BMI is not a useful body image tool

About a year ago, I came home from school to find that my sibling was crying. When I asked why they were upset, they said that they were weighed at school and told that they were overweight. At the time, my sibling was doing gymnastics and was a very active person with a lot of muscle. They had never had any health or diet problems and no doctor had never said anything about my sibling being unhealthy, because their high weight was due to their muscle mass.

The system that the school used that day and still uses is the Body Mass Index (BMI) system, which determines how healthy someone is based on the ratio of body weight to height. This system does not take into account body composition such as where the weight is held and muscle mass. Muscle weighs more than fat, therefore muscle takes up less space than fat.

The main reason for children getting their weight taken in their PE classes is that the state wants to get data to create statistics about the demographics in school. Think of it like a census, but with your height, weight and physical education testing scores. My sibling was devastated because the school had used BMI against them.

I had to explain how they weren’t at all overweight, they just had more muscle mass than the average person. After the experience, I found that a lot of people, specifically girls, had a similar experience when they were weighed in school. Most of them felt uncomfortable with being weighed in such a public setting and did not think that the experience was worth a few data points for the state and I would have to agree.

Being told that you are overweight by a school official who is not a licensed physician is careless, even if the intention of the action is good. The risk of false information means a high risk of body image issues of students at a young age. PE teachers also are not licensed professionals, so it is not their place to give their input on a subject that could have such a large impact on a young child’s self-esteem and their life.