$200,000 to Check Our BMI?

WTFBMI (Body Mass Index) is a buzzword (buzzacronym?) that is all over – from the media, to schools, to workplaces and healthcare practitioners’ offices. Some people believe that it determines how fat someone is, or that it determines health. Neither of those is true, and the use of BMI for these things is deeply problematic.  BMI is actually just a simple ratio of weight and height (weight in pounds times 703 divided by height in inches squared). BMI has risen to such prominence in large part due to insurance companies – before Obamacare insurance companies used BMI to decide how much to charge people, and to refuse coverage to others (I was one of them ) All of that is to say that BMI has become such a popular “health” measure because it’s an incredibly cheap number to get.

Well, in partnership with the US government, Guodong Guo (an assistant professor at the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at West Virginia University) and his team are working to change all of that.  They have received a grant of over $200,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a technology that can accurately predict BMI using 2D or 3D images.

Why are they doing this?  According to Guo “This research provides a theoretic foundation for developing a visual analysis system that can be deployed to provide convenient estimate of the BMI and related health conditions anywhere and anytime.”  So we are using over $200,000 to create a “theoretical foundation” to create something that can  give us an accurate estimate of a useless number that can currently be obtained easily with a scale and a tape measure?

In reading the grant abstract there is some stuff that would be hilarious if it weren’t such a ridiculous waste of money. In justifying this grant, the abstract states “A major reason of the prevalence of obesity is that many people are not aware of their BMI and the higher risks of various diseases associated with high BMI values.”

Of course there’s no proof provided that people are fat because they don’t know the ratio of their weight and height.  Also no research is provided to suggest that people are fat because they don’t haven’t heard weight and height erroneously correlated. This is what the obesi-panic has led to – people can say just about anything and, as long as they promise to help eradicate fat people, the government will give them money (see also:  The Let’s Move Campaign)

But this technology isn’t just to calculate BMI of someone in person, they are also trying to find a way to detect BMI from a picture, either of a full body or a face.  Why?

According to Guo it could be used “on online dating sites, where it could help you assess the BMI and state of health of people you might date.”  Sigh.  Once again, even if the technology worked the best it could tell you is the ratio of weight and height of the person you are likely to date. To me the only good use of this would be to help people eliminate dates who would use such a device.

But I think that the grant application tells us quite a bit more “The developed technology can also improve personal health care and quality of life, and public health surveillance.”

I think that the idea that people’s personal health care and quality of life will improve if they are  able to estimate their BMI from a picture rather than knowing exactly what it is by using a scale and tape measure is pretty questionable.  In fact, I think that personal health care and quality of life would be improved greatly if we never talked about BMI again. But that’s not what bothers me most about this. What bothers me are three little words:

Public. Health. Surveillance.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that those are three words that I don’t think should ever be put together, let me get this straight: we’re going to take pictures of people and use those pictures to estimate the ratio of people’s weight and height so that we can make assumptions about their health, to what end exactly?

To put on my tinfoil hat of conspiracy theory: the idea that we have to surveil people’s height and weight ratio as part of public health is seriously concerning.  The National Science Foundation program that this grant was given under is called ROBUST INTELLIGENCE (which I assume means “Intelligence” in the surveillance sense since there is nothing even marginally intelligent about continuing to perpetuate the use of BMI.)

So this is definitely a ridiculous waste of money, but whether or not it’s a dangerous waste of money is yet to be seen.

Activism Opportunity:

Want to say something to somebody?  Perhaps suggest a better use for $200,000?

Email Guo at Guodong.Guo@mail.wvu.edu

Contact the grant sponsor:  West Virginia University Research Corporation
P.O. Box 6845 Morgantown, WV 26506-6845  304-293-3998

Contact the NSF:  info@nsf.gov

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Published in: on October 20, 2014 at 10:54 am  Comments (44)  

44 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is just a way to target obese members of the public, make no mistake about it. I’m sure the ‘scientists’ will puff out their argument when confronted though. I’m slightly intrigued as to what we’re being targeted FOR. Perhaps shutters will automatically close on cake shops as we walk by (because that why we’re fat isn’t it? Cake?) or local PA systems with blare out an automated announcement of “Fat, fatty, fat-fat!” because shame cures everything, (even if it doesn’t, it might keep us indoors so nobody has to look at us, eh?) and heaven help us if they manage to connect this vital service with cameras which detect body temperature because anyone ‘overweight’ with a sniffle will be brought down as an obviously MASSIVE PUSTULE OF EBOLA! Follow the money and we might just find out who’s really behind it.

