That clinical term seems quite demeaning, but by definition, there’s a good chance you are!
According to a 2020 Harvard study, “1 out of every 3 U.S. adults is obese.”
And this number has since increased to over 40% of adults being considered “obese,” and over 70% considered to be “overweight.”
Wow! That seems like we’re talking about a real general health problem.
But, first, let’s define what we’re talking about here.
Let’s start with the word “morbidly.”
The Oxford Languages Dictionary defines “morbidly” as, “Characterized by or appealing to an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects, especially death and disease.”
Hmmm…, does this seem like an appropriate adjective to attach to someone’s weight classification?
Who came up with this troubling label? Someone who was “morbidly skinny?”
Synonyms of “morbidly” are listed as, “Ghoulish, unhealthy, gruesome, grotesque, and horrible.”
Isn’t this taking the description of a weight classification a bit far?
You should be nodding your head.
According to WebMD.com:
“Obesity is determined by your body mass index (BMI). This score is calculated by finding your height and weight on the BMI chart. Morbid obesity is defined by a BMI of 40 or greater.”
So, the key to this whole thing is the BMI chart.
But, where did this BMI chart come from?
It must have been a result of a collection of verifiable and scientific studies, performed by certified medical professionals, right?
Actually, no. BMI was invented in the 1830s by a Belgian statistician, sociologist, astronomer and mathematician by the name of Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. It was known then as the Quetelet Index and was informed by Quetelet’s interest in finding what would be the definition of the “average man.”
First off, so, women are just out of luck? Whoever extrapolated these very unscientific numbers for men into equally unscientific numbers for women the first place is anyone’s guess.
Anyway, let’s proceed.
Sooo, this concept was arrived at close to 200 years ago, and I noticed that healthcare, medicine, or nutrition were not listed as any of Quetelet’s areas of expertise.
But this antiquated and unscientific chart has been adopted and used by our modern healthcare system as “The Bible” for weight health anyway?
Stupid, but interesting.
Here is the (BMI) Body Mass Index chart.
When you use a BMI chart to determine how healthy your weight is, you’ll find a corresponding number to your height and weight:
If you have a BMI of less than 18.5, you are considered to be in the underweight range.
If you have a BMI of 18.5 to less than 25, you are considered to be in the healthy weight range.
If you have a BMI of 25.0 to less than 30, you are considered to be in the overweight range.
If you have a BMI of 30.0 or higher, you are considered to be in the obesity range.
Additionally, health experts divide obesity into three separate categories of severity:
Obesity class 1: BMI between 30 and less than 35
Obesity class 2: BMI between 35 and less than 40
Obesity class 3: BMI of 40 or higher
Class 3 obesity is also categorized as “severe” obesity, or as being “morbidly obese,” if you are 100 pounds heavier than your recommended weight. You may also be considered “morbidly obese” if you have a BMI of 35 or more and have obesity-related health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.
But, like I said earlier, “The key to this whole thing is the BMI chart, which is based on height and weight (At least from 200 years ago!).”
The average height for a male in the United States these days is 5 feet 9 inches, which, according to the BMI chart, means the average healthy male in the United States should weigh between 128-162 pounds.
I’m not a healthcare expert (but neither was the creator of the BMI chart), but doesn’t that weight range seem a bit light?
I, personally, am 6 feet tall. Which means I should weigh between 140-177 pounds.
The last time I weighed 177 pounds was probably in my early high school days, and the last time I weighed 140 pounds was probably in 5th or 6th grade!
Even at the healthiest, and most fit, time of my life, when I served in the U.S. Marine Corps, based on the chart, I would have been considered “overweight.”
I currently weigh around 260 pounds, which is off the BMI chart for my height, so I am considered “morbidly obese.”
I realize I weigh more than I probably should at this point, but I don’t consider myself obese, and certainly not “morbidly obese.”
And I’m certainly not going to judge myself by the size of men from 200 years ago in Belgium, or by someone’s idea from that time period of what a “healthy” weight was!
And I’m admittedly confused and concerned as to why healthcare professionals would choose to judge me by that criteria.
Healthcare recommendations are made based on this BMI chart.
Medications are prescribed based on this BMI chart.
Some Healthcare Insurance coverage is based on this BMI chart.
And all of this ill-advised behavior is taking place based on an antiquated, unscientific, and out of date information, in addition to people feeling it is appropriate to call someone “morbidly obese.”
Why do healthcare “professionals” feel it is okay to disparage individuals who have an issue with their weight? What other group of people is it okay to insult and negatively label?
I’m not a big fan of people being offended by everything, but I feel referring to someone as “morbidly obese” is offensive.
I would respectfully like these healthcare system individuals to consider their weight classifications as outdated, discriminatory, derogatory, inconsiderate, and unthoughtful.
If you feel comfortable referring to me as “ghoulish, gruesome, grotesque, and horrible,” because I weigh a little more than I probably should, I’ve got a few adjectives of my own I’d like to throw back at you, like “unprofessional, irresponsible, and insensitive.”
Can we all agree, at this point, that this archaic BMI chart should be ditched, or at least updated?
Can we all agree that this centuries old chart, created by someone with no medical or health credentials, should be delegitimized and retired?
Can we all agree that it should never be okay to label someone as “ghoulish, gruesome, grotesque, and horrible,” unless their behavior justifies it?
We should all be able to agree that the healthcare system needs to drag itself out of the 19th century and into the 21st century.
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