The 2018 Food & Health Survey does it again

I wrote this blog post in 2017 and sent it to the International Food Information Council, requesting that they re-examine their statement that someone with a BMI over 25 must be mistaken in asserting that they are in good or excellent health. Well, the 2018 Food & Health Survey is out and they make the same statement: “Despite rating health as excellent/very good, a large percentage of respondents are classified as overweight or obese.”

It is offensive nonsense that good health can only be experienced by people with a BMI under 25. Using BMI as a stand-in for health is lazy, bad research methodology. It is also a stellar example of how weight bias is deeply embedded into our nation’s research and healthcare institutions.

Please join me in asking Food Insight to discontinue their use of BMI as a measure of good health in their survey reports. Here is the letter I’ve sent in this year; it’s short and sweet, but you are welcome to customize and send along, too! You can reach them on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel.

My letter to the International Food Information Council regarding the 2018 Food & Health Survey

To Whom it May Concern:

My name is Brittany Markides. I am a registered dietitian and nutrition researcher. I was deeply concerned to see that the 2018 Food & Health Survey report, yet again, equates good health to having a BMI under 25. Specifically, the 2018 Food & Health Survey Report states: “Despite rating health as excellent/very good, a large percentage of respondents are classified as overweight or obese.” In 2017, the Food & Health Survey report asserted that “many Americans are overestimating their health status.”

Using BMI as a proxy for good health is bad research methodology. BMI is just one of many screening tools health practitioners use to assess their patients’ health status. It cannot be used alone to determine who is healthy and who is not. In my practice, I meet with clients every day who have a BMI in the overweight and obese range and are just as healthy or healthier than many people with lower BMIs.

I encourage the International Food Information Council to publicly retract these statements and revise their survey methodology. Statements implying that everyone with a BMI above 25 is “unhealthy” and everyone with a BMI below 25 is “healthy” are not supported by the literature. Furthermore, conflating a BMI below 25 with good health contributes to the pervasive weight bias in our research and healthcare institutions, which has been associated with deleterious health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem and body image, and disordered eating behaviors.

Brittany Markides, MS, RDN, LD
Founder, Choose Food

About the Author

Brittany Markides, MS, RD, LD, CHC

Brittany Markides, MS, RD, LD, CHC

Founder, Choose Food

My name is Brittany Markides. I founded Choose Food because, in my work as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I saw so many trying to make positive health changes, but struggling to stay on restrictive diets. At Choose Food, I work with a team of food-positive, body-positive registered dietitians that help people:

  • Regain power over food choices to reduce overeating, binge eating, and emotional eating
  • Manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Find relief from anxious thoughts about food and your body
  • Rediscover your natural hunger and satiety cues
  • Alleviate IBS symptoms through nutrition therapy
  • Cultivate self-acceptance & self-compassion