The Nintendo Wii-Fit is (apparently) all the rage right now. I've see the ads on the tops of the taxis that drive by in my city. I've heard a bit of the hype in passing. Otherwise? I couldn't be bothered.

Then again, I grew up on Atari and Frogger, so go figure.*

The idea of Wii-Fit is clever and interesting, and it's not something I would flat-out refuse to consider buying. Until I read this: the machine measures your BMI. And then tells you whether or not you are fat.

I guess that throws the whole fit-and-or-fat debate right out the window, huh?

You tell the little Wii-fit machine your age** and your height, and the platform you exercise on weighs you, spitting out your BMI. A number, of course, is not enough. You see, to the people at Nintendo, BMI isn't arbitrary enough. No. The Wii-fit has to then tell you whether your are "underweight," "normal," or "fat."

That's right. Not "overweight." Not "obese." Fat.

Now I am all for making fat a less loaded term. It's an adjective, that means the opposite of "thin." But that's not how most people use that word anymore, nor is BMI a rock-solid indicator for the amount of fat you have. And the Wii-fit measures your BMI each time you play. A person's weight can fluctuate up to five pounds each day. So a machine that tells you fat/normal/fat/normal/normal/normal/fat/fat is just a super-quick way to become utterly paranoid about your weight. As if we weren't before.

With any sort of fitness equipment, there's a bit of a caveat emptor. But the Wii-fit is also marketed at children, specifically those children who are taking our country to hell (hell, I tell you!) because they have velcroed their fat asses to the sofa to do nothing more than stuff potato chips in their faces and suck down gallons of Coke. Because we all know that's just what kids do these days.

Never mind that more children than ever are involved in athletics. But that's beside the point.

The issue was raised when a man's healthy, active, fit ten year old daughter (weighing 84 pounds) was told she was fat after playing Wii Fit. Thankfully, for all of the other families out there, he cried foul, bringing the issue to media attention.

BMI for kids is random and arbitrary at best. Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum in the UK, had this to say about the Wii Fit:

"I'm absolutely aghast that children are being told they are fat," he said. "BMI is far from perfect but with children it simply should not be used. A child's BMI can change every month and it is perfectly possible for a child to be stocky, yet still very fit.

"I would be very concerned if children were using this game and I believe it should carry a warning for parents."

Wii-fit doesn't need to measure your BMI to work properly. I'm no super-geek (at least not in the tech sense), but I can't see why the machine would need to know your BMI and then rate you accordingly in order to work. Rather than a warning, parents should be allowed to disable the feature. I don't think this will give anyone an eating disorder. But it can be one more step on the way to anorexia or bulimia. And I do see MUCH potential for it to be abused by a young person with an eating disorder.

So unless Nintendo starts sending the Wii-Fit to medical school (and it can start writing refills for some of my meds, which would be mighty convenient), it shouldn't tell me whether I'm fit or fat. That's just Wii-diculous.

*Yes, this dates me. Horribly. But, damn- wasn't Frogger great?
**Isn't that silly thing supposed to know you aren't supposed to ask a lady her age? Methinks Nintendo doth protest too much...


fighting_forever said...

I've never had a games console, so I've been completely oblivious to Wii-fit. Ugh!

I already hate the BMI because it's useless if you have anything but the absolute average amount of muscle for your height. A person who has very little muscle can be told their fine when really they have a fair amount of fat for their size, whereas someone athletic can be told their overweight when in fact they're really healthy.

But using it for kids and showing them every time they play games?

That'll trigger an eating disorder in someone who has the predisposition.

And, yeah, Frogger is the best game ever.

Libby said...

Frogger rocks.

The thing that's such a shame about all this is that the Wii games really are fun... and really are decent exercise if that's what you're looking for. My boyfriend has a Wii, and we brought it with us to Christmas at his mom's house. The entire family played Wii Sports all Christmas weekend, and we were all laughing at how sore we were from using muscles we weren't used to. We weren't looking for exercise, though... that part just happened. We were just having fun playing games with each other.

One of my piano students has a Wii and they have weekly "Family Wii Night" where they all hang out and play games together. I think that's pretty cool, too. I think all in all, the Wii itself is an OK thing.

So that's why it's such a shame that Wii Fit, which I imagine is fun like the other games I've tried, ruins it with the whole BMI crap.

Harriet said...

According to Sandy Szwarc, Tam Fry has been quoted copiously elsewhere saying horrible fatphobic things.

I did a post on this too but wound up deleting it after reading some Fry's other commentary.

carrie said...


Thanks for the info. I wasn't about the join the Tam Fry fan club, and frankly it doesn't surprise me (what with his being head of the National Obesity Forum). But it still was a remarkable sane response to the other Wii-diculousness.


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mary said...

I know too many kids trapped inside video game addictions to see them as a useful tool.Not even if it appears to be a fun thing.(Though our military would likely see them as great combat training) ....grrrr

The BMI measuring built in to this game appears to be a way to manipulate people and I'm sure it works.
You sure attracted some weird folks with this post!

plasticmind said...

Wii Fit doesn't tell you your BMI every time you play, it's only when you do the body test and you don't have to do it every day. When I did the body test it did tell me that I'm overweight, and suggested I get my BMI down to 22, but you set your own goals so it's really up to whoever is playing it.

Lily Murray Obesity ED Reader said...

To keep your body healthy you have to reduce your body weight and ensure that it is with in the BMI range (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9). Exercise and well balanced diet are the best ways to prevent many diseases caused by over weight. Weight control methods can help you to keep your weight within normal BMI range. http://www.phentermine-effects.com

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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