Wednesday, April 1, 2009

BMI Reports and Body Image Messages

My 13 year old daughter's "State Health-Related Physical Fitness Test" results were mailed home today. We get this every year and I usually don't give it much thought because my girls are all fit and healthy. Today, however, I became angry reading the form with my daughter's "failing" BMI score. Fortunately my daughter has an amazing self-concept. She is self-possessed and feels comfortable in her own skin - to a much greater extent than I ever felt as an adolescent! She does not appear to be overweight, and I doubt that she would give these results much attention. However, I would predict that many adolescent girls would be upset to see on paper that their BMI is too high. I would expect that the development of their body image, self-esteem, and future dieting behavior could be hugely impacted.

Perhaps this struck a chord with me today because I was reading an article in my monthly American Psychological Association magazine which described some work by psychologists to help "women gain health and self-esteem by losing their obsession with weight." If anyone wants to read more about this, check out The point is that many women go through life dieting, regaining weight, dieting, regaining weight, etc. And they often feel terrible about themselves throughout the process. Do we set our daughters up for this cycle from early on with messages about their appropriate weight/height ratios? As I said, my daughter does not appear to be overweight, but she does have a butt - a butt like her mother before her, her grandmother before her, and her great-grandmother before her. Although I may have some negative thoughts about my own body at times, I try very hard to avoid saying anything out loud in front of my daughters. I want them to stay physically active, to enjoy eating, and to feel good about themselves and their bodies.

How do you handle body image issues with your daughters (or sons)?

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