Obesity Report Cards and Eating Disorders

In the unlikely event that you attend a public school, are overweight, and had no idea, now you’ll get a note sent home evaluating your BMI and letting your parents know whether or not your weight is “normal” — despite the fact that BMI is a seriously flawed standard, and all the experts seem to agree that this new report card system will put more students at risk for eating disorders.

But who cares about health when we have a war on fat to fight?

Six-year-old Karlind Dunbar barely touched her dinner, but not for time-honored 6-year-old reasons. The pasta was not the wrong shape. She did not have an urgent date with her dolls.

The problem was the letter Karlind discovered, tucked inside her report card, saying that she had a body mass index in the 80th percentile. The first grader did not know what “index” or “percentile” meant, or that children scoring in the 5th through 85th percentiles are considered normal, while those scoring higher are at risk of being or already overweight.

Yet she became convinced that her teachers were chastising her for overeating.

Since the letter arrived, “my 2-year-old eats more than she does,” said Georgeanna Dunbar, Karlind’s mother, who complained to the school and is trying to help her confused child. “She’s afraid she’s going to get in trouble,” Ms. Dunbar said.


It makes sense to take some steps to fight childhood obesity. School lunches should be fresh and healthy, with lots of fruits and veggies (and no, ketchup should not count as a vegetable); soda and candy machines shouldn’t be in schools; gym class should be required and should actually emphasize physical activity; and school districts shouldn’t be signing contracts with Coke or Pepsi to promote and sell their products on school grounds.

But what’s happening is the exact opposite: School lunch programs are under-funded (thanks, conservative values) and schools in general need all the extra money they can get, so they make deals with soda companies. Many schools, especially in urban communities, don’t have fields or large gym spaces or decent athletic equipment. And so instead of taking measured steps to promote healthy eating and behavior, schools come down hard on individual students, shaming them for their BMI and emphasizing numbers instead of health from kindergarden on.

Here, in the rural Southern Tioga School District, the schools distribute the state-mandated reports even as they continue to serve funnel cakes and pizza for breakfast. Some students have physical education for only half the school year, even though 34 percent of kindergartners were overweight or at risk for it, according to 2003-4 reports.

Even health authorities who support distributing students’ scores worry about these inconsistent messages, saying they could result in eating disorders and social stigma, misinterpretation of numbers that experts say are confusing, and a sense of helplessness about high scores.

“It would be the height of irony if we successfully identified overweight kids through B.M.I. screening and notification while continuing to feed them atrocious quality meals and snacks, with limited if any opportunities for phys ed in school,” said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston.

It is the height of irony. Or at least hypocrisy.

It’s also worth noting that the primary examples in the article are girls — the first-grader who’s afraid to eat, and the size-20 Homecoming queen whose lack of embarassment to wear a bathing suit clearly stuns the reporter.

Boys aren’t any less likely to be overweight than girls, but girls are still many times more likely to have eating disorders (although boys certainly do their share of disordered eating, too). And as Zuzu has covered before, there’s a strong link between the ability to access healthy foods and behaviors and one’s socioeconomic status. Zuzu writes:

These are societal problems, not individual ones. Yet the blame is usually placed not on the businesses that refuse to open in “inner-city” neighborhoods, or the governments that don’t provide sufficient public transportation to these neighborhoods, or the banks that redline these neighborhoods so that new businesses have a hard time opening, or the convenience stores that charge several times more for wilted produce in these neighborhoods than Whole Foods does in more affluent areas, but on the families themselves, or the individuals. Resorting to McDonald’s when McDonald’s is about the only business that will come into your area that sells food is seen as a moral failing, not a hard choice that must be made.

And we hear a lot about “sugary soft drinks” at public schools. Well, we didn’t have soda machines or candy machines accessible to students when I was a kid. Why are they there now? Because school funding has been slashed and corporations swooped in offering a cut of the profits from the soda and candy sales. And what cash-strapped school district could really turn that — or advertising for such products during educational TV programming shown in schools — down? Hell, many school districts, even relatively affluent ones, are canceling recess and cutting gym classes out. Kids don’t seem to have unsupervised play time like they did when I was a kid (get offa my lawn!). Not that I spend much time in the suburbs, but the suburban neighborhoods I’ve seen seem strangely devoid of kids, even when I know they’re there.

Childhood obesity is indeed a problem. But it’s not an individual problem or a family problem. It’s a lack of school funding, a lack of wide-open safe spaces for kids to play, a lack of affordable healthy food, a lack of affordable and accessible recreational activities.

When I was in elementary school, we had annual weigh-ins. I dreaded weigh-in day more than just about any other day of the year. My best friend Adriene was incredibly skinny (at 24 and 5’5″ I don’t think she’s topped 100 pounds yet), but she was the standard by which I judged myself — and spent most of my childhood (and much of my adult life) convinced that I was at best seriously chubby, if not simply fat. I put myself on my first diet when I was 8, something I re-discovered when reading through my childhood journals. I have a vivid memory of 4th grade weigh-ins, where my friend Judy weighed 80 pounds and Adriene’s mom made a comment about how Judy was a “tub.” When I hit 80 pounds a year or two later, I was devasted. I swore I would never hit 100. When I eventually hit that, too, I was all the more convinced that I was disgustingly overweight — and that being overweight meant that I was not only unattractive, but a moral failure in some way. From there, I spent most of my life engaging in restrictive eating behaviors, and volleying back and forth between extremes of “being skinny will make me happy and so therefore I’m only going to consume 800 calories a day” and “this is ridiculous, I’m a feminist and I’m not going to buy into this shit, so I’m going to eat whatever I want, even if that means binging and gaining 10 pounds in a single month” (that’s where I was at last month, and now I’m miserable). Even at 23, I still feel completely out of control when it comes to my weight, and I still go back and forth between a desire to be thin and an ideology which conflicts with that desire. And I’m probably not someone who would be put on the front page of the New York Times as an example of the “fat girl.”

I can’t imagine where I’d be if I had an entire school system backing the idea that my weight/height proportion was a defining aspect of my identity, and should be “reported” to my parents if my body were deviant. I can’t blame public schools and health officials for wanting students to be as healthy as possible, and wanting students to avoid the problems that do come along with childhood obesity. But the bigger problem is healthy eating, and access to healthy foods and physical exercise. I’d be willing to bet that in every school where obesity is considered a major problem, there are other students who appear “healthy” because they’re thin, but are malnourished or are living sedentary lifestyles or are surviving off of diet coke and iceberg lettuce or are prime candidates for osteoperosis later in life. That’s not health, either, even if those people fit more cleanly into the dominant idea of what health looks like.

Social problems require social solutions. Blaming and shaming individuals, and further attacking people for being overweight, isn’t going to accomplish anything.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

101 comments for “Obesity Report Cards and Eating Disorders

  1. zuzu
    January 8, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Dammit, I was working on a post about this!

    I think it’s important to point out that the Pennsylvania law follows on the heels of some successful programs in other states. The difference, however, is that those programs are both well-funded and comprehensive. School districts without sufficient funding for nutritional counseling or fresh foods are going to fall back just on fat-shaming.

  2. Sniper
    January 8, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    School lunches should be fresh and healthy, with lots of fruits and veggies (and no, ketchup should not count as a vegetable); soda and candy machines shouldn’t be in schools; gym class should be required and should actually emphasize physical activity; and school districts shouldn’t be signing contracts with Coke or Pepsi to promote and sell their products on school grounds.

