fashion

The government is reviewing the use of BMI – and it's incredibly exciting for those of us who grew up with impossible beauty standards



Do you feel happy with your body?

I hope so, but evidence suggests that’s not likely, unfortunately. Body image dissatisfaction is as rife as ever, with a 2020 government report determining that the majority of people in the UK don’t feel comfortable in their own skin.

The survey, conducted by the Women and Equalities Committee, showed that 61 per cent of adults and 66 per cent of children feel negatively or very negatively about their body image most of the time.

Figures like these – along with similar personal experience – are the main reason people like me, Alex Light, 32, London, body confidence and self-acceptance influencer, do what we do on social media: shout about self-acceptance and body confidence. Because life is too short to spend it at war with our DNA.

Often, it can feel like us anti-diet culture activists are screaming into the abyss about diet culture without any support – and sometimes even suffering devastating setbacks – from the people in positions of power, like the government, who have the power to change things. We attempt to spread our message as far as we can on social media, but that can only take us so far when we are unable to effect change within long standing institutions.

So you can imagine the collective cheer when we found out that a new report has called on the government to review the use of BMI (Body Mass Index), the current ‘obesity strategy’ and edited images in advertising. The report, also by the Women and Equalities Committee, revealed that lockdown has had a ‘devastating’ impact on those with or at high risk of developing eating disorders or body image anxieties.

First off, BMI – something that I find myself talking about daily to women in my DMs because it’s a serious problem. Most of us are aware that it’s BS – it was invented by a mathematician called Adolphe Quetelet 200 years ago as a means to identify the average weight of the average white men – and a very arbitrary marker of health, but that doesn’t help us when as women, Black women and women of colour, we’re in a doctor’s office and being told that our BMI is too high for things like access to IVF or help with eating disorders or that we need to lose weight because we fall north of the dreaded ‘25’ mark. Because, you know, health is totally down to that few pounds between the 25 and the 26 mark where you suddenly become ‘unhealthy’, right? Please.

In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

So to have the Committee urge the government to scrap the use of the BMI in determining if an individual’s weight is healthy is incredibly encouraging news.

“The use of BMI as a measure of healthy weight has become a kind of proxy or justification for weight shaming. This has to stop,” says Committee Chair Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North.

They have concluded that it contributes to health issues like eating disorders by disrupting body image and inviting social stigmas. Instead, the Committee calls for the adoption of a ‘Health At Every Size’ approach, which prioritises real health-promoting behaviours over correcting weight.

The report also branded the government’s ‘obesity strategy’ – which includes, believe it or not, a programme to measure and record the weights of primary school children – as ‘dangerous’ for people with negative body image, potentially triggering eating disorders in the people it is designed to help. Which is key – the government’s priority should be improving problems like body image in society, not contributing to and even perpetuating them.

Last but absolutely not least – this is something that I am personally hugely invested in given my work on social media and pushing back against its unrealistic and unattainable standards – the Committee has called on the government to review the use of edited images in advertising and encourage more diversity and representation in advertising. Hoorah. Longstanding research has documented the negative impact of exposure to traditional, appearance-centred media on the development of body image concerns.

And in recent years, one of the most common external contributors to body dissatisfaction is social media. We constantly consume content that is curated, edited and filtered and tends to only show the highlights of a person’s life, including their appearance. The effect this has is constant comparison of ourselves to this unachievable ideal that doesn’t even exist.

In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

Couple that with traditional media, which mostly tends to centre around society’s very narrow standard of beauty, and it’s no wonder body dissatisfaction is so high.

“Advertising and social media can cause negative body image if users are bombarded by ads which lack diverse representation. It’s paramount that people are protected from viewing consistently pressurising content online and that companies advertise their products responsibly,” says Caroline.

These three steps are huge, and, if implemented, would undoubtedly have a positive effect on body image. It’s incredibly exciting for those of us who grew up with impossible beauty standards. We desperately need these changes – now, it’s critical that the government takes action.



READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more