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Who's Fat and Who's Not?

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My doctor started with all the regular questions: are you eating your fruits and vegetables? That kind of thing. She listened to my heart and tapped my knee with the little triangle on a stick. I checked out fine. Then she looked at her chart and told me I was overweight. She tried to say it nicely, but it didn't come out that way.  I looked at her like she was crazy and then I laughed because I knew it wasn't true.

My friends have always told me I'm too skinny. My family said I needed to gain weight. So what was this doctor talking about?

When I told my friends about it, several said the same thing had happened to them. That's when I got curious about how doctors determine who's fat and who's not. So I did a little research.

The standard height to weight ratio is called the BMI -- short for Body-Mass-Index. The problem is, the BMI is only based on one type of body. From Belgium. In the 19th century, a Belgian mathematician named Adolphe Quetelet came up with the formula based off of height and weight. Then, 150 years later, it became the preferred method of measuring if a person was too thick or thin. The BMI is cheap, fast and simple.

But it's got a lot of problems. For instance, the BMI categories don't account for muscle weighing more than fat or for ethnic differences. A spokesperson for the National Institute of Health said the most common complaint is people being misclassified as overweight.


In my high school health class we learned another way to measure our health. We counted the amount of carbs, fats, proteins and sugars we ate each day. Watching my diet and being a tad more active gave me a burst of energy and left me feeling refreshed. And I think that's more helpful than some old calculator that labels people obese.

With a Perspective, I'm Bria Bryant.

Bria Bryant is 17 years old and a high school senior in Oakland. Youth Radio produced her commentary.

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