"I remember it so clearly. It was June of 1998 when about 29 million Americans went to bed in normal, healthy bodies and they woke up the next morning "fat" with a medical diagnosis that there was something wrong with them and they were prescribed weight loss as the solution.
Of course it's not that everyone gained weight overnight it's that the government lowered the BMI standard that day so that all of these people who were considered normal were now classified as "overweight" or "obese". It was pretty dramatic. And as you can imagine, a lot of people stood to make money off of this. Think about the pharmaceutical companies that had weight loss drugs, because now suddenly doctors were mandated to send a lot more people for weight loss treatments as a solution.
It was fascinating to me because it was at a time when I was heavily involved in looking at the whole issue of weight and health for my dissertation. I was astounded because all of my reading of the literature was that, if anything, we should be majorly RAISING the BMI standards, not lowering them. I was so shocked that the government did this that I looked into who was involved in making this recommendation to the government and why did they do it? And I found out that one of the important task forces involved in the recommendation was The National Institute of Health Obesity Task Force....and I happen to know somebody who was on the task force so I called her and I asked her WHY?
She picked up the phone and she laughed, she said she'd been waiting for the phone call, she knew it was coming, and the reason she knew was that she was my dissertation advisor and she'd been guiding me in my study of the literature for quite some time. She said "Look, I'm supposed to be training you so that you can be on committees like this in the future and so you can answer questions like this. I want you to pretend that you were on the committee and you had to figure out what is the most important evidence to examine in setting BMI standards...and then evaluate that evidence and come up with your conclusion".
So, I did that and it wasn't too hard because I'd already been looking at the research for quite awhile and ALL of the research was showing me again that we should majorly RAISE the standards.
I put it all into writing and I gave it back to her and again, she laughs, and confirms that this is exactly what the task force had found.
BUT I didn't get it?? Because the government did the exact opposite?!
And she said, "Well, we came to this conclusion and we were basically told that this was inconsistent with world standards and that we need to bring our policies up to date so that we're consistent with what other countries are doing. So, in the end we threw out the evidence and raised the (BMI) standards."
I was shocked.
That THIS is how our government makes such an important health recommendation?! It was all really about politics. It was from that point on that I knew there was something very wrong with how we looked at the whole weight issue and that I had to be a critical thinker and examine ALL the conclusions instead of just buying what's currently accepted in the field.
As an aside, I also got curious as to why the world standards were so off, so the next thing that I did was that I contacted the World Health Organization (WHO) and asked them who they relied on to come up with the standards that they have established. They told me that the organization they relied on was The International Obesity Task Force, which I had never heard of. So, I did a little research into who they were and what I found out what that they were a privately funded organization and that the two largest funders were the only two drug companies that had weight loss drugs on the market.
In other words, it was the pharmaceutical industry that wrote the current BMI standards that we're all using today.
And it's been a great financial benefit to them."
Because it's bullshit.
- BMI is worse than useless. It's damaging. It stigmatizes and categorizes people as diseased when we know that there are many people who are overweight or obese who don't have any disease and who will live long healthy lives.
- Not only that but, where there is stigmatization there is shame. Shame leads to poor health behaviours and poor health behaviours DEFINITELY AFFECT HEALTH NEGATIVELY.
"What we do know about health is that health behaviours affect health and we can support everybody in improving/developing good health behaviours regardless of what they weigh. Weight doesn't not need to be the mediator to get there."
We need to stop trying to force, to push, to CONTROL our way to different bodies in the name of health and instead look for the flow.
The way in which we behave with regards to our bodies that allows health and normalized weight and radiance to flow to us, as a result of self-care instead of self-control.