Well Being

BMI Calculator In Seventeen Magazine Says Underweight Is Healthy For Teenage Girls

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BMI seventeen

We've already written about how Body Mass Index (BMI) is basically a sham (to put it nicely), but a new petition against Seventeen magazine's online BMI calculator points out yet another way that the supposed health metric can get be so unhealthy. Not only does their BMI calculator encourage teen girls to measure health based purely on weight; it also enforces weight standards that are just flat-out unhealthy, at least if you go by BMI charts listed by the CDC.

Seventeen's BMI calculator works like most others: enter your weight (in pounds) and height (in inches), and it calculates your Body Mass Index which comes with a handy chart outlining healthy weight ranges for age groups and genders (theirs provides info for girls aged 12 – 20+). And while many doctors, fitness professionals, and nutrition experts are becoming more and more wary of judging health on BMI, they still support that it's a good way to gauge your health when you're not at a doctor's office.

Their footnote:

BMI is the best do-it-yourself way to figure out if your weight is healthy. But the most accurate tool is a growth chart analysis and a body fat test at a doctor's office.

…why 12-year-old girls should be checking their BMI without the advice of a doctor is another issue, but the biggest problem with their calculator–which was pointed out first by a teen girl, Shirley Wang, on Tumblr, and now by the petition against their BMI calculator–is that what they say is “healthy” is classified as “underweight” by any other source.

Here's their BMI chart, which basically says that a healthy weight starts at around 14.8 or 15.3 for teen girls, depending on their age:

BMI seventeen magazine

Here's the BMI growth chart for young girls from the CDC (green = healthy; yellow-orange = underweight; yellow = overweight, and red = obese):

BMI growth chart teen girls CDC

Not only is the CDC's BMI chart far more detailed (which is a good thing, since it allows for a broader understanding of how young girls gain weight as they grow), but it's fairly clear that a BMI of 14.8 isn considered underweight for any teenage girl over the age of 12–and over the age of about 15, so is a BMI of 15.3.

Past studies have shown that dieting articles in magazines like Seventeen make teen girls more prone to disordered eating, but some have argued that the studies are inconclusive; it could be that girls are simply more vulnerable to eating disorders during their teenage years, especially because their bodies, weight and hormones are changing so rapidly during this time. But it's hard to deny the damage caused by directly telling girls that being underweight is healthy (and being in the healthy range is classified as overweight).

Photo: GOOD tumblr