The Fattest Woman in the World

Picture by the amazing and talented Substantia Jones for http://www.adipositivity.com

Reader Kristin sent me the link to a website where one can enter height and weight and  it will calculate your BMI, and show you how you compare to people in your country and in the world, and how much more (or less) the world’s population would weigh if everyone was your size.  Obviously I’m not linking to this – I’ll not be giving them traffic.

Before we look at the deeply flawed premise, let’s look at the deeply flawed math – I promise it will be fun.

I looked up Dkembe Mutombo’s stats.  Mr. Mutombo is 7’2 and 245 pounds.

So I entered that I was 5’4 and weight 245 pounds.  According to the site, if everyone was my BMI it would add 221,841,307 tonnes to the earth.

It says that if everyone was Mr. Mutombo’s BMI it would remove 5,204,897 tonnes from the total weight of the world’s population.

Let’s review:

If everyone in the world weighed 245 pounds and was 5’4 that would add 221,841,307 pounds to the total weight of the Earth’s population.

If everyone in the world weighed 245 pounds and was 7’2, that would subtract 5,204,897 pounds to the total weight of the Earth’s population.

Right, that absolutely makes sense…

EDIT:  There has been some confusion so let me clarify.  Yes, I understand that they are assuming that everyone has the same BMI (not the same weight) but that we fall on a regular distribution of heights.  What I was trying to point was how ridiculous that is – both because of the math and because to acknowledge that we have very different heights due to human diversity while simultaneously calculating what would happen if we were all the same BMI is a waste of time at best and that using it to try to shame people about their body size is despicable. It should also be noted that at 5’4 245 it said that I had a higher BMI than 98% of the US, and a higher BMI than 100% of the world – did they kick us out and nobody told me?  Also, people at various weights and heights end up having the same BMI so calculating exactly how many more pounds the world’s population would weigh if everyone was my BMI is impossible (since someone could be shorter than me and weight less than I and have the same BMI or taller than me and weigh more with the same BMI.) END EDIT

Let’s look at my actual results as a 35 year old woman who is 5’4, 284 pounds:

You have a higher BMI than 100% of females aged 30-44 in your country

You have a higher BMI than 100% of females aged 30-44 in the world

If everyone in the world had the same BMI as you, it would add 302,843,305 tonnes to the total weight of the world’s population

While I would be fine being the fattest women age 30-44 in the world, I think it’s demonstrably not the case. Perhaps the fuzzy math is because these numbers are based on a study that is absolutely ridiculous in its research methods. But the premise (decide if your body is ok based on what would happen if everyone in the world was the same weight as you) is completely flawed from the beginning.

Human diversity exists for a reason.  Some people are 7’2.  If everyone was 7’2 it would have a major impact on the way the world works.  Some people are 4’8.  If everyone was 4’8 we would have to seriously change things, or at least crank up ladder production.  That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with very tall or very short bodies or that there is any point in speculating about what would happen if everyone was a certain height.  Just like there is no point in speculating about what would happen if everyone was a certain weight, especially since the studies that exist say that your chance of losing weight is only about 5% higher than your chance of changing your height.

It’s become very popular to focus on body size, trying to convince everyone that they should look at fat people, stereotype us, and blame us for all of the world’s problems (including the eventual end of humanity).  I see plenty of this happening, what I don’t see is any good coming of it.

On an individual level, people don’t typically take care of things that they hate and that includes their bodies; so telling people that they should dislike and feel guilty about the body that they live in 100% of the time is not likely to end well. From a societal perspective, history tells us that attempting to scapegoat a group of people because they share physical characteristics is an absolutely horrible idea.  It’s time to stop.  We may not be able to make it stop immediately (that will take some work)  but we can damn well stand up for our amazing bodies instead of being ashamed or apologizing for them.

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Published in: on July 16, 2012 at 11:22 am  Comments (41)  

41 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have a horrible suspicion that many official obesity figures and calculations are based on similarly shoddy maths and irrelevant reasoning! And, although you already know this, I can personally confirm that you are not the fattest women age 30-44 in the world! Possibly one of the most awesome, though!

  2. Hang on, what? *punching numbers into a calculator* *furrowing brow* *using pencil and paper* *crumpling paper and chucking it on the floor*

    Hrrrmmm…well, to borrow a quote from Foghorn Leghorn, “It just don’t add up, son!”

    Another number-scaring tactic. What WOULD happen if “all that weight” were added to the earth? Would it be pulled from its orbit? Would the continents start to sink back under the oceans? How is that a threat with ANY relevance?

    • I think it only adds weight to THE EARTH if we all get fatter by eating asteroids and the green cheese that they ESTIMATE the moon may be made of.

