WESTWOOD (CBSLA.com) — From an early age, Jeannette DePatie said she was told she was unhealthy simply because her body-mass index said she was overweight.

“It was very painful. It was very alarming. And I remember walking up to the doctor’s office feeling a sense of panic like, oh, this is a death sentence; my life is over,” DePatie said.

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Instead of focusing on her health, she said she went down a long road of crash-dieting. “It was really the idea – I have to be skinny in order to fit into society. I have to be skinny in order to be taken seriously by the doctor.”

Now, a group of researchers at UCLA said they found that BMI – height-to-weight ratio – is not an accurate way to measure health.

The study added that about 54 million Americans considered unhealthy by their BMI actually are. That includes more 34 million people labeled overweight and  more than 19 million dubbed as obese.

“They are not a convenient number that you can shove into a formula. But there’s a lot of data that shows people who eat well, sleep well, manage stress, have good social relationships and exercise live better, longer, healthier, happier lives,” DePatie said. “Fit people come in all sizes.”

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DePatie is a writer, speaker and certified fitness instructor. She said she works out every day and eats a balanced diet.

The UCLA study analyzed the link between BMI and various health markers, like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Kelly Glover writes a blog called Big Curvy Love. She said that at her thinnest, she over-exercised and lived on 800 calories a day.

“I’m sure that those people that smoke a pack a day, and they are in the healthy weight range. Does that mean they are healthy? No,” Glover questioned.

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The findings also showed that 20 million people considered healthy by their BMI actually are not.