A Body of Numbers Weighing Body Image Issues

It seems that everybody is worried about their weight. It is actually rare to encounter someone who is completely satisfied with their body most people feel that they could do with losing a few pounds or think that they need to tone up a bit. There are even those who think that they are too thin, and need to put on weight, although for the majority of people weighing too much is regarded as more problematic than weighing too little.

How has this obsession with weight come about? It is only over the past few years that the concept of the Body Mass Index (BMI) as a measurement of fatness’ has filtered into the public consciousness. Prior to this, the BMI was used by medical professionals to determine a person’s height-weight ratio to assess the likelihood of developing weight-related illnesses. However, nowadays few people do not know their BMI.

There are BMI calculators online just type in the numbers and you are provided with an assessment of whether you are a healthy weight, underweight, overweight, obese or morbidly obese. Often BMI calculators are to be found on dieting websites, so if a person finds out they are overweight, they are a few clicks away from signing up to lose weight.

Obviously it is useful for doctors and other medical professionals to have access to BMI measurements if they believe that a person’s weight is an indicator that they are ill, or that they may develop certain illnesses as a result of their weight. However, there are plenty of companies willing to exploit people’s desire to be a certain weight, such as slimming clubs which charge desperate people for the privilege of providing them with advice which is often freely available elsewhere.

With so much emphasis on the obesity ‘crisis’ there are constantly news articles and programmes about what constitutes obesity, how it is caused and what can be done about it, and the BMI is often cited as a way of determining whether a person is obese, or not. The flaws of using the BMI are rarely mentioned, such as the fact that muscle weighs more than fat and so may put a person into the overweight category when they are actually extremely fit.

It is very easy for people to become obsessed with their weight, as they have to contend with the media continually talking about the weight problems faced by society whilst constantly showing images of unrealistically slim, high-profile individuals. It makes it harder for people who are within a healthy weight range to be happy with their bodies as they strive to be ever thinner.

People are prepared to buy into to the notion that if they reach a certain weight they will be happy, but it rarely happens, as they move the goal posts further away and strive continually for what they regard as perfection. There is no such thing as a perfect weight or size, but individuals continue to believe that there is, which is why a lot of them have a very negative body image, as it is something they will never obtain.