  2. Welcome to the Nanny State. Shut up. We know what’s best for you.

    Unless you’re a prominent politician, then it’s okay for you to engage in proven unhealthy habits like smoking and meddling in other people’s business…

    Let me see… could I get a $200,000 grant from the Government to do an in-depth study on just how many people out there are completely unaware of their body size? Seems like a more useful expenditure than another method of measuring BMI.

    On an aside, it just occurred to me where we might have gotten the BMI formula in the first place.

    “Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a personal health metric out of my hat!”

    “Not that old trick. That trick NEVER works!”

    On second thought, Rocky and Bullwinkle never came up with anything that stupid.

    • Or, “HEY ROCKY! Watch me pull a grant proposal out of my a$$!”

      • I’ve used something similar to that here at work many times, when expected to repair thirty year old obsolete equipment for which we can neither get parts nor support.

        “Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a miracle out of my @$$!”

        “Not that old trick. That trick NEVER works!”
        😀

  3. While I understand that, for the time being, Obamacare has meant coverage for many people who hadn’t previously been able to get it, this sort of thing is precisely why I’ve been adamantly opposed to it all along. The government doesn’t belong in our healthcare choices, and Obamacare will give them way too much power to (attempt to) control our lifestyle choices and behaviors.

    With the obesity hysteria growing faster than they claim our waistlines are, it’s only a matter of time before there are “mandates” related to weight with a federally funded program. It’s inevitable. Just as they currently charge more for smokers, for example, there will eventually be penalties to fat people. The two things are not the same (one being a behavior, the other a body size), but they’re so often conflated into the same issue.

    It terrifies me to think where this could all go.

    • It’s also turning out to mean that people can’t make their own choices as regards whether they want their own employer’s policy or their spouse’s, but I digress…

      For me, it’s always been the biggest problem with government-run healthcare — once they’re paying for you, they’re going to feel entitled to tell you how to live. (I’ve come to think the VA and the CDC handling of ebola are fast approaching being the biggest problems with government-involved healthcare, but there you go.)

    • For every person I know who’s finally been granted healthcare under Obamacare, I know another, less financially stable individual whose health care costs have pushed them to exceed their income on a regular basis. Many a social worker friend is up in arms about it. Things that were bad are worse.

      • IMO, any system which “benefits” the poor by punishing them financially if they can’t afford to buy something — all for their own good, of course — is inherently flawed. If someone already couldn’t afford insurance, what exactly is up with fining them for not buying it? I’m sure some people were helped, but plenty of others are worse off.

    • This is not an Affordable Care Act issue. The government has been funding health related research for years, and should be involved in funding research. It’s not a function of the ACA. As well, the ACA is still primarily based around private insurance plans- it is not government funded health care. It simply puts more regulation in place so that people can get health care through private plans and to ensure that those plans are providing a minimum level of coverage.

      And none of this is a government involvement issue. Private insurance plans have been denying people insurance and charger higher rates for things since long before the ACA. I don’t understand how people think the government requiring the insurance plans actually cover needed medical care is going to result in penalties or fat people, smokers, people with disabilities, et cetera, but that private insurance companies- who have been denying necessary medical coverage for ages in the name of profits- are going to be so much more beneficent to those groups?

      Especially when it’s not hypothetical! We’ve seen what the government letting private insurance companies do basically whatever the fuck they wanted to increase profits does- it’s not good! They denied anyone who was consider a risk for actually using their insurance, and put caps on what they would they would cover that made it so that people were paying for plans that still put them one accident away from bankruptcy because plans had caps on the maximum they would pay out that wouldn’t even cover a single hospitalization.
      They can’t do that anymore.

      The ACA means that private insurance companies cannot deny people from purchasing insurance due to any pre-existing conditions, and they can’t put caps on your coverage so that the insurance you pay for actually has to cover you. Which is a good thing.
      A big problem is that many people were paying for coverage they didn’t really understand, and didn’t realize was never going to actually cover them if they really needed it anyways. And so yes, some people in those situations are now having to pay a little more for health insurance, but they are also not one accident away from medical bills they could never hope to afford.