    I damn near cry every time I visit our school cafeteria. Here’s an actual lunch: big, white pretzel, “cheese” sauce; blue jello. Yes, there’s a bowl of fruit on the counter, but most kids ignore it. If it isn’t pretzels, it’s fried potatoes, or chicken nuggets or maybe pizza if they have cash on hand. The kids have 25 minutes to eat and play outside a day, gym is an elective and yes, we have a lot of kids who are overweight. From the neck down, a lot of our kids look like unhealthy middle-aged people. We don’t have soda machines, although we could really use the money, but we’re forced to use the cheapest contractor for the cafeteria food. Nutrition costs money, which we don’t have, and many of our kids eat two meals a day here. Sometimes those are the only meals they get.

  3. January 8, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    When I was in elementary school, we had annual weigh-ins.

    I can’t believe schools actually still do this. My school never did, as far as I can recall, but I went to a catholic grade school, so maybe it was different there. anyway, why is it the school’s business to be weighing children anyway? that seems like more of a doctor thing than something a school PE teacher should be doing … or at the least something a school nurse may do in private if the child was having some sort of health problem …

  4. Sniper
    January 8, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    I’d be willing to bet that in every school where obesity is considered a major problem, there are other students who appear “healthy” because they’re thin, but are malnourished or are living sedentary lifestyles or are surviving off of diet coke and iceberg lettuce or are prime candidates for osteoperosis later in life.

    This is also true. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen three very thin girls share a bag of red-hot Cheetos for “lunch” or not eat at all for fear of becoming fat. Of course, they can’t concentrate and they have stomach cramps, but that’s a small price to pay. There are also lots of kids who live on crap but are thin because their metabolisms haven’t caught up with them yet.

  5. Bolo
    January 8, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Kids don’t seem to have unsupervised play time like they did when I was a kid (get offa my lawn!). Not that I spend much time in the suburbs, but the suburban neighborhoods I’ve seen seem strangely devoid of kids, even when I know they’re there.
    –Zuzu, quoted in the post

    It’s all “playdates” and structured activities now. I remember when I was around his age (~14 years ago) I would just ride my bike over to my friends’ houses or call them up and we would play.

    Now, it seems in many areas that it’s all about “Well, Billy can come over to play on Thursday, from 3-5pm or Friday from 3:45 to 4:30. Otherwise we’re all booked.” I mean, one or two structured after-school activities per week is fine at that age, but some just seem to take things beyond any reasonable limits. I’ve noticed a paucity of kids outside in most neighborhoods I’ve been in recently.

    I’d love to see if any studies have been done regarding the average amount of unstructured playtime kids have now.

  6. deep6
    January 8, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Teaching your children healthy eating habits is as important a parenting skill as teaching your children to read, count and get along with others. These are fundamental skills children need to learn from the earliest ages to avoid serious health problems later in life.

    I would bet that a majority of the children with a high BMI (where it accurately reports that a child is overweight) come from homes where the parents are overweight or obese too. If parents don’t know what a proper meal size/portion is, their kids won’t know. Assuming the school district was able to get healthier food choices into the school cafeteria, who’s to say the kids will actually choose the fruit salad and veggie burger when pizza, fries and fudge rounds are available? Maybe school districts can buy super-vitamin enriched chicken nuggets. That would solve the problem. Every kid lines up for the chicken nuggets.

    I find it difficult to believe though that parents are unable to afford healthy groceries. Certainly this is an issue for poor families and is compounded when those families live in urban areas where there is no farmable land but there are many middle-class families with obese children too, who can easily afford to substitute fast food with healthy fruits, vegetables and high-fiber breads. The smaller portions required for recommended daily allowances and average caloric intake makes it much more affordable than people think, even when you’re paying “city prices” for food. Buying in bulk is always an option too, if you get together with neighbors. There’s also the local food pantry. There are lots of options here that don’t require shaming children.

    A BMI card in a grade report is just fat harassment, period. As if parents don’t know their children are overweight. Please.

  7. Kim
    January 8, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    We had weigh-ins like once a year. I don’t know what the actual purpose was. Mostly, the class would just snicker when the larger kids would get on the scale. School lunch never improved (my mom sent me with a lunchbox as we mostly got served fries and pizza) and no one ever spoke to us about healthiness or anything.

    I don’t get why it’s so hard to get money for schools. I mean… what’s more important than making sure we don’t have a nation of unhealthy idiots?

  8. January 8, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Deep6:

    Having worked or lived in Anacostia, Harlem, and East New York, I can assure you that the limited food options of the urban poor are at least as bad as the article implies. In many neighborhoods, buying nutritionally balanced food requires a long trip to another neighborhood, with no car to get the groceries back home. Try doing that every few days while holding down two jobs, picking your kids up from school, and cooking meals for them. Fast food or junk food from the corner store starts as a stopgap measure, then quickly becomes a default option. Bad health is a downward spiral. People get addicted to elevated blood sugar. As they eat worse and worse, they have less energy to shop and cook and exercise. And then their kids get raised in these habits and can’t conceive of anything else.

    If you think that changing your dietary habits is easy, why don’t educated middle-class Americans all eat organic, locally-farmed vegetarian diets? Answer: because of cultural conditioning and logistical hurdles. Those are the same reasons that the urban poor eat junk.

  9. Betsy
    January 8, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    From the article itself:

    The school district has revamped its menus, eliminating Gatorade and the powdered sugar from the funnel cakes.

    I think they just won the prize for best new euphamism that conveys the meaning of “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” Oy vei. As if removing the sprinkling of powdered sugar is suddenly going to render deep-fried dough a healthy breakfast. It would be funny, if it were on the Simpsons. Since it’s apparently an actual part of their attempt to make school meals healthier, it’s jaw-droppingly pathetic.

  10. January 8, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    That is so fucked up, so wrong, I’m so glad it hasn’t spread to Tennessee yet.

    And I’m glad I’ve escaped public schools.

    This reminds me of what happened to my cousin Jessica. She is not fat, she never has been, but compared to her older sister, she is. (Everyone is, I’m sorry, Tasha’s a twig.) Jessica just turned NINE last month. Her mom walked out when she was 5, and her dad remarried a couple years later. Everyone hates his new wife, and she’s not to fond of her stepkids.

    Earlier this year, she wouldn’t let my cousin Daniel, 15 and growing like crazy, have another piece of pizza, but her daughter could, because she’s growing. And she told Jessica she couldn’t eat a second helping because she’s too fat. Oh, that still pisses me off!

    If Jessica were fat, the blame lies squarely on her parents. They moved from a rural town, where they had a HUGE backyard, a HUGE frontyard, a long driveway, a safe street, everything for childhood fun outdoors. Now they live in a crowded suburban neighborhood that has no sidewalks, and they’re never allowed outside to play.

    My BMI has me overweight. I don’t care. I did when I was in 10th grade, but then I realized it didn’t matter, so I was quite fine. I exercise often, and when we get oranges or bananas in the house they disappear rather quickly.

    Why? Because I feel some sort of horrendous guilt at being so disgustingly fat? No, becuase I enjoy walking my dogs for hours. I enjoy jumping on the trampoline. I love fruits.

    This new thing is harassment, stupid harassment that accomplishes nothing but killing self esteem and fostering eating disorders.

    Fuck them.

    (My school district implemented a new dress code a couple years ago – and one thing required is ‘if the pants have belt loops, belts must be worn’. (I cut my belt loops one day because my stomach hurt and I wasn’t wearing a fucking belt.) At the elementary school where my mom worked, this poor kindergartener peed herself because she couldn’t get her belt undone. On the first day of school!)

    “Keep the kids skinny, make them pass these tests, oh, and by the way, we’re slashing all your funding because you won’t teach ID!”

    Er… I rambled, didn’t I?

  11. Sniper
    January 8, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    I find it difficult to believe though that parents are unable to afford healthy groceries.

