“Do I look fat in this dress?” It’s the notorious question every women hates to ask and every man hates to hear. Whether you’re 105 lbs or 305 lbs, a majority of Americans know they would be lying if they honestly said they have always been secure and proud of their body. Last Monday, Darryl Roberts showed his documentary, America the Beautiful: Health for Sale, at Iowa State University Memorial Union. In the film he brutally exposed how outrageously obsessed Americans are with being beautiful.
The trailer for Robert’s film begins with a 20-something year-old guy that says, “My idea of a perfect women is A. She’s got to be hot.” Then it cuts to the Statue of Liberty being drawn with a tube of lipstick. With the lipstick, suggestions are written on her such as; widen mouth, larger eyes and two words: nose job! Clips of interviews with various people in the media are shown, along with clips of models walking down the runway.
Roberts brings up an interesting topic in the beginning of the film. BMI: Body Mass Index. This is how some doctors determine if they need to have the “fat talk” with you. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s website, if your BMI is under 18.5 you are underweight, if it is between 18.5 and 24.9 you are normal weight, if it is between 25 and 29.9 you are overweight, and if your body mass index is over 30, you’re OBESE! How does this calculation of weight in pounds times 703 divided by height in inches squared tell a doctor how healthy you are?
Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet invented the formula for body mass index between the years of 1830 and 1850. It was intended to be called the body mass indicator originally used to collect statistics and get a rough estimate of the average body mass of countries as a whole. He never created the formula to be a set in stone tool to determine if a given individual was unhealthy.
In Ohio, two schools sent 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 9th graders to the nurse’s office once a year to be weighed. Their BMI was calculated and sent home to their parents as a health report. Statistics from the documentary said that 25% of 5-year-old girls don’t like their body and 50% of 3rd grade girls and boys are unhappy with the way they look. If lining kids up like cattle to be weighed in the middle of their school day isn’t a self-esteem knock, I don’t know what is.
I have plenty of friends who could eat cookies and ice cream meal after meal while completely neglecting their gym membership for a month and not gain a pound. I, however would gain 12 lbs or more if I did that. Is that really fair? No, but everyone has different genes and different metabolisms. I could be more toned with a healthier heart than my friend that is skinnier than I am however, the body mass index formula would tell them that they are healthier than I am. Skinny people who eat fast food are under the impression they are healthy because their BMI falls into the normal range.
Obviously skinny does not mean healthy, but will Americans ever stop associating the two?