      And a lot more people, like myself, have insurance we otherwise wouldn’t. I’m thankful timing worked out pretty perfectly for me to avoid going without health insurance- consider I have a number of health issues going without health insurance would be very dangerous for me. Luckily it worked out that the ACA passed while I was under my mom’s insurance, and one of the first provisions to take effect was allowing kids to stay on their parent’s insurance until they were 26. So until I was 26 I got to stay on my mom’s insurance. I aged off before the final pieces of the ACA took effect but by less than a year and I was eligible for COBRA coverage for 18 months after aging out. Despite working, my work did not provide insurance so my only option would be paying for an individual plan. My mom encouraged me to apply for individuals plans before the part of the ACA that prevents plans from denying people due to pre-existing conditions took effect, because my mom always believed that people were only denied for more serious pre-existing conditions than mine, or because they had gaps in their coverage. It was a wake up call for her when she saw that I couldn’t get any individuals plans (at any cost) because of my pre-existing conditions. So until the rest of the ACA went into effect I applied for COBRA coverage and paid about half my income for health insurance. Now, thanks to the ACA, not only do I have insurance, but my premium is significantly cheaper than the COBRA coverage was and that’s for one of the best plans (covering the most) available in my area- since I know I will actually be using it.

      If not for the ACA, I wouldn’t have insurance because of my health conditions, something that can be deadly for people for serious health issues. The problem with not being able to get coverage before the ACA was passed and took effect is one that actually killed people. People died because private health insurance companies put profit over providing health care coverage for people. Given this, given this is not hypothetical but something that did happen, I don’t see how people think that private for profit insurance companies are so trustworthy and beneficient.

      And to be specific to issues of fat people- is anyone really thinking that fat discrimination in health insurance and health care is something that just started in either 2010 or 2014?

      • Ebay313, THANK YOU. This blog shouldn’t become a place to debate the ACA, but you have made several points I was just about to make myself, and better than I might have done.

        I’ll add just one thing — for me, the passage of the ACA means that if I need to stop working before I reach 65 because of my health problems, I can. Before the ACA, I was going to have to keep working even if my health meant I needed to quit or go part-time–unless I became so ill that I could qualify for disability– because there was no way I could have gotten coverage to fill the gap between early retirement and Medicare. Now, if I need to retire early (I’m 58) I can. The peace of mind this gives me is incalculable.

      • Thank you — I agree with everything you say here and was going to post something similar but didn’t want to start arguing with people on the Internet.

      • Thank you.

      • Add one more thank you to the replies. You said it so nicely and completely. Thank you.

  4. Sorry. Unable to articulate rage at this time. Will check back in later when capable of anything beyond extreme sputtering.

    • I sputtered out an email to GG.

    • Yep. Had the exact same reaction.

      • So did I.

  5. “Public health surveillance”?!?! Why are people virulently opposed to the NSA reading our emails but totally fine with the government monintoring our BMIs?

    Of course, BMI is BS anyway, not to mention the idiocy of concern trolls believing that the problem is that fat people don’t know they’re fat. (And there are an astounding number that really do believe that. It’s weird.) But all that aside, if I’m reading this correctly, the government gave them a grant to see if YOU CAN TELL PEOPLE ARE FAT BY LOOKING AT THEM. (Spoiler alert: you can, you just can’t tell anything about their health from that.)

    Clearly, I’m in the wrong business. I need some government grant money. Think they’ll let me study whether the sun it hot?

  6. I sent a message to Dr Guo and included this article in the post: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2009/07/beyond_bmi.single.html

    I am a Sociologist and I thought it was important to let him know that as well. Here is an excerpt from the above link:

    “Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet devised the equation in 1832 in his quest to define the “normal man” in terms of everything from his average arm strength to the age at which he marries. This project had nothing to do with obesity-related diseases, nor even with obesity itself. Rather, Quetelet used the equation to describe the standard proportions of the human build—the ratio of weight to height in the average adult. Using data collected from several hundred countrymen, he found that weight varied not in direct proportion to height (such that, say, people 10 percent taller than average were 10 percent heavier, too) but in proportion to the square of height. (People 10 percent taller than average tended to be about 21 percent heavier.)”

    • …which is why the proportions of Godzilla in the new movie don’t work. Gravity plays a big part in the equation, yet it is not accounted for in any way. Talk about your BULLSHIT.

  7. “…many people are not aware of their BMI…”

    …meep???

    “…not aware…”

    0_0

    Nope, nobody around here’s EVER HEARD of the BMI! Heck no. Also, I’ve never stepped on a scale. Also, my relatives and assorted dickhead strangers have never ever offered me their Fat-O-Matic No-Shit-Sherlock Info-Free Diagnostics Services. Not a one!

    Next time you know, they’ll be letting us in on the world’s BIGGEST Secret that None of Us Fat Panthers Have Ever Heard a Minimum of Infinity Times Before: Eat Less and Exercise More!