    My students range from very poor to working class where one unexpected dental problem is a disaster. Some of the kids don’t get fed much at home but the larger problem is empty calories. When the kids do bring a lunch from home for a field trip it’s usually a packaged snack cake and a bag of chips. They also eat a lot of Americanized Mexican food at home – very high fat. Families often don’t have time to cook ahead because they’re working two jobs apiece, or they dont’ have the ready cash to buy equipment -stockpots, etc., or they live in places with inadequate or nonexistent kitchens. For other families the problem is education. They just don’t see what’s wrong with a 10-year-old having a twinkie and a cup of coffee for breakfast.

  12. Sniper
    January 8, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Here’s a link to break your heart:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4298245.stm

  13. January 8, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Jill:

    For the most part, I think your post is dead-on in picking out the important issues here. I worry a bit, though, whenever anti-obesity measures are criticized in the name of preventing eating disorders: the former is decidedly a poor black kid issue, the latter decidedly a rich white girl issue, and while they’re obviously both serious, I think the latter has gotten a lot more attention until recently because of the class and race elements. I’m really glad that school systems are at least making gestures toward obesity prevention, and while shaming kids is generally a bad approach, I don’t think it should be discounted out of hand.

    I went through the DC public school system as a fat kid. The moments in my life that I credit with pulling me out of that pattern mostly involved shame. There are lots of disclaimers here: I don’t think I’m necessarily typical; I don’t think I would have had the same reaction if I were being held to female cultural standards; I ended up with weird attitudes toward my body for a long time after I reached a healthy weight. But my experience leads me to believe that kids CAN benefit from social signals telling them that their eating and exercise habits are unacceptable and must be changed.

    I’m not saying these new policies are likely to be effective, and the schools are certainly being dishonest for all the reasons you cite, but I don’t think you should dismiss social shaming out of hand as a tool for positive social change.

  14. zuzu
    January 8, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t get why it’s so hard to get money for schools. I mean… what’s more important than making sure we don’t have a nation of unhealthy idiots?

    School funding is largely done through property taxes, which means that homeowners feel the bite directly. In affluent school districts, they are usually more willing to fund schools because good schools = high property values. Plus, with high property values, you can have a lower tax rate and still raise plenty of revenue for the schools. In poorer districts, the tax base is a lot lower, and people don’t have the money to put toward school funding.

    Then you get districts where the schools are seen as expensive luxuries, and those typically get starved of funds even where the property values and incomes are sufficient to bump them up a bit. You see this a lot where there are a lot of rentals — homeowners gripe that the kids of renters are getting the benefit of their tax dollars even though their parents may only have a car that’s taxable. Let’s never mind that the apartment building is taxed and that a portion of the rent represents property tax.

    And then there’s state funding formulas. Those are a constant battle here in New York, where the City gets shafted on per-pupil state aid in comparison with the Republican districts upstate.

  15. Marksman2000
    January 8, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    I don’t get why it’s so hard to get money for schools. I mean… what’s more important than making sure we don’t have a nation of unhealthy idiots?

    For real.

  16. Mnemosyne
    January 8, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Did anyone else see that Jamie Oliver documentary this summer, “Jamie’s School Lunch Project”? It was really, really depressing to watch, especially the strong resistance from the kids themselves to anything but pizza, chicken fingers, and the infamous “Turkey Twizzlers.” More than one kid left the room sobbing rather than try a food they hadn’t seen before.

    State mandates do help a bit: when I was growing up in Illinois (late 70s to late 80s), public schools were required to have PE classes every single day. The only way to get out of it was to be either a varsity or junior varsity team member, which meant that your team practice counted as your PE. And though I was a bit overweight, I was a heck of a lot thinner than I am now or have been since.

    Of course, my teachers and doctors were constantly obsessing over the fact that I was — gasp! — 10 pounds overweight, forced me into sports and forgot to check me for asthma, but that’s a whole different story …

  17. zuzu
    January 8, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    while shaming kids is generally a bad approach, I don’t think it should be discounted out of hand.

    Matt, social shaming from one’s peers is a markedly different thing than shaming by the schools themselves, particularly at the same time as they’re serving fried dough and only offering gym half the year.

  18. Mnemosyne
    January 8, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    But my experience leads me to believe that kids CAN benefit from social signals telling them that their eating and exercise habits are unacceptable and must be changed.

    Here’s the problem that I think you’re not getting, what with being a guy and all: a HUGE part of female social conditioning is that (a) you have to make other people happy even if it happens at your own expense and (b) the range of people that you have to make happy is huge and extends even to random strangers walking down the street.

    I actually had the opposite experience from yours: the constant social pressure and shaming led me to gain MORE weight, just to show “them” (my parents, my doctors, my teachers) that they couldn’t push me around. That’s also frequently a factor in anorexia: anorexics tend to be control freaks, and their weight becomes a battle within the family that they become determined to “win.”

    Oh, and years and years of social shaming didn’t do anything for my husband’s weight problem, either, and probably extended it longer than it should have gone on. So I don’t think it’s strictly a male/female thing, either.

  19. January 8, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    It makes me really sad to see that someone as intelligent and interesting as you felt, and still feels, such pressure to define yourself by your weight.

  20. Mnemosyne
    January 8, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    And one other comment: after seeing the studies they’ve done on “social anorexia,” where a group of girls/young women start to compete with one another to see who can eat less and lose more weight, I don’t think that encouraging more peer shaming would be beneficial, either.

  21. January 8, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    I find it difficult to believe though that parents are unable to afford healthy groceries.

    As someone who has been living off of one dollar frozen dinners and ramen noodles, I’m tempted to say screw you to that. But I won’t, because I know I would try my hardest not to feed my child the same.

    Also, there’s the issue often of there being nothing else to buy. I was shocked and appalled to find that one of the jars of baby food I bought the other day was *very subtly* labeled a “dessert” and contained like 20 grams of sugar.

    This was a jar of level 2 baby food, mind you. Meant for 6 to 9 month olds. And ‘dessert’ was written in a teeny tiny font almost exactly the same color as the label. How evil is that? It’s like there’s a conspiracy to fatten children or something.

    I’m determined not to give my daughter any food/body issues. I know I have them. I know my mom and my sister have them worse. How do you make sure your kid eats healthy and yet doesn’t feel overwhelming shame if they have a cookie or some ice cream?

  22. January 8, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    There was a joke in my high school, and probably every other high school in the state of Pennsylvania, that the only class you needed to pass to graduate your senior year was PE. It was only a slight exaggeration. By senior year, most of us had amassed enough credits that all we actually had to take was PE and English (though I and everyone else I knew took a full load anyway). Pennsylvania law required gym of everyone every year, 1-12. My school required it two days a week. My sister had to take it four days a week all year. I think she had health on the fifth day or something. We used to gripe at the time about getting all sweaty all the time since we knew very well that other states didn’t have the same kinds of requirements, but I now know it was a good thing. Personally, it didn’t upset me much because my school had some fun PE electives. I took ice skating one year and weight training two others. I only had regular coed, play football/basketball/tennis/etc. one year, and I played on sports teams anyway so that didn’t bother me.

    Personally, I’m in favor of keeping kids in school eight and a half or nine hours a day, not six and a half, and I say that as a former teacher and coordinator of a program for at-risk high school students. I’d keep six hours of academic time, half hour lunch and three 15-minute unstructured breaks during the day, and have an activity period, required PE with elective choices, and a structured study hall with tutors. But no one asks people who actually have experience, and no one would want to hear what we have to say anyway. What’s the bumper sticker say? “It’s a shame the people who know how to run the country are busy teaching school”? I’m not teching school any more, but I haven’t forgotten either.

  23. January 8, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Mnemosyne, I know grown women who have competitions like that with their co-workers. Sponsored by the employer’s HR department, no less.

  24. Laurie
    January 8, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Matt:
    It does no good to shame a kid for being fat when a) they don’t have the knowledge of how to prevent it or change it yet, and/or b) they don’t have the resources to change it.

