Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bitter Reminiscence

I might have mentioned this before, but last Saturday, I talked with Rachel for a solid three hours. One of the things we mentioned in our eloquent diatribe on the evils of college was the infamous FitWell BMI Incident (or FBI, as I shall rechristen it).

FitWell is student-shorthand for our "Fitness and Wellness" class, a required gym credit which most of us got out of the way freshman year. It was, without doubt, the most annoying class I took at college. The FBI is symptomatic of its problems. See, the staff of my college were dreadfully worked up over the Freshman 15, especially our chief instructor (a well-known male chauvinist). Those freshman women were not about to get all flabby and drive our admissions rates down once everyone figured out we didn't have a good hottie pool, by gum! Apparently, the college couldn't be bothered to supply this all-important class with a more accurate metric than the BMI, say, a set of calipers. Oh well, who cares if we enhance their weight-phobia and give them bad information? At least they won't be FAT.

So every year, they set aside a class period to evaluate our fitness levels, but more importantly, to make sure as many women as possible ate a strict celery diet for at least a week. To demonstrate how farcical this entire endeavor turned out to be, I'll mention that my BMI indicated I was OBESE when this picture was taken.

Exhibit A: Total Fatty.

I remember how horrible that made me feel the whole day. It was impossible to look at myself, conditioned as I was by our culture and my own low self esteem, and believe that I was healthy at my perfectly healthy weight. Some random number said I wasn't - heart disease and zero dates, here I come!

I thought of this when I found a post by Alice Bradley (better known from her hilarious blog Finslippy) entitled "Hey, fat-obsessed America!" She's talking about the recent plan floated by some school boards to putting children's BMIs on their report cards as a means to keep kids from getting fat young and making our overall population statistics tend toward the overweight. It's hilarious, but it reminded me that data without context is a dangerous thing.

The men in FitWell fared better because they hadn't been told all their lives that being pretty was what they were put on earth to be. They didn't get good information, either, but at least most of them didn't walk around shell-shocked for a week like some of my friends did. After the initial evening's torment, I did okay. I didn't develop an eating disorder from the FBI. I probably didn't alter my eating habits all that much. But I did feel like total crap over it when they could have provided me with excellent information fairly easily and sent me on to the rest of the class with real, usable knowledge instead of the vague indication that, once again, I wasn't good enough.


der Panzerkardinal said...

haha...oh, FitWell...

Glad you recovered. The only thing I lost sleep about in FitWell was the torturous suspense of finding out if you got shafted with Circuit Training. Thank God for Run/Jog...or Walk :)

Mair said...

My understanding is that someone finally told Dr. Lyle about the panic-induced anorexia surge around the BMI time and he decided to drop it from the program. I don't know if that's true, but I feel like that's what I heard.

Mair said...

p.s. you certainly don't look obese in that picture. You look young, but not obese.

RedHurt said...

Fitwell...what a horrible idea. Like we don't know how to swim already.

If it helps, my BMI always says I'm obese too. American's are 1.) too fat and 2.) too worried about being fat. Basically I think if you're worried about being fat, then you're not fat, and if you eat mcdonalds more than once a week, you're probably fat and should stop. You're not fat. So there.

My favorite memory from FitWell was when we had to keep track of what we ate. I hated the class, so I made everything up. On my last day I recorded myself as having eaten 100 cookies and drank 10 beers. I received a "check plus" on the assignment.

rachel said...

Sorry I missed the commenting boat this post (out in Chicago this week for work), but I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree. Someday I hope to be in a position of wealth and power only so I have the chance to speak to the college in the only language that they understand: money. And I will hold it over their self-righteous little heads until they agree to trash FitWell to its rightful and long-awaited death. And then I will tell them they are all morbidly obese, of an unworthy gender, and make them binge and purge on that slimy tofu from the salad bar.