BSA says, “BMI too high? No fun for you!”

The Boy Scouts of America decided that anyone with a BMI greater than 31.9 is in grave risk of death if they go to the BSA Summer Jamboree, held in a mountainous location in West Virginia that requires walking “1-2 or possibly much more” miles per day between cabins and activities.

For the record, my BMI is 54, firmly in the range of OMGDEATHFAT. I have, while at this BMI or higher:

  • Completed two half-marathons using run/walk intervals
  • Trained for those half-marathons by run/walk-ing many 5K’s as well as doing a minimum of 9 miles each week for over a year
  • Walked theme parks in blistering heat for 5-6 miles a day to tour WDW
  • Hiked trails in Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and the Cascade range, several miles each day
  • Run and walked in heat, cold, snow, rain, and a host of other weather conditions

I haven’t collapsed dead yet. I’ll keep trying, though!

This is yet another example of a HORRIBLE conflation of BMI with health and fitness. BMI, a simple ratio of weight to height, was never intended to be used as a way to measure the health or fitness of an individual. What’s more, being fat is not an indicator of physical fitness or health, certainly not when it comes to endurance or self-paced activities like hiking, walking, or running.

The BSA has noted in a few places that they announced the requirement two years ago and hoped it would help inspire Scouts to work on fitness. The problem is that they’re not measuring for fitness; they’re measuring body size. Great intentions, but bad data! If the BSA wanted to ensure Scouts were fit, they could have set other metrics, such as being able to walk on a treadmill with incline set to a X for Y minutes, or requiring hikes of comparable distance and/or elevation to be completed prior to the Jamboree.

Instead, they’re singling out fat kids, regardless of their individual capabilities, by telling them they can’t be at the event. That’s terrific, what with male eating disorders on the rise, and fat-based bullying being found to cause anxiety and depression through adulthood.

It’s also yet another case of the fat person’s conundrum. The anti-fats tell you to lose weight by getting off your fat ass, but when you get outside and be active, they tell you that it’s bad for your health, knees, or whatever…or they just scream insults at you as they drive by. ::eyeroll::

Fat scouts: you can do it. Don’t let BSA or anyone else tell you otherwise. If you want to run, run. If you want to hike, hike. Start where you are and work your way to where you want to be. Get out there and enjoy what the world and nature have to offer. Guess what? You’ll be healthier, even if your BMI doesn’t change a bit. In fact, you’ll be healthiest if you focus on being active and eating well and tell anyone who tries to force you to use weight as a stand-in for or measure of health to go jump in a lake.

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