    These are KIDS we’re talking about — grade school kids. Kids who may be getting some nutrition information in their health classes, but aren’t given the opportunity to use it. Did you read the examples of school lunches/breakfasts? FUNNEL CAKE, fer cryin’ out loud!??! That’s not breakfast; that’s dessert. And I *lived* through the era of “ketchup counts as a vegetable” — that was a bunch of baloney, too.

    I’m glad shaming worked for you, dude, but seriously? It would have just made me depressed (yes, even as a kid it would have), which would make me either eat all sorts of crap, or not eat at all. Neither of these is a healthy response, but they are instinctive ones. I thought the idea was to help kids get healthy?

  25. January 8, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    There are also lots of kids who live on crap but are thin because their metabolisms haven’t caught up with them yet.
    Meet my younger brother: his favorite dinners are steak, hamburgers, an entire Domino’s pizza, and… well that’s about it really. But as a result of hitting 5’11 at the ripe old age of 13 (!!! it still freaks me out, and he’s 16 now), and being a teen boy, he is totally skinny. (then again, he also doesn’t like sweets, ever. go figure).

    Matt: I think you’re an exception rather than the rule. The problem with social shaming is that even kids who don’t need it get it, start hating their bodies to the point that it brings them to tears, frequently, at the age of 9, and ten years later aren’t doing much better. And lest you think I really do need it and am just confused, or unwilling to pull myself out of some pattern, I am 5’7 with a weight anywhere from 125-135 depending on the time of day, month, or year, which gives me a BMI or about 21 or so. When I was ten, I was 5’2, 90 pounds, and convinced I was fat.

    (all that said, I am probably pretty unhealthy because I hate any type of vigorous exercise).

    Also, Jill: word to the being-a-feminist-with-body-image-issues conundrum. “I hate myself for being fat! Wait, no, I’m only fat compared to stupid beauty norms and what’s so wrong wtih being fat anyway. I hate myself for being a slave to the patriarchy! Okay so fine. I’m fine with my weight. But I’m terrified of gaining weight because, I mean, after all, I’d have to buy all new jeans and whatever. Unless I’m just rationalizing my internalized self-hatred.” It’s a vicious cycle. I mean, I’d still rather be a feminist with body problems than not, since my feminism has probably kept them from getting a lot worse than they are–reading excerpts from riot grrrl zines when I was 12 and being like “rock on!” reading The Beauty Myth and crying, leaning on righteous anger when I couldn’t summon up any love for myself, all these have definitely been beneficial to my life. But there are definitely times when I feel like a bad feminist because I’m not immune to all of this.

    Actually, just word to this entire post. And also most of what you’ve ever written. Go Jill. My condolences for your being miserable :( I hope you feel better soon.

  26. Laurie
    January 8, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    It would have been so nice when I was in school to have had Phy.Ed. that wasn’t all geared toward competitive games. I truly dislike playing sports where the only real goal is winning, and the kids who aren’t naturally athletic or are klutzy or something are harrassed by the ones that are more talented. I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that — I dislike exercising anyway, and the ghosts of the past still whisper at me. Fortunately the gals who own the gym I just joined, although they are former “jocks”, have a great attitude and offer lots of positive feedback. But it would have been nice to have played sports/games and NOT kept score. It would have been nice to have had some emphasis on moving because it feels good, and not standing around waiting your turn to humiliate yourself at a game you hate, or have balls shoved down your throat by overly aggressive peers who were never, ever reprimanded, not even when the teachers saw it or heard them harassing you….

    OK, rant over. You all get the point. And now they’re cutting even the crappy gym time. Great.

  27. January 8, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    If shaming kids was all it took to make them thin, we wouldn’t have any fat kids. There’s plenty of shaming out there, but average BMIs keep rising. Besides being uselessly cruel (being fat is not a moral failing), it doesn’t work.

  28. Moi
    January 8, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    I have to say, as a high school student, I absolutely dread gym class. Yes, I know its good for me. Yes, I know I need the excersize. But, goddamn. I second Laurie’s points… most of class is about playing a game that either you’re good at and play all the time, or you aren’t. And when you aren’t good at it, you stand there and are miserable for half an hour. Its a no win situation, really.

    Unless they decide to give some choices that are actually halfway enjoyable. Besides the occasional choice of walking around the track in circles.

  29. Sniper
    January 8, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    It would have been so nice when I was in school to have had Phy.Ed. that wasn’t all geared toward competitive games.

  30. January 8, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Dammit, I was working on a post about this!

    Sorry! I hope you’ll write it anyway. You always do a better job on these topics than I do.

    For the most part, I think your post is dead-on in picking out the important issues here. I worry a bit, though, whenever anti-obesity measures are criticized in the name of preventing eating disorders: the former is decidedly a poor black kid issue, the latter decidedly a rich white girl issue, and while they’re obviously both serious, I think the latter has gotten a lot more attention until recently because of the class and race elements.

    Other commenters have already covered the shame issues that you raised, Matt, but I want to point to this comment. Yes, white girls and women are more likely to be anorexic than black and hispanic girls — but anorexia has slowly but surely spread into those communities as well, and a big issue in eating disorder awareness is breaking the stereotype of anorexics all being white. It’s a serious problem when black girls and women exhibit all the signs of anorexia, but aren’t spotted because of the racial element.

    You’re absolutely correct that the race/economic lines do exist. But they’re quickly being blurred, and I think it’s dangerous to make the divide between obesity = poor black kid whereas anorexia = rich white girl.

  31. January 8, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Dear Matt Norwood,
    I am not a rich white girl.
    Economic class and race play a huge role in nutrition, obesity, disordered eating, and fitness. But to say that obesity or disordered eating are decidedly a rich white girl issue or decidedly a poor black kid issue are off base.
    The community I grew up my academic or other ambitions seriously unless I acted, dressed, and looked the part of a highly successful, upper middle class Euro-American. My siblings have/are experiencing the same thing. We do not do this for reasons of vanity or pride (or at least these aren’t the primary reasons). I was one of three biracial students who graduated high school near the top of our class. Note the biracial part, because nobody who was fully non-white managed to do this. My community was not ethnically diverse to begin with, and a huge part of the problem stemmed from low expectations. People expect a lot less of you if you are visably poorer than average or less white or not white. This is a huge problem as you are far less likely to have opportunities or doors opened if you don’t leave race and class at home. If you want your name to be on the list when it comes time for scholarship nominations, it is in your best interest to compete with, emulate, and put yourself in the same social group as the smart, have-it-all, white girls.
    Of course nobody wants to admit to this. I realize that saying this will make me look like a total race traitor. Where I stand, publically admitting to disordered eating announces to the world that you have betrayed a part of who you are to get ahead.
    The point is that when the rich, white girl gets to go to the best colleges or be prom queen or have the respect of others you’ll do what it takes.
    I have never wanted to be this week’s cover girl, but the people I needed to act/be like were still overwhelmingly white, thin, and well off.
    Perhaps if I had grown up in a more ethnically and economically diverse area things would be different. I like to hope this is less of a problem where people of color or people from working class families succeed how my culture (and I) define it.
    But for today, we still have kids opting out of our free lunches to look like that ideal.
    Please, please, please acknowledge this.

  32. Sniper
    January 8, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I wonder if the diagnosis is race-based and racist. Kids with learning disorders or emotional problems from middle-class and rich families are dianosed early and usually receive treatment. It might be years before the badass from a poor neighborhood is diagnosed as bi-polar.

    It might be working the same way with eating disorders. Very few of our students are white, and none are rich, but I see plenty of kids who have serious eating problems. Nobody talks about it in terms of anorexia or bulimia, though.

