Being Supportive When You’re Not Sure How to Be……

So my younger sister, who is 20 years old, recently used a website that, upon entering your information, tells you what your BMI is. She  discovered that her BMI is 26.6 which apparently means she is “mildly overweight”. According to this website, anything over 25 is considered overweight. This is soooooooo freaking frustrating. 

I hate BMI tests. I’ll just say that right now

 They are so inaccurate and do NOT provide a full picture of your health. And yet, for some reason, we still cling to them as a tool to determine who is “overweight” and who is not. 

And of course, the label “overweight” means more than just your weight is not where its “supposed” to be. (and who determines what its supposed to be anyways?)

That label carries with it so much hatred, ignorance, stigmatization and stereotyping, which is exactly why I was worried when my sister told me this website told her she was “overweight”. 

Like me, my sister is a woman of color, and thus already (i’m assuming) experiences stigmatization based on her body, both for being a woman and for having brown skin. She does not need yet another repackaged message telling her that her body is not okay.

I do not want her to feel like her body is wrong. I don’t want her to think she needs to change her body in order to have value. 

I’m not saying that if she (or anyone) wants to lose weight they are wrong or they have self-esteem issues; it can be empowering to set a goal (like weight loss) and work to achieve it. 

What I worry about is when its fueled by confusing numbers like the BMI, because if one is labeled “overweight” the assumption is that they are not doing the right things to be the “correct” weight. But my sister IS doing those things. I work out with her at our school’s gym at least twice weekly, she is a vegetarian, (transitioning to veganism) and I know she eats well because she often sends me pictures of her meals. So she IS doing the things we are told we are supposed to do in order to be healthy, and I believe my sister is healthy, but the BMI doesn’t measure health, it measures body fat percentage, which is only ONE aspect of health. 

So because of a test that only shows one piece of the health pie, my sister has decided she needs to lose weight. I worry because she tells me she wants to do this because she wants her pants to fit better, which is a valid concern, but then she also tells me she wants to be specifically “135lbs., or size 6 in department stores. Basically you, lol”. 

Wanting to fit a certain size isn’t necessarily unhealthy, per se, but the last part is what kills me. “Basically you”.

I guess I’m supposed to be flattered when someone says that, but my sister is saying her body isn’t okay the way it is and she wants it to be more like mine. That doesn’t make me feel flattered. 

I guess what bothers me is that her wanting to be more like me comes in the form of changing her body, wanting to LOOK more like me.  It seems very appearance-centered. All from a test that is supposed to be a tool for HEALTH.

I want to be supportive of my sister. If she wants to lose weight, then I want to support her in that goal. I just want to make sure she knows that just because some test told her she is “overweight” doesn’t mean her body is wrong and that it must be changed in order to be okay. I want her to know that she is the strongest, funniest, smartest, most creative, capable woman I know and no BMI test could ever measure those things. 

Any advice on how I can be a supportive sister? Anyone else ever dealt with this? 

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