    Dear Thin-Obsessed World,
    (1) You are WEIRD.
    (2) You are OBLIVIOUS.
    (3) I would like some Hot Grant Bacon, too. Yum yum!

    Love,
    Chairman Meow
    Chief of the Fat Panthers
    Mistress of SARCASM

  8. I wonder what happens if as a result of their experiments they find out that BMI can be UNDERESTIMATED based on appearance alone?

    The real question is whether it is possible to get the scientific and medical community to stop using BMI as a diagnostic tool for individuals altogether. And further, to stop using weight as a way to diagnose health. It has become so entrenched that I fear it will be impossible barring some miraculous occurrence.

    • Let’s use Ahnold and The Rock as metrics for that problem, eh? UGH.

  9. Useless experimentation aside, I’m very concerned about the blithering dunderheads at NSF that approved the grant money for this idiocy. They aren’t the only ones that need their brain pans cleaned out and inspected for leaks.

    About the NSF: The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” With an annual budget of $7.2 billion (FY 2014), we are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.

    How does this experiment in any way fit the mission of the NSF?

    Your tax dollars at work… Sigh.

  10. A government grant with a stated purpose of “helping” people on-line date? Despite the obesity panic, media should have fun with that!

    • And, of course, no one EVER posts a misleading photo of themselves on dating sites!

      (No, really! I DO look just like Brad Pitt in his prime!)

  11. Please find me the fat person who does’t know they are fat…

  12. I remember back when I used to go to Curves – I don’t do that anymore; they’re way too diet and measurement-centric – they would want to take a client’s BMI. I think I let them get a baseline for their own edification (whatever that would give them), but after that I refused the reading, stating repeatedly if I had to, “This is a fallacious number; it’s applicable to populations but not individuals.” The look of disbelief on some of the staff’s faces was amusing.🙂 More seriously, I wonder how many people know that BMI is a number relevant to populations but irrelevent when it comes to individual people? So many people seem to want a hard number when it comes to weight – and the BMI means nothing!

  13. (I should say maybe relevant to populations; that was the intent but I don’t think the metric was ever proven.)

  14. Thank you very much for the opportunity for activism Regan. Below is my letter to the Guodong Guo:

    Guo,

    I recently learned of your study to be able to determine BMI from pictures. I am deeply concerned of the implications of this study and must simply ask; why? If you are an educated man you must know that BMI is a worthless number and was determined in in the late 19th century my a mathematician (not a doctor). Again, if you had done your research you will know that BMI has not been a constant even in our age. Many of us went to bed in 1998 not being obese and woke up the next day suddenly obese because very conservative and anti-choice leaning forces took the definition of obese from 27.5 down to 25 BMI.

    Now that you are educated, let me ask you again; why? What will be able to determine if we can determine BMI from a picture? To aid fat shamers on dating sites? So agencies like the NSA can look at surveillance videos to deny health care? In one example you are supporting bias and hate, in the other you are enabling an evil, draconian agency to be more so. Again; why?

    I am genetically fat and have been teased, tortured and tormented my entire life for it. So you want to the give the people another tool in their arsenal to harass me via pics my face book and blog pages? If you don’t think these people exist I defy you to look at any reddit sub related to fat and you will see a constant flow of hatred that sounds an awful lot like a rally from a certain government in the 30s. I also take one of my main comforts in this world from food. So you using your program grocery stores and restaurants could use their security cameras as I shop and then deny me my only comforts in this world because they determined that my 70 BMI is too much to enjoy so called “unhealthy” foods.

    I ask again; why?

    Simon J********

  15. Ugh. Fuck that shit. Know what would be worth $200k to me? Research into what’s made me so goddamn sick all year. Did you know that unsedated spinal biopsies hurt like mother of fuck? ‘Cause I do. Just because you have a local and two hits of Fentanyl in your system doesn’t mean your bones are numb.

    More and more, I’ve started asking myself what else could be behind all of this. Yeah, it’s probably exactly what Ragen says, and that’s scary enough, but I can’t help thinking that there are far more sinister applications to be had than Orwellian methods of health care.

  16. Oh, believe me, I know my BMI. I couldn’t not know it. When I was a kid, watching He-Man rescue Merman because “every life is worth saving,” both the children and the adults around me made sure I knew that number meant mine wasn’t.