    Thankfully, we are right next door to a clinic so we can refer kids quite easily. Of course, it may be that we’re a little uneasy talking about nutrition when we serve mostly crap at meals.

  33. January 8, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    P.S. I detested weigh in day as well. The fact that they also noted your height and eye sight made it slightly better because your classmates were busy at the other stations. Also, I think/hope that they did it mostly to track any substantial changes that might indicate a need for glasses or a social worker.

  34. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    For the most part, I think your post is dead-on in picking out the important issues here. I worry a bit, though, whenever anti-obesity measures are criticized in the name of preventing eating disorders: the former is decidedly a poor black kid issue, the latter decidedly a rich white girl issue,

    Not so, not so. I don’t think it’s as “decided” as you seem to. I think that’s a problem with perception. Plenty of black kids have burgeoning eating disorders, too. In fact, I think race can also factor in, since body type differences are often misread as obesity.

    I’d be willing to bet that in every school where obesity is considered a major problem, there are other students who appear “healthy” because they’re thin, but are malnourished or are living sedentary lifestyles or are surviving off of diet coke and iceberg lettuce or are prime candidates for osteoperosis later in life.

    I’ve already told this story on this site in another obesity thread, but it’s germane to the 2 quotes pulled above: I’m a standard mesomorph build, and will never be considered thin in any but an alternate universe. In middle and high school, it was routinely accepted (decided, if you will), that I was fat. Even though I played varsity sports, swam, biked long distances, walked to school. At the 10th-grade yearly weigh-in students’ body fat percentages were measured with calipers, and it became clear that my body fat percentage was pretty much as low as it should be if I wasn’t training for a marathon or anything. This was a huge surprise to everyone, because I was the biggest girl, and there were several much skinnier girls with much higher body fat percentages.

    I was 5’8″. I was a C-cup, I was a dress size 16. Looking back, I was hawt, but I was also one of 3 black girls in a school of ~1500 white kids, in a very white city in a very white state. So I wasn’t considered attractive, I was considered fat. It fed into a sense of hopelessness about and mistrust for my body that I am still trying to shake 15-20 years later, and disordered binge eating (inherited from my equally mesomorphic, middle-class raised, white mom) has been a symptom of that.

    Both of these issues are all over the place. Race and class may feed into them differently, but they’re all over.

  35. Raging Moderate
    January 8, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    and further attacking people for being overweight

    I read the article, and I didn’t see any examples of anyone being attacked for being overweight. Where did you see it?

    Here, two kinds of children are teased about their weight: the hugely fat and the thin.

    That happened to my girlfriend’s daughter. She’s one of those really skinny kids who eats a ton (but healthily – she enjoys fruits and veggies more than junk food – her mom taught her well). She has been harassed for being too skinny by the girls at her school.

    We spoke to the principal about it at parent – teacher night. She explained that in her 35 years in education, those who are different are always picked on. Since being overweight is now the norm, the skinny kids are now the targets as they are the minority.

    We had weigh-ins like once a year. I don’t know what the actual purpose was.

    We didn’t have weigh-ins, but we had a body fat test as part of the Canada Fitness Test every year (still remember that the worst part was that the calipers were always cold). The purpose was to show the kids (and their parents) how their body fat was progressing (along with their scores in the physical tests). It was basically an annual physical report card. This test was administered every year in elementary school and high school, and there was similar test in cegep. It has since been discontinued, but there are rumors of it being resurrected as one measure (of many) to try to combat the obesity epidemic in Canada.

    I’ve noticed a paucity of kids outside in most neighborhoods I’ve been in recently.

    Anectodal evidence to be sure, but when I’ve discussed this with friends, a major concern is that their kids will be abducted and murdered if they let them play outside. Never mind that they’re more likely to be killed in a car crash on the ride to or from their friend’s house. It’s very strange.

    I find it difficult to believe though that parents are unable to afford healthy groceries.

    While I’m sure that is an issue for many people, I don’t believe it’s the major factor for most overweight people. I’ve mentioned it here before, but I have three supermarkets with a very good selection of healthy food within walking distance of my house (we have veggies or salad with almost every meal, and we always have more fruits than junk food around). The fact that most of my neighbors are overweight (with many being clearly obese) is not due to a lack of healthy foods. Not to mention the multi-millionaire VP at my company who weighs 350 pounds.

    For other families the problem is education. They just don’t see what’s wrong with a 10-year-old having a twinkie and a cup of coffee for breakfast.

    Absolutely. But how do we educate them without being accused of “fat-shaming”?

    I would bet that a majority of the children with a high BMI (where it accurately reports that a child is overweight) come from homes where the parents are overweight or obese too.

    I agree. I know of families where not only are the parents and kids obese, but the pets are too.

  36. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    It would have been so nice when I was in school to have had Phy.Ed. that wasn’t all geared toward competitive games. I truly dislike playing sports where the only real goal is winning, and the kids who aren’t naturally athletic or are klutzy or something are harrassed by the ones that are more talented.

    Word. One thing my school district did well was have a variety of topics covered in PE classes. Everything I know about strength training and weight training I learned in 7th grade PE class.

  37. FashionablyEvil
    January 8, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    When I entered middle school in fifth grade, the superintendent announced at Back to School Night that the majority of students would gain somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 pounds in 4 years (my mom tells this story). He assured the parents that this was normal, healthy growth. When my mom told me this, I didn’t quite believe her that it was “normal”, but lo and behold, 4 years later I was 7 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier. I think this message (combined with one from home that food was a happy thing, not a way to punish yourself/something you should punish yourself for enjoying) went a long way in helping me maintain a (relatively) healthy body image despite the fact that I was bigger than nearly all of my classmates.

    The other major part, though, was learning what my body was capable of doing. My boyfriend in college was, by his own admission, a bit vain (he’d been really skinny as a teenager), and was at the gym at least three times a week. Eventually I got in the habit of tagging along and now I lift weights and do cardio three times a week. I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, but what keeps me going is not the prospect of buying size six jeans, but the fact that I like feeling strong and capable.

    Would that there was some way to teach these lessons in school…

  38. January 8, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    I read the article, and I didn’t see any examples of anyone being attacked for being overweight. Where did you see it?

    Did you go to middle school?

    The article may not directly attack overweight kids, but it assumes that overweight kids have traditionally been bullied (and they have). These report cards basically give school-sanctioned reasons to bully.

  39. Mnemosyne
    January 8, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Mnemosyne, I know grown women who have competitions like that with their co-workers. Sponsored by the employer’s HR department, no less.

    I know a national TV network with a hit show that does the same thing, with better prizes.

    At the risk of getting slammed all over again like I did last week — I don’t think that losing weight is, in and of itself, a bad thing, if you do it in a healthy way. It’s not “anti-feminist” to take off a few pounds and start going to the gym.

    But it gets a bad rap because, on the one side, you have the snake-oil salesmen (from TrimSpa to Atkins) and, on the other side, you have the snake-oil buyers, whether they’re buying a pill, a bariatric procedure, or just deciding that eating nothing but lettuce and black coffee is a “diet.”

  40. zuzu
    January 8, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Did you go to middle school?

    You kidding? He never left.

    RM, do you have any support for your claim that “being overweight is now the norm”?

  41. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Absolutely. But how do we educate them without being accused of “fat-shaming”?

    Please. If one can’t tell the difference between education and hectoring then one shouldn’t be teaching.

    Promoting good nutrition and healthy activity systemically (as Jill did attempt to address in her post), instead of just bossing people around and then putting the onus on them (because they’re stubborn or lazy, just as examples) would be a good start.

    Having a view of health that takes into account factors other than height:weight ratio would also help. Personally, I think the BMI method gets way too much credence. It doesn’t hold for athletes, it doesn’t account for girl parts, in many ways it’s just as useless as the old military charts which were basically subjective.

