenager. She recounts wrapping Ace bandages around her stomach to make her look slimmer.

Her essay is reproduced here:

bmi essay

So we ask vendors, why? Why do you insist on using a metric that is less than worthless?  The employed population (not to mention the employers who pay for this stuff) gets no benefit from this. And as this article describes, BMI obsession creates a body-image issue as well.

There is also the slight problem that — assuming for the sake of argument that BMI is a worthwhile measure:

  1. Koop award-winning programs can’t reduce it;
  2. a wellness vendor (Vitality) can’t reduce it on their own employees;
  3. and Aetna spent $500/employee but didn’t reduce it.

I realize that, as wellness vendors, you need to find some way to snooker employers and show employees who’s boss, but can’t you come up with something that doesn’t actually harm people and might possibly have a chance of working?

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Jon says:

    Out of The Mouths Of Babes! – Dr. Jon


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