Does My BMI Matter? (with Ragen Chastain)

Your Doctor Friends

Does My BMI Matter? (with Ragen Chastain)

July 25, 2023

Does My BMI Matter? (with Ragen Chastain)

Size matters, right? In our formative years, we likely heard (directly and indirectly) from the media, in advertising, from teachers and leaders, from doctors, and likely our parents and our peers that the size and shape of our body matters.

It matters socially, and it matters for our health. That’s the truth, right??

So how can I know if my body is the “correct” size? The American medical industry began to use BMI, or body mass index, more consistently in the 1980s, and curiously changed the cutoffs of what was considered “normal” abruptly in 1998.  Overnight, this action changed about 25 million Americans from a category of “normal” to overweight. 

So what’s the science behind it? Where did this measurement come from? Why should we care about it?

Is it helpful to put our bodies in “categories”? Do these categorizations actually help us understand and ultimately prevent disease? Are there other ways of assessing our health that could be more reliable and beneficial?

Thankfully, meaningful research exists to provide helpful data on how to navigate these questions. AND BOY, DO WE HAVE THE EXPERT FOR IT! 

Ragen Chastain is a speaker, writer, researcher, Board Certified Patient Advocate, multi-certified health and fitness professional, and thought leader in weight science, weight stigma, and healthcare. Utilizing her background in research methods and statistics, Ragen has brought her signature mix of humor and hard facts to healthcare, corporate, conference, and college audiences.


Topics in this episode include:

Where did the BMI calculation come from?

What about kids? How are kids BMIs measured?

Why did BMI cutoffs abruptly change in 1998?

How can the BMI cutoffs create situations where people can be vulnerable to discrimination?

What is the “success rate” (according to research) for attempting intentional weight loss?

What is “weight cycling”? How is it harmful?

Other than body shape/size/fat percentage – what other measures of health have been studied that are good (maybe better) predictors of disease risk?

What is the new “clarifying” policy the AMA adopted recently to address the role of BMI in medicine?

Ragen has a Substack titled “Weight and Healthcare“. Check it out!

Ragen recommends the HAES (Health At Every Size) Health Sheets for a great comprehensive, evidence-based resource.

Her Instagram handle is @ragenchastain, and her Twitter handle is @danceswithfat

Ragen also recommends the following resources:

NAAFA– The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (@naafaofficial on IG)

FLARE– Fat Legal Advocacy, Rights, and Education (@flareforjustice on IG)

Dove’s work to end body size discrimination.

Matheson, et al research- “Healthy lifestyle habits and mortality in overweight and obese individuals.

Gaesser and Angadi’s research, “Obesity treatment: Weight loss versus increasing fitness and physical activity for reducing health risks.

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(Disclaimer: we will not answer specific medical questions or offer medical advice. Consult your healthcare professional with any and all personal health questions.)


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