  42. January 8, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    Did you go to middle school?

    You kidding? He never left.

    Nice!

  43. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    God I love you, zuzu.

  44. kate
    January 8, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    When I was a welfare mom and my three kids were in school, everything was about shaming. I never had money for field trips, the kids didn’t have the latest clothes, I was unorganized as I was lobbying for welfare reform and going to school and dealing with raising three kids on nothing. And don’t you think I wasn’t shamed everyday for not being a compliant woman, a good mother or what have you.

    None of my children were ever overweight, but my youngest daughter has always been naturally thin. Of all of us during that time, I was the one to gain weight as my slower metabolism couldn’t handle the cheap meals (mac and cheese in a box, ramen noodles, canned soups) that we so often ate.

    Didn’t the school counselor jump on that one day, asking me about how much my daughter got to eat each day while looking me up and down, making clear her suggestion that I was raiding the fridge and starving my daughter.

    Shame lets people know who the good and the bad are, where the rules lie and serves as a way to punish and make examples of those who don’t fit.

    It also serves to paralyze those who might fight to make change for the better, to break out of destructive habits or to question authority.

    To hell with shame, its useless.

  45. Raging Moderate
    January 8, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Did you go to middle school?

    Actually, no. I don’t think we have them in Canada. Not in Quebec, anyway.

    The article may not directly attack overweight kids, but it assumes that overweight kids have traditionally been bullied (and they have).

    I don’t understand. Correctly assuming that overweight kids have been bullied is an attack on overweight kids?

    These report cards basically give school-sanctioned reasons to bully.

    In a way, I can see your point here. But I think that kids will find a reason to bully others even without these report cards. I will hazard a guess that bullying occurred before these reports existed.

    That principal I mentioned earlier told us of how they implemented school uniforms to try to curb kids being picked on because of their clothes. Did it work? Nope. They pick on kids because of their shoes now. I don’t think it’ll ever go away. Kids are cruel.

    Also, according to the article and my own recent experience, the kids who have a greater chance of being bullied due to these reports are the kids who have a low BMI. The majority always bullies the minority. Now the overweight are the majority.

    But it gets a bad rap because, on the one side, you have the snake-oil salesmen

    True. Some people view everyone who states the health risks of being overweight (and the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise) as a part of the “unecessary weight loss” conspiracy, whose goal is to sell diet books and pills.

    Eventually, it’ll go the way of the “smoking isn’t unhealthy” movement.

  46. Raging Moderate
    January 8, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    RM, do you have any support for your claim that “being overweight is now the norm”?

    From Health Canada:

    Statistics Canada reports that two out of every three adults in Canada are overweight or obese.

    The proportion of obese children has nearly tripled in the last 25 years. The increases were seen for both boys and girls and across all age groups except pre-schoolers. As well, more than half of Canadian children and youth are not active enough for optimal growth and development.

  47. zuzu
    January 8, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    Statistics Canada reports that two out of every three adults in Canada are overweight or obese.

    Adults are going to grade school?

  48. Aja
    January 8, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    I was 5′8″. I was a C-cup, I was a dress size 16. Looking back, I was hawt, but I was also one of 3 black girls in a school of ~1500 white kids, in a very white city in a very white state. So I wasn’t considered attractive, I was considered fat. It fed into a sense of hopelessness about and mistrust for my body that I am still trying to shake 15-20 years later

    I had a very similar experience growing up. I was one of two black girls in school, and it was just a very matter of fact assertion that I was fat and ugly. It’s true, you don’t shake those things easily. My whole life since then has been trying to rid myself of that, with varying degrees of success.

    It’s hard to explain to people that you’re having body image/food issues when the prevailing thought is that it’s a white girl’s problem.

  49. rabbit
    January 8, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    State mandates do help a bit: when I was growing up in Illinois (late 70s to late 80s), public schools were required to have PE classes every single day. The only way to get out of it was to be either a varsity or junior varsity team member, which meant that your team practice counted as your PE. And though I was a bit overweight, I was a heck of a lot thinner than I am now or have been since.

    Still the case, more or less, as far as I know. I graduated in ’02 in Illinois, and I was allowed to get out of PE only senior year by writing a letter saying that I needed every period for academics. That was the only year of my schooling I didn’t have gym pretty much every day.

  50. zuzu
    January 8, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    The majority always bullies the minority. Now the overweight are the majority.

    Funny, that article says that the 6-year-old — who wasn’t overweight — was in the 80th percentile of BMI. Which would indicate that the overweight are not actually in the majority at that age. I think you’re confusing the overall population with the school-age population. Or you just have a really odd definition of “majority.”

    You yourself have made it clear that you think that being overweight is a moral failing.

  51. Raging Moderate
    January 8, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Adults are going to grade school?

    My mistake.

    Here’s some more relvant info:

    The prevalence of boys and girls classified as overweight in 1996 was 33% and 26%, respectively. The corresponding figures for obesity were 10% for boys and 9% for girls.

    That’s ten years ago. Based on what teachers and doctors tell me (I have friends in both professions), and what my eyes tell me (I’m active in my kids’ schools, I’m a little league baseball coach, and I take the kids to the public pool often) I’d be willing to bet that those numbers are over 50% by now.

    Unless, for some reason, the skinny kids in my neighborhood don’t go to school, the doctor, the park, or the pool.

  52. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    I don’t understand. Correctly assuming that overweight kids have been bullied is an attack on overweight kids?

    NO. The article doesn’t constitute an attack on overweight kids. The article takes as a given that overweight kids are already bullying targets, and discusses how sending home BMI reports with report cards can freak kids out because:
    1. they take it as a referendum on their weight, and
    2. it puts administrative weight behind what is already a bullying problem, and then
    3. puts the onus for the kids’ weight on the kids without offering any systemic help.

    Do you have reading comprehension problems or are you just needling?

  53. zuzu
    January 8, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    The prevalence of boys and girls classified as overweight in 1996 was 33% and 26%, respectively. The corresponding figures for obesity were 10% for boys and 9% for girls.

    Are these overlapping groups?

    That’s ten years ago. Based on what teachers and doctors tell me (I have friends in both professions), and what my eyes tell me (I’m active in my kids’ schools, I’m a little league baseball coach, and I take the kids to the public pool often) I’d be willing to bet that those numbers are over 50% by now.

    Unless, for some reason, the skinny kids in my neighborhood don’t go to school, the doctor, the park, or the pool.

    Plural of anecdote is not data. You may be seeing them everywhere because you’re looking for them; same with the teachers and doctors.

  54. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    True. Some people view everyone who states the health risks of being overweight (and the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise) as a part of the “unecessary weight loss” conspiracy, whose goal is to sell diet books and pills.

    I thought what they meant by “snake-oil salesmen” were the concerns selling get-thin-quick remedies that rarely work and are often harmful, They also mentioned the people who buy the snake oil, sometimes out of desperation, sometimes because they don’t know any better. I honestly don’t think they meant that anyone who thinks weight loss can be a necessary thing is selling snake oil.

    RM, would you just please, please go away on this topic? Your questions aren’t constructive, and I for one am tired of your attitude.

  55. Raging Moderate
    January 8, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    You yourself have made it clear that you think that being overweight is a moral failing.

    I have probably been unclear, or you misinterpret me.

    My family is full of wonderful, moral people who are overweight or obese. But I’m getting sick of watching them die in their 40’s and 50’s from health related issues.

    I don’t think being overweight is a moral failure, but that the level of overweight and obesity is a national problem (especially in countries like Canada with universal health care).

    I put it in the same category as smoking, alcoholism, and drug abuse; they are not bad people, but they are doing bad things to their bodies (which is their right), and doing bad things to our nation (which will cost us all in the long run).

