13-Year-Old Girl Stands Up to School Assignment Telling Her She's 'Obese'

stepping on a scale

If there's one thing every mom of a teenage girl wants, it's for her daughter to be confident and feel good about her body, no matter what anyone says. That's what makes one 13-year-old girl's response to being classified as "obese" by a school assignment forcing students to calculate their BMIs so inspiring: The method of weight measurement is inaccurate, she argues, and she's not about to let it define her.

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The eighth grader was asked to define BMI (or body mass index) in a take-home assignment, then calculate -- and write down -- her own BMI. A person's BMI is calculated by dividing weight by height squared; the results then determine which category one falls into (underweight, normal, or overweight/obese). 

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Knowing that her measurements would put her in the "obese" category, this student decided that instead of completing her homework as it was assigned, she would write an essay about why BMIs aren't a good indicator of whether or not a person is healthy. (Spoiler alert: Her doctor told her! And many experts agree with him, but more on that in a minute.) A family friend posted the essay to Facebook, and it's most definitely worth a read:

She starts out by declaring that she's not going to calculate her BMI. Why?

...I'll tell you why. Ever since I can remember, I've been a 'bigger girl' and I'm completely fine with that; I'm strong and powerful. When you put a softball or a bat in my hand, they are considered lethal weapons. But, at the beginning of the year, I started having very bad thoughts when my body was brought into a conversation. I would wear four bras to try and cover up my back fat, and I would try to wrap ace bandages around my stomach so I would look skinnier. So my lovely mother did what any parent would do when they noticed something wrong with her child, she took me to my doctor.

She explains that the doctor learned about her diet and activity levels, and told her she's just fine.

My doctor and I talked about my diet and how active I am. He did a couple tests and told me I was fine. He said though I'm a bit overweight, he's not going to worry about me based on how healthy I am. So this is where I don't calculate my BMI because my doctor, a man who went to college for eight years studying children's health, told me my height and weight are right on track. I am just beginning to love my body, like I should, and I'm not going to let some outdated calculator and a middle school gym teacher tell me I'm obese, because I'm not. My BMI is none of your concern because my body and BMI are perfect and beautiful just the way they are.

As the mother of a teenage daughter, I love that last line so much:

"My BMI is none of your concern because my body and BMI are perfect and beautiful just the way they are."

YASSSS, QUEEN!!! What a powerful and profound statement, particularly because, as this girl wrote, she struggled so much with her body image. The fact that at her young age she's already made the decision to shut down the negative voices (including those in her own head) is just astounding. I don't even know this kid, but I'm proud of her.

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Of course, none of this changes the fact that the school gave out this assignment in the first place. What were they thinking, asking adolescents to write down extremely personal details like their height and weight? That's potentially humiliating even for a kid who hasn't wrestled with self-confidence issues!

Never mind the fact that, like this girl's doctor, many physicians view the system as a poor way to judge the fitness level of their patients. A BMI can't tell the difference between fat and muscle (which is actually heavier than fat), for one thing; it also can't tell where the body is holding fat. So in the case of a girl like this, one who's technically overweight but stays active and eats right, it's truly a useless tool for assessing overall health and well-being. 

Thankfully this girl had the presence of mind and strength of spirit to stand up for herself and what she knows to be true. Her mother is clearly doing something right! Here's hoping schools listen to her argument and take her points into consideration before handing out assignments like this one in the future. It's great that schools are looking out for kids' health, but they have to do it in a way that's respectful and non-invasive. 

 

Image via Allan Foster/Flickr 

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