Reader Kristin sent me the link to a website where one can enter height and weight, and the site 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 would weigh if everyone was your size. Obviously, I’m not linking to this.
Before we look at the deeply flawed premise, let’s look at the deeply flawed math – I promise it will be fun.
For 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…
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.
Ragen Chastain is a dancer, choreographer, writer, speaker, and fat person. She has just authored the book Fat: The Owners Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness and Sense of Humor Intact, which is still available for pre-order. Her website, Dances With Fat, will inspire you to think, feel and take action towards creating a better world where all people truly are treated equally, regardless of their shape, size or weight.