    Many smokers, alcoholics, and drug addicts are in that situation for the same reasons many people are overweight or obese. We tell them that those behaviors will kill them, but it is not considered “shaming”, but good public and health policy.

  56. Betsy
    January 8, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    I worry a bit, though, whenever anti-obesity measures are criticized in the name of preventing eating disorders: the former is decidedly a poor black kid issue, the latter decidedly a rich white girl issue

    Ok I know several people have already called this out, but I feel compelled to chime in. One of my dearest friends suffered from severe anorexia in college, and although she is white, she was definitely not rich. To the contrary – she spent her early childhood in a cabin without electricity, and in middle/high school her family required food stamps after her mother left her father due to physical abuse. She has always been a super-over-achiever, president of her class in high school, etc. and so forth. And in college she developed a very serious and dangerous case of anorexia. Thank god, she’s healthy in every way now – physically and mentally.
    Anyway, just a little reminder to people that “rich” doesn’t automatically go with “white” any more than “poor” automatically goes with “black,” and people usually don’t fit neatly into the boxes we try to push them into.

    And, as Jill rightly pointed out, “eating disorder” doesn’t always go with “girl.”

    Anyway, it’s not like we need to have an either/or approach in which EITHER we try to prevent obesity and shame fat kids OR we worry about eating disorders and act like any eating/exercise habits are ok as long as you’re not starving/purging. If the nation (or in this case, people designing policies) took a healthy, balanced, positive approach toward food, eating, and activity, it would be better for kids on both ends of the spectrum; it would teach them (ideally) that fresh, good food is something to be enjoyed and savored, rather than obsessed over or “indulged” in.

  57. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    Also RM, can I tell you how unimpressed I am with your interpretation of what your eyes tell you on this topic? Particularly given that what a number of commenters are talking about is the lack of systemic support for a healthy lifestyle, as well as subjective misdiagnosis of kids as fat, whether underscored by BMI ratings or not?

  58. Raging Moderate
    January 8, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    But I’m getting sick of watching them die in their 40’s and 50’s from health related issues.

    Oops. That’s weight related issues.

    You may be seeing them everywhere because you’re looking for them

    True enough. I may be biased due to my family history.

    But why would Heath Canada and StatsCan be actively looking for them? What’s in it for them to trump up a false epidemic?

    The snake-oil salesman I understand; it’s for monetary gain.

    But why would respected and trusted Canadian governmental agencies be doing it? What’s their motive?

  59. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Many smokers, alcoholics, and drug addicts are in that situation for the same reasons many people are overweight or obese. We tell them that those behaviors will kill them, but it is not considered “shaming”, but good public and health policy.

    Are you conflating obesity with food addiction? Because they aren’t the same thing, you know.

  60. Alexandra Lynch
    January 8, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Another white mesomorph. My people are from up around the Baltic in Europe, from the area that’s currently Poland and used to be German. At 5’7″ I’m one of the two shortest women in the family.

    It has become clear that the family growth pattern in girls involves gaining quite a bit of weight at about twelve, having the menses start, and then growing at an amazing rate, so that the kid grows seven or eight inches in the next four years (or more) and on girls, the pudge goes to places that make men whistle when you walk past.

    It took me years to get past the bulemia. I did it myself, with the help of a book and some hellish willpower expenditure. I am currently fat. I would like to lose weight. And I’ll see about doing that when I get my thyroid balanced, because otherwise, it’s no good trying.

    My eldest son is twelve, and suddenly has got pudgy. I’m just making sure he keeps moving, and keeps eating a balanced diet. And saving up money because I think this coming year we start buying him new shoes every two months as he outgrows the next set. But I’m not going to try to tell him not to be pudgy, the way I can tell him to put the toilet seat down. We’re working on moving, and on doing, and on being confident in who we are. Because confidence and self-love is sexy, no matter what your BMI is.

  61. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    But I’m not going to try to tell him not to be pudgy, the way I can tell him to put the toilet seat down.

    I think this is a really good point that gets glossed over or missed entirely so often– that you can’t just command someone to tighten up/ lighten up and expect anything to change.

  62. Raging Moderate
    January 8, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Also RM, can I tell you how unimpressed I am with your interpretation of what your eyes tell you on this topic?

    Sure. Can I tell you that I think the war in Iraq is going swimmingly, regardless of what your eyes tell you?

    Particularly given that what a number of commenters are talking about is the lack of systemic support for a healthy lifestyle

    I think those comments bolster my argument that the majority of North Americans are overweight, instead of contradicting them. It’s one of the reasons why there are so many overweight people, not a reason why there aren’t as many as I think.

    Are you conflating obesity with food addiction?

    No. I’m just saying that all are self-destructive behaviors that are very difficult to stop, whatever the reasons for engaging in those behaviors are.

  63. January 8, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    I sometimes don’t feel thin because my body shape is ‘wrong'(i.e. I’m a pear). I sometimes feel that straight up and down women are thinner even though they are heavier. Social influence scrambles my brain. Also I think some kids aren’t getting fed at home, so when they see abundant food at school, they may be tempted to gorge themselves. Also, gym classes suck. They don’t teach skills you can take from place to place. If folks are shooting on your street, you’re not going to go out and play baseball.

  64. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Also RM, can I tell you how unimpressed I am with your interpretation of what your eyes tell you on this topic?

    Sure. Can I tell you that I think the war in Iraq is going swimmingly, regardless of what your eyes tell you?

    Stop that. One has nothing to do with the other. If you don’t like my tone, that’s one thing, but mimicking it to try to make a point is not right.

    Particularly given that what a number of commenters are talking about is the lack of systemic support for a healthy lifestyle

    I think those comments bolster my argument that the majority of North Americans are overweight, instead of contradicting them. It’s one of the reasons why there are so many overweight people, not a reason why there aren’t as many as I think.

    Dude, you totally left out the important part of that sentence you quoted. I tried to underscore said importance by italicizing it in the first place. My point was that I don’t care what your eyes tell you because that is your personal subjective distinction, and your (or anyone else’s) personal subjective distinction about what you (or another, not you personally) perceive to be someone else’s level of fatness is not helpful.

    Are you conflating obesity with food addiction?

    No. I’m just saying that all are self-destructive behaviors that are very difficult to stop, whatever the reasons for engaging in those behaviors are.

    According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, addiction is defined as

    1 : the quality or state of being addicted
    2 : compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful

    So, addictions are characterized by persistent self-desctructive behaviors that are difficult to stop. Obesity is not a behavior. Maybe you didn’t mean to, but I think you are, in effect, mixing up obesity with food addiction in this instance.

  65. Regina
    January 8, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    I apologize in advance if the formatting of my previous comment makes it difficult to distinguish quotes of my comments from quotes of RM’s comments.

  66. car
    January 8, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Kids have school physicals, no? Everywhere I’ve been it’s been mandatory every year to be admitted in the next year. The doctor checks height and weight. If families can’t afford a doctor, the school nurse does the physical.(again in the places I’ve lived) That’s the time to discuss the child’s weight, not as a part of a school report. It’s none of the school’s business, as far as I’m concerned. If schools are concerned, they need to put their money where their mouths are and seek out good cafeteria food, do a school garden, etc. There are lots of examples of this now; they don’t have to invent the wheel. Teach nutrition, lead by example, but for god’s sake don’t do it by hectoring children on their body image.

  67. exangelena
    January 8, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Interesting that girls were the subject and illustration of this article, whereas men have higher obesity rates and their apple shaped obesity is more likely to cause health problems (I remember the “butt fat doesn’t hurt you!” discussion here awhile ago.)
    Obesity is a problem, but it is not ok to shame kids like this. At a very young age it is probably the parents’ fault or environmental factors (like neighborhood, socioeconomic status etc.) that is responsible. Plus, having gone to a predominantly white middle class blue state suburban middle school with low rates of overweight, I can imagine girls comparing BMIs to see who is truly the thinnest of the thin, and of course the lowest BMI wins, even if it’s horribly unhealthy. Much disordered eating and body image crap ensues.