    • “Another number-scaring tactic. What WOULD happen if “all that weight” were added to the earth? Would it be pulled from its orbit? Would the continents start to sink back under the oceans?”

      Wow – now there’s a Fat Agenda to scare people with!

      Although, I’m not a scientist, but can we actually add weight to to earth at all? Are the fatties of the future going to pull calories from outer space to make 302,843,305 tonnes of extra adipose tissue and destroy the planet? 0_o

      • No, you’re right. The law of conservation of mass states that matter is neither created nor destroyed; it can only change forms. If we assume that “everyone getting fatter” thing means that people would be drawing their increased mass from the Earth (in terms of food/nutrients going into the body) — which is reasonable as, to the best of my knowledge, NASA currently has no plans for growing fatties in space — then the total mass of Earth + inhabitants would remain the same.

      • OMG, how right is that? This is the most ludicrous and BASIC logic fail. Were these folks just sittin’ on their brains? Maybe they scratched their asses and damaged a lobe. *sigh*

      • Tori – my first thought! I thought the law of conservation of mass was like basic science. Did the person who designed this calculator miss that day? They should be embarrassed!

      • Hey, but as “science” has also “proved” and as we all know, we fatties also keel over really quickly just from being fat. So, anyone who becomes this fat would just remove themselves from the earth very quickly by becoming this fat. Problem solved. Duh.

    • It wouldn’t add to the total weight of the earth. There would just be more weight of humans. And and equivalent lesser weight of cows, pigs, goats, grains, fish, fruits, etc., etc. Because we ate them. All of them. Sounds delicious now that I think of it ;-)

  3. LOL Ragen! I love your sense of humor and quick wit.

  4. Ragen Chastain. You are hilarious and you make me laugh.

  5. Well, clearly the way to fix the fats problem is to ramp up production of stretching machines and increase the height of all the short fat people. At my current height (5’2″) I would add 129,364,392 tonnes, but if I were 5’8″ (my “I wish” height) I would only add 57,027,288 tonnes, plus I would have a lower BMI than 62% of females aged 45-59 in my country (US) and would most be like a woman from Panama. Clearly our problem isn’t that we’re fat, it’s that we’re too short, showing that Garfield the Cat was correct in his assertion that he’s not overweight, he’s undertall.

  6. So… according to this site, if I stay 5’2″ and continue to weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 240lbs, I add huge amounts of weight to the world, but if I could just grow another two feet nearly forty years after I stopped getting taller (I reached my full adult height at the tender age of twelve), I’ll remove weight from the earth, despite the fact that I (a) haven’t lost an ounce of weight, and (b) am not part of the actual sphere of planet Earth.

    Dude, whatever this guy was smoking when he came up with this, I know people who would pay a LOT of money to get some!

    Bad scientist! No cookie!

    • Love. It.

      Can I get his cookie?

      • *SNORK!!* You’re awesome. :D

      • Yes, yes you can. Chocolate chip good?

        • Yes. There is no such thing as a bad cookie.

    • Oh! It’s because objects weigh less at higher altitudes! (How much less? Well, I *rounded up*.)

  7. I had been avoiding taking that test because I do not need to be told (again) that guess what, I’m fat.

    I took it after reading this because your hilarious run-down of why it’s deeply flawed made me curious.
    And guess what! At five and a half feet and 220 pounds, I am also the fattest woman in the world!

    Sheesh.

  8. Not only is the math wrong – but the “science” is completely faulty. Humans do not add “weight” to the earth. Only meteorites “add” weight. Everything that we are, our mass, comes from the earth itself, and when we die everything that our bodies consist of goes right back into the earth in another form. This is basic physics. Geezus.

  9. Ragen….. thank you so much for this. I have never been more humiliated than when my BMI was measured at the hospital about 35 years ago here in England….. I was about 24 and felt so shamed. A cold unemotional bullying medic with a metal mesuring gizmo which grabbed my ‘fat’ and was measured…..
    I am SO grateful for this particular blog….. I suddenly feel freed from that god awful expeirience….. I was blind to the absurdity of it all due to my fear and shame!
    THANK YOU and thank so everyone else’s comments as well!

  10. Fascinating. If you are fatter than 100% of women, then I must be fatter than at least 105% of women. Heh.

  11. Society got so concerned with the OMG “obesity epidemic” the stupidity epidemic gained considerable traction…

    • LOL, yes, I’ve noticed this phenomenon as well. I wonder if the government should wage a “War on Stupidity”. :)

      • You’ll never get the government to wage a war on stupidity. This presupposes that a) they would want to and b) they are not the worst of the problem.

