beauty

These powerful photos prove just how misleading the BMI really is.

Women are used to defining their bodies by numbers. Kilograms, centimetres, dress sizes. But among the most problematic is the Body Mass Index.

In an effort to prove just how much, Welsh photojournalism student Catherine Lothian is documenting the bodies deemed “unhealthy” by this limiting standard and shattering the notion that fat equals unfit.

The Body Mass Index lumps people into four categories – underweight, healthy, overweight and obese – by reducing their health to a single number, a number calculated by dividing your body weight (in kilograms) by your height (metres) squared.

By that standard Lothian herself is considered “severely obese”. As an active woman – she runs, goes to gym, rides horses, cycles – the University of South Wales student says the label is damaging.

LISTEN: Bec Sparrow and Robin Bailey on their different relationships with exercise. (Post continues…)

“I’m plus size, but I was fed up with people thinking that I sit on my arse all day doing nothing but eating,” Lothian told The Pool.

“I was sick of the stereotypes. According to the BMI, 24.9 was supposedly considered healthy, and 25.1 was suddenly overweight. And BMI ignores so many different factors. It doesn’t take into account ethnicity, muscles, bone density – it’s just so unreliable.”

And so the 25+ project was born.

Lothian spoke to a photographed a catalogue of more than a dozen active, healthy yet supposedly “obese” women; from rugby players to pole dancers and roller derby skaters.

“I wanted to prove that people who are overweight often do exercise and also underline the unreliability of the BMI system for our needs,” Lothian said.

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“It doesn’t indicate good health.”

Lothian hopes the project will not only reveal how deeply flawed the BMI can be, but also help people to reconsider their perception of a healthy body.

“I want people to look at these images and realise that we shouldn’t look down on people for their body shape, or presume we know all about a person’s lifestyle because of it,” she told The Pool.

bmi photo project
Catherine Lothian. (Photography: Aimee Herd/Facebook)

“And I want people to look at the images, and think that maybe their stereotypes aren’t well judged.”