My Doctor Said I Was Obese Based Only on My BMI

Mia Hayes
6 min readMar 2, 2022

Spoiler: I’m a size 6 and fitter than ever

Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

“You can take off your shoes,” the nurse said. “Just put them here.”

This was always the worst part of my doctor visits, and it often left me defeated. Over the past ten years, as my weight skyrocketed from a combination of taking anti-psychotic medicine and losing half my thyroid, I’d been repeatedly scolded for my BMI being too high. The lecture from the doctor was always same: I’m too heavy for my height, and I need to lose weight.

With a sigh, I did as instructed and watched as the number bounced back and forth before settling on three digits I knew would result in an obese diagnosis. The nurse said nothing as he made his notes.

“We’re going to room four on the right,” he said, letting me lead.

After he took my vitals, all of which were excellent, he left. I played with my phone while I waited, trying to distract myself from the inevitable discussion about how I needed to eat better, why I should lose weight, and how I’m shortening my lifespan by not fitting into the right spot on the antiquated BMI chart.

The first time I heard about the BMI chart, I must have been around twenty. My doctor complimented me for falling within the right perimeters for my height and weight. I walked out of that appointment feeling like I was the epitome of health. The only issue was that I sustained myself with a grab-and-go diet heavy on fast food and never exercised.

And that’s why the BMI chart is nonsense. Numerous studies have debunked its usefulness mainly due to its inability to distinguish muscle weight from fat weight. “Skinny fat” people often fall in the low-to-normal range, and it isn’t unusual for “muscularly thin” people to be marked as overweight or obese. As an example, two people with the same weight and height may have the same BMI, but the more muscular person appears thinner due to one pound of muscle taking up less physical space than one pound of fat. There’s no reasonable way for a doctor to look at a BMI number alone and determine who is at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, or other illnesses.

The door swung open, and the doctor stepped inside. She was in her mid-forties like me, and even though I had only…



Mia Hayes

40-something trying to live several lifetimes at once. Stay-at-home author, mom, and wife.