  12. I wonder if I’m fatter than 200% of the women in the US, but don’t wanna know bad enough to go take the test. LOL And it’s interesting how Mutombo’s 245 pounds weighs less than Ragen’s. Funny how I thought 1 pound was equal to 1 pound whether it was brick or a feather, but then I always kinda sucked at math.

  13. Waitasecond, Ragen, they are just saying what if everyone’s BMI matched Mr. Mutombo’s, not if everyone’s weight matched his! They’re not talking about adjusting height.
    And if we want to remove terran tonnage, I say we start by killing all the disease-bearing mosquitoes.

    • Yeah, I saw that too. They also said “the total weight of the Earth’s population,” not weight added to the surface of the earth. But their logic is weird, and as Jane Austen put it, undeserving of rational opposition. :)

  14. This is what’s wrong with BMI on an individual level. When I had a breast reduction I lost 10 lbs and “gained’ an inch due to standing straighter. BMI improved. Husband has lost 2 inches due to ruptured discs in his back. BMI worse. General health for both–no change!

    Speaking of breast reductions, I know how you (Ragen) feel about weight loss surgery. Wondering how you feel about other sugical body modification that tends to relate to weight loss–breast reduction, tummy tuck, etc.

  15. HAHAHA I just read ‘Fattest Woman in the World’ in my head and started making it parf of the chorus of Air Supply’s Every Woman in the World.

    • *LIKE*

  16. I can’t facepalm this hard enough. This may be worthy of a head desk, or perhaps both. I don’t even have words, other than to say your response made me giggle and I’m quite glad I found this blog.

  17. I saw that blog, and said to myself, “Huh, I bet this is a fat-shaming calculator,” which it definitely is! It’s job isn’t to calculate anything useful other than SHAME, because all of us uppity FAT people are RUINING EVERYTHING. Starting with the Earth. But… there are lots of other animals that have been a LOT bigger than people, now, and especially in the past.

    Were there fat-shaming dinosaurs? Now I’m curious…

  18. Wow. I can’t balance my checkbook and yet even I know that’s some skunky math.

  19. While I like the humour in the piece, it has a small flaw which seems to be leading some people astray. You quote the study and then assess something else. The study does not say, “if everyone weighed the same as you …”, but rather “if everyone had the same BMI as you …”,

    Their argument is equivalent to saying, “if everyone kept their current height, but their weight changed to give them the same height to weight ratio as you, how would that change the total weight of all of the people on earth”. That is why the result changes when you change the height but keep the weight the same, the height/weight ratio changes.

    I am not a fan of the study myself, but they didn’t make that particular error.

    • Hi Howard,

      I added a paragraph to help clear up confusion: EDIT: There has been some confusion so let me clarify. Yes, I understand that they are assuming that everyone has the same BMI (not the same weight) but that we fall on a regular distribution of heights. What I was trying to point was how ridiculous that is – both because of the math and because to acknowledge that we have very different heights due to human diversity while simultaneously calculating what would happen if we were all the same BMI is a waste of time at best and that using it to try to shame people about their body size is despicable. It should also be noted that at 5’4 245 it said that I had a higher BMI than 98% of the US, and a higher BMI than 100% of the world – did they kick us out and nobody told me? Also, people at various weights and heights end up having the same BMI so calculating exactly how many more pounds the world’s population would weigh if everyone was my BMI is impossible (since someone could be shorter than me and weight less than I and have the same BMI or taller than me and weigh more with the same BMI.) END EDIT

      ~Ragen

  20. Also, we joke about changing our heights, but in overall populations, height IS affected by malnutrition vs. adequate nutrition. So even if someone wanted a less stupid version of this for whatever reason, height would not be a dismissable little variable. The fact that they only think about statistical BMI via changing weight & not height is one of the gazillion clues that world health is not actually their focus.

  21. At 6′ and 300 lbs I’m also fatter than 100% of the women in the world. Seems to me that the writers at A Certain Website don’t actually know what “100%” means, because there are way too many of us (6% of all women in the US alone, they told me when I entered my own numbers) to be zero percent of all women in the world. Waaaaay too many.

    Ragen, thank you for taking this stupid piece of nonsense down and doing it so elegantly.

  22. Hmm, so I had a friend send me to this site with the idea that it would be awesome for body acceptance in that it would show people who are outside of the average for their country that in some other country they’d be perfectly normal (like the cheap internet version of traveling to somewhere with different standards of beauty) and we discussed it in an interesting ethnographic study kind of way (like wondering about the genetic predispositions that would lead all of the top countries in terms of BMI to be island nations) I found it a lot less offensive than BMI calculators that tell you how likely you are to die and link to awful fad diet sites. That said, any of that is nullified by their shitty research methods.


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