Position Statement: AED Emphasizes Physical Health More than BMI
The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), an international organization committed to the treatment, education, and prevention of eating disorders, joins like-minded organizations, such as the National Eating Disorders Association and Binge Eating Disorder Association, in expressing our concern regarding new fitness guidelines for The Boy Scouts of America’s annual Jamboree. According to the Boy Scout’s national website, members with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above will not be allowed to participate in the event. The identified intent of the new policy is to promote physical health and activity as well as encourage Scouts to lead and maintain a “sustainable lifestyle.” However, the revised policy supports the false idea that health is solely related to weight for those with high BMI.
As leading treatment professionals and researchers in the field of eating disorders, the policy causes alarm due to its overly simplistic and exclusionary nature of those in the highest BMI category. Consistent and evolving research now demonstrates that weight, or alternatively BMI, is only one factor in determining overall physical health. Further, exclusionary criteria based solely on BMI perpetuate weight bias, size discrimination, and weight stigma; all of which have severe, enduring, and adverse impacts on mental health (Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, 2013).
The Boy Scouts of America has a history of endorsing positive physical, emotional, and social health amongst youngsters. We are confident that the current fitness guidelines were implemented with the best intentions, and strongly encourage the scouting organization to modify this policy by promoting health and wellness in a manner that allows all members to engage in a variety of activities consistent with their properly evaluated level of medical health. For those with lower BMIs, the policy allows additional health information to be considered for participation. Extension of this provision for those with higher BMIs would both support the health of boy scouts and minimize weight bias, size discrimination, and weight stigma.
AED welcomes the opportunity to provide healthcare experts who may provide consultation in this matter, or related matters in the future, and contact may be made via our web site, www.aedweb.org. Additional information about eating disorders and AED may also be found on the website.
The Academy for Eating Disorders is a global and trans-disciplinary professional organization with more than 1,500 members from 47 countries worldwide. AED provides educational resources and platforms for professional dialogue, training, and collaboration through its publications, including the International Journal of Eating Disorders, annual International Conferences on Eating Disorders, clinical teaching days, and other programs. Visit www.aedweb.org for more information.