“A balm for the soul”

# body positivity

Health

## Goodbye BMI. Body Roundness Index doesn’t use weight and may become the new measurement.

### BMI has had its detractors for a long time.

A woman measuring her waist.

Since the 1980s, Body Mass Index (BMI) has been one of the most popular ways for healthcare workers to determine someone’s overall health, but it has plenty of detractors. The index has been called everything from inaccurate and misleading to racist, sexist and fatphobic.

Others find it useful as a quick and easy calculation for an overall health assessment. “Doctors have to take a bigger, broader picture,” Dr. Justin Ryder, associate professor of pediatrics and Northwestern University, told CNN. “They should look at their adult patient and not just say, ‘OK, your BMI is 31, you need to lose weight,’ as that’s not necessarily the answer all the time.”

However, this debate may be over soon after the development of the BRI, or Body Roundness index. Researchers say the index is a more accurate way to determine a person’s health because it emphasizes belly fat more and doesn’t require weighing the patient.

First, look at BMI and why some people have a problem with it.

## What is Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI was introduced in the early 19th century by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, a Belgian mathematician who created the measurement to measure obesity for the government. The calculation is pretty simple: divide weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiply by a conversion factor of 703.

The result puts people in one of 4 categories:

• Underweight – a BMI of less than 18.5

• Normal – a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9

• Overweight – a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9

• Obese – a BMI of 30 or above

A woman steps onto a scale.via SHVETS production/Pexels

The big critique of this measurement is that it doesn’t take muscle mass into consideration and muscles weigh more than fat. Therefore, a bodybuilder who is very lean can have a high BMI that incorrectly suggests they are overweight.

The measurement has also been called sexist because women tend to have more fat tissue than men. It’s also been accused of being racist because it was developed on Anglo-Saxon men and studies have found that people of various ethnic backgrounds are healthier at different BMIs.

Kimberlydawn Wisdom, MD, MS, FACEP, the Senior Vice President of Community Health & Equity for Henry Ford Health, says that BMI can also promote eating disorders and weight bias.

## What is Body Roundness Index (BRI)

The BRI was first introduced in 2013, and it takes into account one’s height, waist circumference, and sometimes hip circumference for calculation. “It has to do with geometry. So if you look at Body Mass Index, you can come up with a geometrical explanation,” Diana M. Thomas, PhD, a Professor of Mathematics at the United States Military Academy at West Point and author of the first paper outlining the index, told Healthline. “With BMI you’re actually using just two measurements. You’re using weight and height. In the Body Roundness Index, we’re using a few more measurements on the human body to capture that shape.”

Researchers believe that measuring a person’s waist better reflects the body's fat amount than their weight. “By taking weight out of the equation, BRI provides a better indicator of how much belly fat (visceral fat) surrounds the organs inside the abdomen. High amounts of belly fat are linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers,” Matthew Solan writes at Harvard Health.

A study that followed 33,000 people found that increased BRI is associated with a risk of death compared to those with a lower BRI. For example, those with a BRI of 6.9 had a greater risk of early death than those with a lower BRI of 4.5 to 5.5. Further, those who are older and have lower BRIs (less than 3.4) have a significant risk of death because they may be malnourished due to poor health.

The researchers also found that BRI did a better job at calculating a person’s body composition than BMI. “Our findings provide compelling evidence for the application of BRI as a noninvasive and easy-to-obtain screening tool for estimation of mortality risk and identification of high-risk individuals, a novel concept that could be incorporated into public health practice pending consistent validation in other independent studies,” the authors wrote.

It’s also easy for doctors to calculate in a fast-paced medical setting. “The goal is to have something that can be used by the most number of sites,” Thomas told NBC News. “You don’t need a scan or special scale. BRI only requires a measuring tape.”

Pop Culture

## 'Bridgerton' star Nicola Coughlan has perfect response to being called 'brave' about her body

### A masterclass in dealing with backhanded compliments.

@_gracieling/X

Coughlan laments her struggles as a memmber of the "perfect breast community"

The fight against body-shaming starts with language.

So much of our hidden biases and internalized struggles with body image can be found lurking within the words used to describe ourselves and others—even the well-intentioned ones. It’s one of the reasons why the “body positivity” movement has been reevaluated over the years, since it tends to still place an emphasis on how our body’s physical appearance vs. how it simply helps with daily life.

