Now Magazine’s BMI Blunder

// 14 January 2008

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For an example of how reports about celebrity weight loss can get the whole weight debate completely out of proportion, take a look at Now Magazine’s interview with Natalie Cassidy (AKA “Sonia” from Eastenders):

After playing Sonia in EastEnders for 12 years, I thought it’d be good to change my image,’ 24-year-old Natalie explains. ‘I was 10st 8lb [she’s 5ft 4in] when I started this diet, but it was my body mass index that scared me. I wasn’t just obese – I was off the scale…

It seems barely pedantic to point out here that, according to the NHS Direct BMI calculator, a woman of five feet and 4 inches, weighing ten stone and eight pounds actually has a BMI of 25.4. In fact, according to all the charts I consulted, this would put her at the lower end of the “overweight” section. I suppose some concerned people could argue that her health could benefit if she lost a few pounds but it still remains that she is not even obese, let alone “off the scale,” by any stretch of the imagination.

Why, then, hasn’t Now Magazine added an editor’s note correcting Natalie’s apparent error (presuming, of course, that it actually was Natalie who put it like that)? Why can’t the site at least include a link to a height and weight chart in an attempt to make sure readers don’t end up with a distorted idea of what constitutes obesity?

It seems to me that this kind of reporting just contributes to an increasing trend in implication, not only for people who dare to carry any extra weight at all to be wrongly labelled as obese but also for

1) women who are actually neither fat nor thin to be viewed as “a bit fat” and

2) ever-slimmer women to be framed as neither fat nor thin and sometimes to even be referred to as “curvy” (thus encouraging those who misguidedly want “skinny” status to diet in order to be classified as unequivocally underweight).

Would a bit of perspective be too much to ask?

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