Opinion: Outdated and outrageous

 BMI has been proved again and again to be useless, yet our state continues to use these outdated worthless standards. Information from CDC.gov. Graphic by: Brody Daw

BMI has been proved again and again to be useless, yet our state continues to use these outdated worthless standards. Information from CDC.gov. Graphic by: Brody Daw

Brody Daw

Do the physical requirements for California’s Fitness Test have a negative impact on students’ body image?

Triggers for eating disorders should not come from our education system. As a requirement from the State of California Department of Education, our Physical Fitness Test requires Body Mass Index (BMI) testing for students in grades five, seven and nine. BMI is a determination of health using your height and weight. A proven ineffective method. The BMI test is 200 years old. 200 years ago, women had little to no rights, Missouri was just being admitted as the twenty-fourth state and white wigs were still in style. Yet, we continue to use this obviously dated scale. “It’s not a perfect test,” said Ventura High physical education teacher Sierra Myers. She said that although it might be flawed she still believes BMI is important. 

The general definition of an eating disorder is abnormal or disturbed eating habits, meticulously restraining food intake, or the lack of restraint at all. It could be a way you see yourself, whether this is a bone structure or the image in the mirror. In the United States, one in ten teenage girls suffer from an eating disorder. This occurs with boys as well but less often. There are 2,303 students at Ventura High School. If half of the students are girls, this comes out to about 116 girl students who potentially have eating disorders. The BMI test could be harmful to these students if you are recovering from an eating disorder, numbers on a scale damage mental health or self-perception. Myers has an alternate opinion claiming that understanding a student’s BMI is, “how we set goals for our students and as a department.”

Our Physical Education program at Ventura is great, but BMI should not be a requirement ever. Photos by: Brody Daw

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a physician, not school officials, should only conduct BMI. This testing conducted by teachers starts in fifth grade. Imagine being told your weight is too high at such a young age, and you need to “lose some pounds” to stay healthy. The adverse mental effects of this should outweigh the desire to obtain this information. There is no safeguard with BMI, ensuring that they can ethically address questions about health and loudly report a number to a group of kids. Students like freshman Avry Girtsman believe, “BMI is not an accurate representation of health.”

Dena Cabera, the clinical director of Rosewood Center for Eating Disorders said, stress initiated by school is overwhelming “Having to perform, measure up, be graded and fit in can be difficult, and this can lead some young people to turn to unhealthy and dangerous behaviors as a way to cope.” The last thing schools should be doing is promoting that your weight is a massive factor in your health. This could lead students who already feel they are lacking in some areas, down a path that is difficult to return from.

If BMI is required, alternate lessons should also be taught from a young age, preaching body size diversity, positivity and self-esteem. My Gmail is bombarded with ads that say,“Try this diet to lose 20 lbs in 20 days.” or  “The new beauty looks.” Not only for weight loss but clear skin or an hourglass figure. These arbitrary beauty standards are why so many young children use desperate measures to reach a standard in their heads, influenced by those around them. Lessons may be diminished in the face of genetics, but they could provide insight and knowledge. But there is no assurance that these screenings are being done respectfully or inclusively or taking place in an area where size discrimination is not tolerated. It is a fine line between encouraging healthy eating and working out and weight-loss strategies that could cause negative body images.

BMI tests have been proven to have no reflection on health. The BMI test holds that thin white bodies are the standard that people should strive to achieve. The BMI test does not take into account genetics, body composition, body type, cultural diversity or ethnicity so why is it in our curriculum and why does it hold any weight in our society?