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.
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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