It’s also why the phrase “you’re so brave” has come under scrutiny. Many celebrities, like Lena Dunham and Lizzo, have called out publications for routinely attributing the word “brave” to larger women who might show their skin. The compliment might come from a sincere place, but since you likely wouldn’t call a thin, able bodied person “brave” for doing the same thing.

Recently during a Q&A in Dublin, “Bridgerton” star Nicola Coughlan (who is no stranger to shielding herself from comments about her body) was met with this not-so-complimentary compliment, and her hilarious response was just so delightful in every way.

In case you’ve been living on a deserted island for the past few years, “Bridgerton” is a steamy show, many of which Coughlan’s character, Penelope Featherington, take part in. So, perhaps when a journalist commended Coughlan for being “brave,” he was noting the sheer level of intimacy involved, and might have said that to any of the cast members. But considering how often that word is specifically used for plus sized women who dare to be seen as sexual beings, it feels fairly safe to assume that wasn’t the case.

Regardless, Coughlan didn’t miss a beat as she quipped:

“You know, it is hard because I think women with my body type—women with perfect breasts—we don’t get to see ourselves onscreen enough.”

As the crowd erupted in laughter, she continued. “And I’m very proud as a member of the perfect breasts community. I hope you enjoy seeing them.”

So unbothered. So witty. So perfect.

Watch a clip of this iconic moment, which has already racked up thousands of views on X (formerly Twitter), along with the overwhelming amount of positive response from viewers, below:

Coughlan has on more than one occasion used her “Bridgerton” fame to shift the way pop culture portrays plus-sized women. In an interview with Stylist, she shared how she “specifically asked for certain lines and moments to be included” in subsequent seasons of the show, particularly one scene where she was “very naked on camera.”

“It just felt like the biggest ‘fuck you’ to all the conversation surrounding my body; it was amazingly empowering,” she told the outlet.

Honestly, it’s no wonder she’s a fan favorite, both on and offscreen.

Internet

## Millennial women reflect on the shockingly outdated body standards of the early 2000s

### It was a very different world.

America Ferrera|Wikicommons and Christina Aguilera|Wikicommons

Millennial women reflect on body standards of the 2000s

The early 2000s was certainly a time to be alive. At that point in time most Millennials successfully survived Y2K, watched 9/11 unfold in real time and discovered the real Slim Shady. But by the time many were in middle or high school they saw the landscape of how bodies are "supposed" to look change.

It seemed like overnight Christina Aguilera and Paris Hilton's naturally thin youthful frames were now the ideal, while Nicole Richie and Raven Symone were considered "plus sized." Millennial women are looking back on these photos from the late 90s and early 2000s wondering what society was thinking. Nothing about a teenage Raven Symone was plus size, yet somehow an entire generation was convinced if they were built like the then teen, they were fat.

Briana Reyes shared a collection of images of these 2000s "fat" celebrities to Facebook with the caption, "Celebrities that were considered “fat” or “plus sized” in the 90s-early 00s. This is obviously why so many women struggle with body image."

The post has since gone viral with over 12,000 reactions and 9.3K shares on the social media platform. Over the years there has been a movement towards body positivity and body neutrality. While both movements mean slightly different things, the main focus is on learning to accept the body that you're in and treating it well.

The way in which we view our bodies whether positively or negatively can affect the way we speak to ourselves about our bodies. This is something that many moms of young daughters have become acutely aware of as their own children pick up the negative self body talk they hear from their caregivers. But the media consumed also plays a significant role on what bodies are considered "normal," "desirable," or "sexy," which means it also sets the standard for what is the opposite of those things.

In the 2000s, being extremely thin was the standard being set and the fashion was designed to cater to those with thin bodies. Jeans that used to ride well below the hip bones paired with crop tops that stopped mid-ribcage were common staples on thin celebrities. But the actors or singers with curves were outfitted in layers of varying lengths or larger tops to camoflauge the woman had a larger chest.

Some examples in Reyes' post of "plus size" celebrities shows exactly how off base the media was with labeling people as "fat," "plus-size," and "obese." In the post are pictures of Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears who were performing after having recently given birth, yet the focus was on how "large" they were. Looking at the photos from today's lens it's easy to see the unrealistic body standard placed on these celebrities who's bodies simply were no designed to be extremely thin.

Demi Lovato who rose to fame in 2008 after staring in "Camp Rock" admitted to struggling with an eating disorder due to the pressures to be thinner. Commenters under Reyes' post pointed out how the unrealistic standards contributed to their own body issues.