  17. This research study is ridiculous, but don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Public health surveillance is a valuable tool, tracking disease patterns and interventions. See http://www.cdc.gov/ophss/csels/dhis/ for an overview. Cancer clusters, West Nile, rabies in wildlife, environmental causes of disease, etc. They do tend to medical-ize obesity, which I diasgree with, but in general we can’t know if things are changing unless we study and measure them.

  18. I am laying this one squarely on the NSF and corporate greed. What’s the easiest way to get money for research? Pick a hot button topic, no matter how unrelated it may seem, word your grant proposal using all of the key phrases from their call for grants, recent news articles quoting NSF staffers, etc. and presto!! Successful grant application!! Now, maybe Dr. Gou really cares about us Fatty McFat Fats but is not very informed yet (we’ll take care of that!!) but maybe the real blame should be put on the priority and attitudes of the NSF which is far more aligned to the business interests of insurance companies than it is to the actual health of Americans. Who does this technology benefit?? Insurance companies who want to screen applicants without relying on self reporting or those pesky medical types who want to help people and not just make money.

  19. “Their” ever precious ever loving BMI in my case is 20. 18 something if you take into account my age, 47. You’d think from the way they carry on they all oughta be positively giddy over it. And I admit that for the most part that’s quite true. I had no real concept of the obscene amount of Thin Privilege one gets until I became borderline underweight. Not even when I was heavier than I am now but not “overweight”. Of course that’s nice for me and all. But it’s also rather sad and more than a little disgusting that the “right” “little” numbers on the calculator, scale, and clothing inspire such worship in those who are supposed to know better. As we all know those who should know better are often much worse in their vilification of anyone who has “wrong” “big” numbers on calculator, scale, and clothes.

    However, for the really hard core members of The Health Police even a 20 BMI is not enough. They have a whole litany of But Are You’s? even for the scrawny lower body fat by measurement excellent blood numbered people who exercise “properly”. It’s nowhere near the level of But Are You’s and Never Enoughs anyone not fitting those criteria receive of course, but it still goes on. All the more reason to completely disregard whatever it is they are blathering on about over weight and health and to dismiss them as craven fools.

    Oh and I haven’t noticed my employer’s health insurance company offering me a lower rate. Any more than the airlines offer me a refund or discount of my fare when they realize how tiny I am.Yet they would quite happily charge a higher rate or fare for those who are larger if they could. Go figure. Excellent! Something else in the whole OH NOES! OMGDEATHFATZAIEEE! histrionics that we can disregard as pointless and irrelevant!🙂😀

  20. So at my son’s final visit to WIC, the consultant asked me whether I would like to take home his “measurements.” “Sure,” I said, “something for the baby book.”

    She handed me a chart that showed nothing but his BMI.

    I sent her back to her computer for his height and weight.

    Oh, and WIC doesn’t give out 2% milk to kids his age anymore. 1% or skim, because faaaaaaaaat. 1% can’t be used to quell hunger, and skim doesn’t even quench thirst–it’s too salty! I guess I’ll just freeze what I can’t use right away and use it for making white sauce to bind a meat casserole or for flavoring bread or muffins; it’s useless as a main protein ingredient.

  21. There is no logical reason for using the BMI, it provides NO useful information. Do I need someone to tell me I am fat? NO! I can see! When I look in the mirror I can see exactly what size I am, and when I try on clothes in the store I can see exactly what size I am. I do not need to be told by anybody, ever again! A better use of this grant money would be a study to find out the percentage of people who are obese due to overeating vs the percentage who are obese for any other reason. Not everyone is over eating! If they could actually figure out what is really causing obesity person by person maybe they would actually be able to help us lose the weight we want to lose, instead of blaming us for being overweight, as if we actually chose this form. My doctor actually threatened to withhold my pain medication if I didn’t start exercising. I wasn’t doing it because I have another medical condition that makes it very very painful and fatigue inducing if I exert myself. On top of that I have metabolic syndrome due to all the dieting I have attempted over the years. We finally compromised on walking in a pool for 15 minutes 3x week. And that my goal is not to lose weight, but to strengthen my back and leg muscles so that I can reduce the pain meds. If i lose weight, its a bonus. He doesn’t like it that I know as much about my body as he is supposed to, and that I stick up for myself by providing him with copies of studies about whatever topic we are going back and forth on, like statin drugs just to mention one. Anyway, I am who I am, no one needs to tell me or measure me or help me figure out what to eat. And anyone who would not date me because of my size is someone I would not date if I was thin!

