Viral TikTok reveals pressures women face to weigh '120 pounds.' Here's why the number on the scale doesn't matter.

·4-min read
Female checking kilogrammes getting on the scale - self care and body positivity concept - warm flare on left
Women reveal pressures to be a certain weight. (Photo: Getty Creative)

"Who the f*** told us women that we should weigh 120 pounds?!"

That's the question certified personal trainer and nutritionist Indy asked her followers in a TikTok she posted on Oct. 1. From her car, the fitness influencer explained that she was speaking to a client who, at 5'9", declared that 120 pounds was her goal weight. Indy was shocked — at 5'9", 120 could be dangerously thin for her client, yet it's what the client was convinced was correct for her body.e

Indy, whose own weight loss journey encouraged her to pursue a career in the fitness industry, once had the idea that at 5'4", she could reach 120 pounds or less, too. However, she found that even 130 was out of reach — and eventually, she realized the number on the scale wasn't what her body needed to be at its healthiest and most comfortable.

"I really don't know who brainwashed us into thinking that was the 'right' weight to be — 120, 130, 110," she said in the video, which has over 1 million views. "I want you to comment. What is your ideal weight, what is your age and tell me who the f*** told you that's what you should be?"

Commenters confirmed that they were also told they must weigh a specific number, no matter how realistic, healthy or attainable it was for their specific body.

One wrote, "I spent so many years trying to weigh 120-130 because of my mom body-shaming me as a teen."

Another added, "When I was in eighth grade, I got to 120, but the kids were all saying they were 115 and that was already too big. I was crushed."

One person shared, "I'm 5'2", currently 150, and wishing to be at 125. The BMI [chart] told me so."

Indy tells Yahoo Life that she was surprised by the powerful feedback, especially from women.

"Not one woman disagreed with the video," she says. "Women have been saying, 'Oh my God, yes, I feel the same. I feel so seen right now. Why is it like this? I've dealt with these issues all my life.' It's not just men who told us [what weight to be], it's also women — our mothers, our grandmothers — and it's because they were told that."

These specific numbers weren't created in a vacuum. So where do people get the idea of the supposed "right" weight?

Indy points to a misreading of the Body Mass Index chart, or BMI, as one reason people have specific numbers in their head as to what they should weigh. Yet many people call it a flawed standard, which was never intended to be used to assess health in the first place. 

Dr. Anne McTiernan, a professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., and author of Starved: A Nutrition Doctor’s Journey from Empty to Full tells Yahoo Life, "BMI is a very rough measure... especially when we try to say a certain BMI is too high or too low. One problem is that BMI doesn't differentiate what the weight consists of. So, a professional weight lifter could have very large muscle mass, weigh a lot as a result, and clock in at a high BMI. Alternatively, a person could have a lot of extra fat on their body but still fit into the 'normal' category, perhaps because they don't have much muscle mass. And many people can be very healthy at a high BMI, even if they have a large amount of body fat."

While not everyone uses the BMI as a way to identify what they should weigh, overall, trying to hit a specific number for any reason can be a fruitless battle. McTiernan warns, "Many people struggle with their weight, gain easily, and trying to get to an ideal weight is overwhelming to impossible. For people at risk of eating disorders like anorexia, it could be dangerous to set low weight goals."

For Indy, however, making the video almost proved her own point — that women are encouraged by outside forces to try and be smaller than they are.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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