"I used to be smaller than I am now, but I was always bigger than other girls. I look at pictures of myself back then thinking I was so huge and I wasn't. But I was made fun of because I wasn't as skinny as the other girls and now all I see is a disgusting person when I look at myself in the mirror. I've always been considered plus size (I really am now) but I would love to go back to being the size I was way back when....," one person reveals.

"I look back to pictures in the late 90s of myself when I thought I was so fat and I just think about how I probably couldn't be any thinner. I imagine many people have this experience," another says.

"Look at all those healthy beautiful, individual bodies. It’s sad how I and thousands of girls grew up and never appreciated our normal healthy bodies - because the rhetoric that circled around about how healthy and normal wasn’t the desired body type," someone else writes.

While people focus on how the standards of beauty affected them, many of the celebrities people were picking apart were children and young adults. Demi Lovato was just 15 as Raven Symone when the two stars were being told they needed to lose weight. The criticism led to Symone getting a breast reduction twice and liposuction before she turned 18.

One woman sums up the struggle of Millennial women still healing and trying to do better by their own children. "This post sums up my adolescence - the reasons for my unhealthy relationship with the reflection I see in the mirror/the number I see on the scale. It’s so sad because I know better but I can’t unlearn it even after all these years. I just try to teach my daughters the right thing instead - to grow up as healthy women who take great care of their bodies and to truly take the time to get to know and love themselves for who they are and how they treat others."

Family

## Mom shares 'secret' note she slipped to the pediatrician about daughter's weight

### "Trying something new at the pediatrician will report back how it goes."

Mother shares note she gave to her daughter's pediatrician.

There is a growing trend online and in therapists' offices that is a backlash against the toxic positivity of the body positivity movement: body neutrality. This new perspective takes a neutral view of our bodies and encourages people to stop saying they are "good" or "bad," "ugly," or "gorgeous," but that they just are.

"Body neutrality means taking a neutral perspective towards your body, meaning that you do not have to cultivate a love for your body or feel that you have to love your body every day. You may not always love your body, but you may still live happily and appreciate everything your body can do,” Very Well Mind writes.

Mother Caroline Hardin shared a great example of body neutrality on TikTok recently. In a post that received over 100,000 views, She shared a note she secretly handed to her daughter’s pediatrician at a recent appointment.

"Trying something new at the pediatrician will report back how it goes," Caroline began in her video before revealing a handwritten note she gave to the doctor.

### Don’t judge my handwriting i was writing in the car on top of a captain underpants book lol #bodyneutrality #bodypositiveparenting

@general.caronobi

Don’t judge my handwriting i was writing in the car on top of a captain underpants book lol #bodyneutrality #bodypositiveparenting

"Doctor. When discussing my child's weight and/or BMI, please refrain from using qualitative words like 'good' or 'bad.' We have managed so far to keep a body-neutral and body-positive environment for her childhood, and I appreciate your cooperation in preserving that for as long as we can."

The unfortunate underlying message to the note is that Caroline’s daughter will one day have to exist in a world where her body is scrutinized. Every opportunity the mom has to delay that eventuality is a positive step for her development.

In a subsequent video, Caroline noted that the visit to the doctor went off perfectly.

### Replying to @Caroline we will continue to take it one year at a time but we made it through this year’s checkup unscathed! #bodyneutrality #bodypositiveparenting

@general.caronobi

Replying to @Caroline we will continue to take it one year at a time but we made it through this year’s checkup unscathed! #bodyneutrality #bodypositiveparenting

"We made it back home, and I'm happy to report that it went really well. The nurse made no comment when she was weighing my kid," Caroline recalled. When the pediatrician popped in, she had a growth curve without any numbers that she was able to show to Caroline and her daughter. The doctor even used an age-appropriate way of describing the daughter’s health. “Your body is growing exactly how it wants to grow. Hooray!" she said.

"There were no discussions about restricting sugar or restrictions at all,” Caroline added. “So, my kids' takeaway was that the doctor noticed her nail polish and that she got to tell her she has 8 friends."

The video received much praise from women who wished they could have enjoyed a body-neutral childhood. "You legit just healed some of my soul. Thank you for this!!!" katmc52384 wrote in the comments. “Looovvveee this. Couldn’t figure out how to head it off without embarrassing my kid. Thank you!!” Carter added.

Caroline is happy that she found a way to take her daughter to the doctor without introducing her to the pain of body stigmatization. She also shared a way for parents everywhere to address a tricky situation without their children being alerted to our culture’s toxic perceptions of bodies and beauty.