Tessa Embry is a 14-year-old girl whose essay about calculating her BMI -- and why Tessa refused to do so -- is going viral. As seen in the below video, Embry had a problem with being asked to calculate her own BMI as part of a homework assignment. The task brought back painful memories for Tessa, who had been asked previously to figure out her body mass index, or BMI, by a physical education instructor. When that gym teacher told Embry she was obese, it struck a nerve.
Tessa and her mother, Mindi Embry, headed off to the doctor after being told Embry was obese. The eighth-grader, who hails from Indiana, was told by the doctor that she was strong and ate a healthy diet. Once the physician determined that Tessa had normal blood sugar levels, and figured out that Embry's cholesterol levels were fine -- Tessa felt more at ease.
As reported by Today, Tessa refused to calculate her BMI a few weeks later, after being told she was obese by the teacher. Instead of figuring out her BMI, Tessa sat down and penned an essay that explained why BMI isn't a reliable and current method of calculating normal and healthy weights.
Tessa's logic is being corroborated with some health experts, as reported by NBC News -- pundits who have long claimed that BMI doesn't accurately take into account a person's body fat percentage when determining what a normal weight should be. Two people of the same height with much different muscular and fat makeups might weigh around the same amount -- but without taking into account fat versus muscle weights, the BMI calculation falls short.
The controversial test question pointed students towards using the government's "Choose My Plate" website as a resource for calculating BMI. The BMI calculator on that site made sure to distinguish so-called healthy adult BMI figures from the BMI totals for children -- but body fat percentage seems to be missing in the calculations.
"Do you know if you are at a healthy weight, underweight, overweight, or obese? Enter your weight and height into the BMI calculator to find out your current weight status. If you are overweight or obese, underweight, or even at a healthy weight, check out the MyPlate, MyWins for healthy weight tips.As such, Tessa wrote that she wasn't going to open her laptop and calculate her BMI, because of the negative connotations that come with being slapped with an "obese" label. Tessa wrote that she's always known she was a "bigger girl" and that has been fine with her. Tessa wrote about her love of softball, and how the sport provides her with her "lethal weapons" confidence she gets every time a bat is in her hands. Tessa's mother only got a response from school administrators once her daughter's BMI essay began to go viral and get national attention. Embry agreed that her daughter could take the approach she was taking with the BMI assignment -- and write the essay explaining her thoughts on BMI calculators, instead of once again calculating her own BMI.
"Children and adolescents: Because children and adolescents are growing, their BMI is plotted on growth charts for sex and age. You can learn more about BMIs for children and adolescents, and determine your child's weight status using the BMI calculator. If your child is overweight or obese, consult a health care provider to determine appropriate weight management for him or her."
"She said, 'I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to put up with this,' and she asked me, 'Mom, is it OK if I get an "F" on this assignment?' And I said absolutely."North Junior High School said that the BMI calculation was part of a larger assignment, and that they focus on the health of all their students. Tessa's mother said that it angered her that the school was trying to place numerical BMI numbers on the girls.
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