Why BMI and Weight mean absolutely nothing

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As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, weight is a number on a scale which essentially tells you what your relationship with gravity is. It doesn’t tell you anything else; it doesn’t take into account other physical or personal qualities. I wanted to expand a little bit on this though because I get a lot of people talking to me about ‘weight loss’ and when I explain why I disagree with that so much I’m often met with a lot of confusion and questions!

I think the main reason for this confusion is the conditioning we have all been subject to over the last 30 plus years, which has seen the idea of ‘weight loss’ painted as a positive and ‘fat’ as a negative.

Of course in the 40’s, there was an influx of adverts promising ‘curviness’ for ‘skinny’ girls, who were ostracised just as bigger women are nowadays for their ‘undesirable’ size. Doesn’t that just go to show the power of the media, and the consequent effect it has on society? Someone, somewhere decides what is ‘normal’ or ‘good’ and we all follow blindly as we are told to do. At the moment, ‘skinny’ is in, and as a consequence we have all become obsessed with how much we weigh, with fat as a rule avoided like the plague.

BMI has long been painted by health professionals as an accurate and reliable gauge of a person’s health, based on the correlation between their height and weight. Contrary to this, many will now tell you that it in fact does the opposite and tells us very little about a person’s physical make up and overall health. Here’s an example: take a body builder who is very lean but has a heck of a lot of muscle. Muscle is more dense than fat, so they weigh quite a lot. They are however lacking in height – meaning their BMI indicates that they are clinically obese. Yet this person does not have a scrap of fat on them – so how can they possibly be obese?

This outdated system lumps people into categories of ‘healthy’, ‘unhealthy’ and ‘really unhealthy’ on opposite ends of the scale.  Another example is a naturally slim, tall person whose height and weight indicate that they are drastically underweight and dangerously so. Yet this is simply how they are made up naturally – it’s impossible for them to put on any weight.

What concerns me about this reliance on BMI is that many people are being told they are ‘clinically obese’ when that simply is not true. It focuses us even more keenly on a number on a scale, and not the health of our bodies as a whole. More recently, worrying stories of children and young adults being berated for the product of their BMI results have emerged in the press, which of course is unhelpful to say the least at such a formative stage both mentally and physically.

 

This brings me back to ‘weight’ as a whole. I admit I weigh myself once a week, same time, same day, so I absolutely cannot sit here and tell anybody not to weigh themselves at all, even though in all honesty that would be the ideal alternative. I know people who weigh themselves incessantly; sometimes twice in a day. When you have body dysmorphia or an eating disorder, gaining one pound can alter your whole perception of yourself and how you feel for the rest of that day. Clothes feel tighter, imaginary rolls of fat appear in the mirror. ‘Weight’ means nothing. The weight of our bodies depends on many different factors and varies from hour to hour, day to day, week to week. Women especially are subject to daily hormonal changes and don’t forget the contribution of our digestive systems to how much (or little) we weigh.

So what’s the alternative? Whilst I don’t suggest that this is widely used and suitable for everybody, I think it’s better to look to more accurate techniques such as fat calliper testing to get a clear indication of someone’s overall health. This coupled with other investigations can really give a true picture of how a person is made up, and where. If you are carrying excess fat, where it is on your body is important, as this often determines whether it poses a risk to your health and also the cause of its presence. Not everyone who carries excess fat eats cake for breakfast!

Next time you find yourself at the doctor’s and they insist on working out your BMI, please don’t lose heart if it isn’t favourable. It is a vague indication, if that, of your health and physical components. Not only that, there is more to you than a number on a scale. You are a wonderful person on the inside, and as long as you are also healthy, that is all that matters.

Rose xx

 

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Inspirational Women – Kate Upton

 

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She’s only 20, yet she’s a number one sex symbol worldwide. But there’s also something really refreshing about Kate Upton – she’s honest, she’s curvy and she comes across as incredibly normal whilst possessing maturity beyond her years.

She’s aware that she is a prominent person and a huge role model to women globally  because of her modelling career – but also has something to say about Photoshop culture and marketer’s responsibilities to women.

Of beauty and the falsehood of Photoshop, she says: “Most of the time the model is retouched and too skinny and other people get depressed by it…it’s not realistic for that model or for that woman reading the magazine to think she should look like that.”

Of her own body image: “Everybody goes through hard times, regardless of if they are being criticised for their body.”

Some might say Kate speaking out is ‘all very well’ considering she is a beautiful globally recognised model and a prominent part of the industry itself. No, she’s not necessarily brave or noble, but she speaks with kindness, honesty and integrity which may inspire other women and also proves that each and every one of us has bad days. What do you think of Kate and her comments?

Rose xx

Small Steps – retailers begin to ban Photoshop

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This year has seen significant steps in reducing the false expectations of beauty we see in the media and marketing, something which I am very passionate about.

In August this year, Modcloth became the first retailer to sign a pledge which promises not to use Photoshop. And when it does, it will add a label to the image making consumers aware that airbrushing has been at play. The bill is part of the Truth in Advertising Act, which aims to present a more realistic view of beauty and body image to women young and old in an increasingly critical and aesthetic society.