    • Whoa. I’m happy that you can stand up to your doctor. I just got a new doc, and one of the topics discussed at the “meet and greet” was if I ever did a breast self exam. I told her that there is no proven benefit for it, and I happen to know exactly what’s going on with my breasts, due to 8 yrs of boils and skin lesions. For the longest time I believed it was cancer, maybe it is?

      Doctors tend to have the god complex. I think it’s bad news for the future.

      • More and more people are starting to have real conversations with their doctors. With the internet it is so easy to research any condition you might have, and the drugs used to treat. Doctors just use the drugs that Big Pharma sells them, and often they don’t even know what the real studies say about the drugs. Take the big hulaballoo several years ago about the diet pill Fin-Phin. Why would a doctor prescribe that medication if he/she knows it will give you heart problems or kill you? They didn’t do their own research first! We have to do it for ourselves in order to protect our own health, in my opinion! All those doctors put their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else!

  22. I read in a New Scientist article over the summer about a software where they take photos of historical people (eg. Abe Lincoln) to determine what kinds of diseases they have. They determined that Lincoln had a variety of diseases that contributed to his funky facial features, legs, and political views on slavery (huh?). This is all cool, but an anthropologist could probably do just as good a job, plus, why the hell does anyone care what diseases past people had?

    $200K could help get my charity off the ground, do some renos on the house to add another floor, and help the first students get settled in (it’s a boarding house). Needless to say it’s still in the planning stages, and I plan to pursue a social work degree to get this done!

  23. None of this makes any sense. Forgetting about the whole BMI usefulness issue. I feel like I’m missing something about the purpose of this research. BMI can be easily determined by a scale and a height measurement. It just sounds like they want to teach a computer to tell if someone is fat or not based on a picture. Then they assume people will somehow be more motivated to lose weight by a computer telling them they’re fat. Am I supposed to be more concerned that a computer has guesstimated my fattiness levels vs seeing the number on the scales and my own reflection in the mirror? I can see a mirror. I can see the scales. I know how fat I am. A computer telling me I’m fat isn’t going to suddenly cause some epiphany of realizing that I am fat.

  24. Here’s what I sent to the NSF:

    I recently made my last visit to the local WIC office. The WIC worker asked me if I wanted a printout of my son’s “measurements” as a “keepsake.” “Sure,” I said, “something for the baby book.”

    The page she handed me was about nothing but his BMI. I had to send her back to her computer to pull up his height and weight chart.

    I know someone whose hobby involves teaching people how to fight with three-foot-long steel swords. He is tall, broadly built, and fast. He is not, however, a bodybuilder; he is strong, not sculpted or cut. When he and a bodybuilder acquaintance were both in the military, my friend was forced to literally starve himself of protein, stop exercising in order to lose muscle mass, and give up his hobby for several months, in order to bring his “too high” BMI down to acceptable levels. The bodybuilder got a pass because he was “obviously” interested in his “health.” In other words, he exhibited his oiled, bulging self at the base gym.

    I used to work for a full-service financial planner who sold, among other things, personal health insurance policies–this was before they had all become bad jokes and long before the recent Act. He had to turn down a woman who was solid muscle from head to toe, not in that bulgy bodybuilder way but in the way of someone who does hard physical labor all day every day. This woman bulldogged cattle and sheared sheep for a living, and in the off season she fished commercially. She could have carried my sword-fighting friend around like a baby. My old boss was flat-out told by the last company he called about insuring her that she would have to go on bed rest to lose some weight because her BMI was too high. In other words, she would have to drop muscle mass she needed in order to make a living. This, by the way, was 15 years ago.

    I think we get the picture, okay?

    So here I am, with my limited experience, aware of at least two people who have too much functional muscle mass to satisfy the demands of the BMI. Hasn’t anybody else noticed this? Seriously?

    And let’s talk about the people who are visibly put together wrong, not just on paper. Are you aware that visibly fat people get debris thrown at us when we walk down the street? Are you aware that we are often passed over for desk jobs because we are “obviously” not healthy enough for a full day of work? (This happened to me.) Are you aware that simply being fat in public is apparently all the justification some people need to photograph us without our permission and pass the photos all around the Web–because we’re just too hilarious and/or disgusting to be allowed any dignity?

    Are you under the delusion that if we were just named, shamed, blamed that little bit more we would all realize “Oh my word, I am fat, I must rectify this at once!” and become socially acceptably thin?

    Retract the grant please. This crap is ridiculous and needs to stop.

    • Excellent letter! Nicely done!

      Did you ever hear anything back?

  25. Got a reply. To complain about misuse of funds, you need to e-mail oig@nsf.gov.


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