Debenhams also made progress this year by vowing not to airbrush their lingerie and swimwear models, as it emerged that girls as young as 11 and 12 were unhappy with their bodies and taking action to lose weight. Now campaigners (including myself) are hoping that other retailers will realise that each and every one of them has a moral obligation to ban airbrushing.

Founder of the bill, ex-advertising exec Seth Matlins  (who features in my last post about Dove Beauty), hopes the bill will be adopted by more and more brands once they see that consumers embrace it wholeheartedly, instead of peddling harmful false representations of ‘beautiful’ women.

‘Please be a part of the solution and a hero. Please consider that you are responsible for the side-effects of how you sell as surely as you are for what you sell,’ he says in a message to advertisers.

It’s heart-breaking for me that the rate of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, depression and self-harm cases are increasing year on year, and at younger and younger ages. The future for our children looks bleak if we don’t take action and change society’s view of beauty and the perception of ‘beautiful’. We also need to lessen the emphasis on appearance and encourage our younger people to focus on the things that really matter in life.

I can’t wait to see what progress next year holds for this bill, and look forward to seeing change soon.

Read Seth Matlin’s blog, Feel More Better, here. http://www.feelmorebetter.com/

Rose xx

Dove Beauty – one man takes on the beauty giant – amongst others

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This man is both brave and inspirational, and leads the pack when it comes to getting big brands to sit up and listen about the real effects of their marketing campaigns. They have a huge responsibility, and this man has turned his back on the industry and made it his mission to change the landscape radically, ensuring brighter futures, better mental health and healthier body image for girls like his two young daughters, who were the inspiration behind this life-changing U-turn.

But why did this successful marketer shun the industry that he had once been so successful within, in favour of criticising it and looking to radically alter the fundamentals of fashion and beauty marketing?

One night, one daughter asked him if he thought she was ugly. This changed his world forever.

Now, Seth Matlin aims to obtain as many signatures as possible on his Truth in Advertising Bill, which offers new hope for the self-esteem and body image of generations to come.

After Dove’s high profile campaign using ‘real women’ in adverts, and shunning airbrushing (remember that viral Youtube video in which the model started barefaced and finished up looking like a different person?), Seth wants them to join his campaign and sign the petition.

Whilst he isn’t outright accusing Dove of doing anything wrong or breaching their own principles , he wants to ensure that their message is as wholesome as they imply; and that none of their models have been airbrushed in any way.

Dove have yet to comment; hopefully this will be their next step in championing real women and combatting unrealistic ideas of beauty.

Rose xx

Victoria’s Secret under fire for ‘Perfect Body’ advertisement

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Recently, Victoria’s Secret has been under fire for a controversial new advert featuring a string of its slim, leggy models emblazoned with the slogan ‘The Perfect Body’. The tagline, they maintained, referred to the product itself and not the figures of the models featured, yet many have taken offence to the implication that anything other than a Victoria’s Secret body is somehow ‘imperfect’. After a successful campaign and petition, the advertisement was changed.

Victoria’s Secret is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, along with 99.9% of the female population, I find it hard not to be in love with every single one of their products and of course aspire to look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel.

On the other hand, however, I find the latter abhorrent.

From a marketing perspective, the whole brand is built around this aspirational ideal, as are many others (the likes of the ‘exclusively for thin and pretty people’ Abercrombie and Fitch, for example), which society generally accepts and in fact favours over seeing ‘ugly’ or ‘overweight’ models at the forefront of brands.

But what exactly constitutes ‘normal’? Or ‘beautiful’? Or ‘thin’ or ‘fat’? As I touch on many a time in this blog, there are many different ideas of beauty. No two people will have the same perspective on exactly how beautiful a person is, or what makes them beautiful. The general consensus of what beauty is can often be shunned by a wide majority of people in favour of something different, something quirky, unique.

Aside from this point, is it really responsible to market this sort of message to a mostly impressionable, younger age group? Women of all sizes, ages and nationalities shop at Victoria’s Secret. But it is especially those vulnerable younger girls who already wish to emulate celebrities and those polished and preened for their time in the public eye that should be considered here, along with the wider message it sends to society as a whole. The brightly coloured, sparkly looking Victoria’s Secret models are very much like Barbie dolls – temptingly perfect yet all very uniform and similar in shape, height and beauty. They don’t offer a reasonable, measured view of how women should (and do) naturally look. Instead they peddle the super skinny yet intrinsically feminine, high-cheek-boned long, thick-haired ideal which many strive to in vain to emulate, yet of course most of us unsurprisingly fail.

Why is this the ‘perfect’ figure? What makes this the ‘perfect’ form of beauty? And why should we all try to look this way? The truth is, we are simply being told this information and believing it wholeheartedly, which in turn affects our behaviour and what we see as ‘beautiful’.

It’s like this: if I told you there were aliens living on the moon, the chances are you would question it. You would ask me what evidence I had for this, had I seen them? Has anyone else seen them? Who else believes it? Of course in reality it’s bullshit. I made it up. This is different because it’s not personal. It’s tangible. It doesn’t involve self-scrutiny or criticism.

However imagine you were told that a woman was beautiful. The evidence for this is that men and women alike lust after her. She has everything that women of all ages and nationalities find attractive – perfect hair, large sparkling eyes, plump lips, supple smooth skin, a body that is not too thin but not overweight, just the right amount of curve. She is featured on the front of every magazine. Other people agree that this person is perfect. Articles upon articles are written on how you too can emulate this individual, and the reasons why you should are clear: she is loved all over the world by seemingly every single person. This other form of bullshit is very clever, because it taps into our internal insecurities and psychology and makes us believe that we are missing something. Who doesn’t want to be liked? Who doesn’t want to be told they are pretty? It’s not aesthetic – it’s merely the way that being praised for our appearance makes us feel, and the personal , financial and life gains we see associated with that.

Unfortunately, we often think this way without even noticing it. It is subliminally drummed into us, from an early age. We are exposed to it every single day over an increasing number of media. But don’t forget that everybody is different and beautiful in their own way. We are built the way we are for a reason. And just because somebody in an agency somewhere decides that one person should indicate how each of us looks and feels, doesn’t mean we should take any notice!

What do you think about the recent VS advert? Is the uproar justified? Or is it simply a continuation of an industry-wide practice of unattainable perfection?

Rose xx

Disney Princesses bad role models? They’re just scapegoats

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I’ve seen a lot in the press recently about Disney Princesses and how they misrepresent women for the younger generation. They do this, according to these articles, in a number of ways. Firstly by being ‘skinny’ in size (yet we let children play with Barbies and expose them to overly thin celebrities), secondly for being ‘too beautiful’ (irrelevant; naturally most people in the public eye are ‘good looking’) and thirdly for their over-dependence and emphasis on relationships with men (these films are often based on fairy-tales set in older times when this was the norm).

What these people disregard is all the good messages that come from Disney productions, the morals and ethics that run throughout the storylines of these classic films. I grew up on Disney films, and I absolutely loved the Princess ones (as did most of my friends) such as Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. I can certainly say with absolute conviction that it was not these movies that warped my idea of beauty and gave me a complex about my body image. That came later and was instigated by human beings, not cartoons. From these films, I gained imagination, a reinforced measure of what is right and wrong and above all, enjoyment.

I’d encourage those who feel the Princesses are bad role models to look at themselves, along with other factors in today’s society such as celebrity culture, a loss of respect for individuals in an overly critical society and social media for the real cause of body image issues in young girls.

Rose xx

Is Barbie really to blame for poor body image in young girls?

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When I was little, like most girls, I absolutely loved Barbie (and secretly, a small part of me still does). I distinctly remember each one I had – including Gymnast Barbie, Ballerina Barbie and Malibu Barbie My friends had different ones and they’d all get together to swap clothes and have their hair done – of course brothers and cousins had Action Man figures which filled the sexy, muscular void in our Barbie’s lives. I knew Barbie was pretty, but I never felt inadequate because of it. I wasn’t aware that she looked ‘different’ to real women, or that she was unrealistic in the way that she looked. Yes, she was slim and beautiful with long, thick hair. But I wasn’t self-aware enough (luckily) to understand that this wasn’t how I (or any of my friends) looked, and to feel bad about myself as a consequence.

This was only 15 years ago, but nowadays children are much more self-aware in a number of different ways. They are often exposed to things which were often only reserved for older children and adults, and society appears to have shaken off what some called a ‘prudish’ sense of protection we had over vulnerable children. This, coupled with the advances of technology meaning children are spending a lot of time on smartphones, tablets and in front of televisions, means they see, hear and ultimately take in more.  The way I looked (and the ‘fact’ that it was wrong) was brought to my attention when I was 11, after which I began to feel bad about myself and ugly. But now that appears to be happening much earlier, with or without the influence of bullies.

Some are now citing Barbie as a number one cause of distorted body image in young girls. A recent experiment demonstrated her impossible proportions next to a ‘normal woman’.

Whilst Barbie may present an ‘ideal’ appearance, I really don’t think they can be named as a main perpetrator in the rise of low self-esteem and self-consciousness in younger girls. They may add to a problem which is in fact already there, which is instigated by the unrealistic message peddled by intensive marketing of beauty and fashion along. That coupled with increased exposure to overly sexualised, false celebrities and there you have a possible root of the problem. Too much, too soon.

Yet the problem I feel probably doesn’t lie with dolls and toys which generations of women have played with since the 1960’s.

I think rather than making scapegoats of the likes of Barbie, we should be looking to ourselves and to the media for answers as to why girls feel so bad about the way they look. It’s not difficult to see the reasons – a society in which your value and worth is unquestionably measured by how you look, exposure to a false, unattainable ‘perfection’ and incessant/relentless encouragement to achieve it.

On a lighter note, someone went to all the trouble of creating a Barbie with normal proportions, to show the difference between the two. I love both!! ‘Normal Barbie’ looks gorgeous, and far from looking dumpy and insignificant next to the Barbie we are all so familiar with, she looks beautiful and realistic in the most positive way.

What do you think? Do you like ‘Normal Barbie’? Would you buy her for you children? Photos below!

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Rose xx