  68. exangelena
    January 8, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    The persecution of skinny people? Maybe if they are unattractive or have some other thing wrong with them (bad skin, big ears etc.) But see also: white people complaining about affirmative action or how it’s just terrible! to be a minority in places like California and Hawaii.

  69. exangelena
    January 8, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    Or how could I forget? MRAs!

  70. PhoenixRising
    January 8, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    The NYTimes should start running a headline over that section in 36 pt type: Can You Believe We Paid Someone to Verify The Obvious, With Actual Quotes?

    Kids who attend public schools that serve funnel cake–a food I allow my kid to eat once a year at the fair, because if you’re not risking the trots with deep-fried poisons it’s not really The Fair, a food that causes the malady referred to in our family as Fair Tummy (think rolling around on the bed moaning ‘I can’t believe we ate that!’ as the diagnostic criteria)–have high BMI.

    And the surprise here is what?

    Seriously: Vanessa, you’re caught in the conspiracy to enfatten our children, as we like to describe it in our home. The hardest part of raising a girl child has been teaching healthy eating habits. The barriers include: Other kids. Other kids’ parents. The price of frigging organic carrots. Corn syrup in frigging everything that isn’t 10 dollars an ounce.

    We have a friend who is a dietician and nutritional consultant and has stopped sending her first grader to one of the Duke City’s most expensive schools with an apple for dessert. The other kids are teasing her about it, because fruit is not dessert, Fruity Squishy Crap ™ is dessert. However, a 24 year old alumna of that same school reports that she was constantly teased at school after being the first fourth grader to grow breasts–because that made her the fat kid. So if you’re a girl stuck in a girl’s body, you’re screwed either way.

    Get the Super Baby Food book if you’ve started supplementing with people food. It will teach you how to make food that your little pumpkin will eat that doesn’t have hidden crap–and it’s way way cheaper than bottled. (If you can’t find it or afford it, email me and I’ll get you a copy, as we’re not going to need it in the future.)

  71. zuzu
    January 8, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    No. I’m just saying that all are self-destructive behaviors that are very difficult to stop, whatever the reasons for engaging in those behaviors are.

    So, you can’t seem to make up your mind whether you agree that there’s a structural element to the increase of weight issues over the years, or if you think the individual is just being self-destructive.

    The point of Jill’s post is that the structural issues are not being addressed, and instead, shaming is being deployed by the schools so they can look like they’re doing something about childhood obesity even as they continue to serve kids funnel cakes and only give them gym class half the year. Shame is a lot cheaper than nutrition, for example.

    So even though we know that there are enormous structural hurdles in the way of kids losing weight — structural problems created by the schools and government — the problem is cast as an individual one. And that’s where we get medical professionals saying piously that all we need to do is shock the kids and their parents to solve the problem and commenters in every discussion about weight just being concerned for their health, because of course they can’t know they’re fat, or that there are health risks.

    And in the meantime, nobody does a damn thing about school funding so that cafeterias can serve decent food and kids can have sufficient time for physical activity. And nobody does anything about traffic so kids can be safe walking to school.

  72. January 8, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    ex, I agree. If anyone hears me bitch about the greater avaliability of plus size clothing on ebay, please, smack me with a fish.

  73. zuzu
    January 8, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Incidentally, Vanessa — when I was a bit older than a baby, there was a “salt scare” for processed baby foods. So when my younger brothers came along, my mother made her own baby food, mostly by just throwing whatever the rest of us were eating in a blender (she did cook on the bland side). By the time my youngest brother came along, the major manufacturers stopped adding salt.

    Nobody cared about added sugar, though.

    Incidentally, the twins are the only ones of the six of us with good eyes and teeth. They have the same weight issues the rest of us do, but they have normal vision and only one cavity between the two of them. The rest of us have multiple fillings.

    Just a data point.

  74. MARes
    January 9, 2007 at 12:42 am

    Honestly, I am in high school and I think gym class should be eliminated altogether. It’s really pointless. Even if we had it every single day (which we actually do for large swaths of the year), it doesn’t accomplish a damn thing. All it is is ritual humiliation for the larger sized people, who get picked last and then walk around trying to avoid the ball, not wanting to get sweaty because we also have communal showers, second exercise in ritual humiliation, plus wet hair and the other things that matter in high school. Gym class isn’t anyone’s path to fitness, and it doesn’t do anyone any good. By the time you figure in changing time at the beginning and changing and shower time at teh end, picking teams, there isn’t time to do anything even for anyone who’s so inclined. It would be better, imo, to just have the gym teachers demonstrate effective exercises that kids can do in the privacy of their own bedrooms or something.

    As far as sending home information, yeah great idea. Like someone could get through life as a larger size person and not know it? I doubt it. A lot of kids are overweight partly because of emotional/family issues and they’re already dealing with crap from their peers (actually even normal weight kids tend to be harassed by underweight peers and siblings in my experience) plus harassment from their parents. That will help, how? And if parents aren’t buying healthy food, it’s often because junk is cheaper and again I don’t see any help for that in this program. I am lucky in that I have a good metabolism, but I come from a family where you get yelled at if you take too many vegetables. I don’t see how this kind of interference is going to help messed up parent.child issues/dynamics that cover a lot more than just food.

  75. January 9, 2007 at 1:53 am

    Also, according to the article and my own recent experience, the kids who have a greater chance of being bullied due to these reports are the kids who have a low BMI. The majority always bullies the minority. Now the overweight are the majority.

    Well, the one thing that can be said for RM is that, if as is claimed laughter is an aerobic workout, he contributes largely to improving the fitness level wherever he goes.

  76. January 9, 2007 at 1:56 am

    Honestly, I am in high school and I think gym class should be eliminated altogether. It’s really pointless. Even if we had it every single day (which we actually do for large swaths of the year), it doesn’t accomplish a damn thing. All it is is ritual humiliation for the larger sized people, who get picked last and then walk around trying to avoid the ball, not wanting to get sweaty because we also have communal showers, second exercise in ritual humiliation, plus wet hair and the other things that matter in high school. Gym class isn’t anyone’s path to fitness, and it doesn’t do anyone any good.

    Word. I was never large, but I was (and am) deeply, deeply unathletic–clumsy, slow, completely incapable of aiming anything, lacking in upper body strength–and middle school gym was hell. HELL. Mostly due to other kids, though occasionally due to teachers (I had a variety of teachers. some were nice. others were not).

    Except, I will say, for the trimesters I got to do jujitsu, which was fun because it was not vigorously athletic and it was not competitive! No one really cared how hard you could punch, because we were learning about the form of the punches, and even I was coordinated enough to figure out how to keep my wrist straight after a while. But, I went to a wealthy private middle school that could afford things like a jujitsu teacher (who had the awesomely Upper West Side name of Sensei Bernstein).

  77. JM
    January 9, 2007 at 3:27 am

    “the majority always bullies the minority. Now the overweight are the majority.”

    That certainly explains why jocks, especially football players and cheerleaders, the extremely wealthy, the designer clad, the model beautiful and extremely thin, and the blonde tressed, are generally at the top of the social pecking order at every school. They just vastly outnumber the other students.

  78. car
    January 9, 2007 at 7:42 am

    It looks like parents are almost uniformly against this thing – this seems to me to be the kind of situation where parental input could be of great use. If any of these schools have a PTA, this would be a fabulous time to wield their (ok, small) power. “Oh, you need a fundraiser? Sorry, we’re not doing any activities for the school until you stop this asinine BMI report card business.” For some schools, that would shape them up pretty quickly. My children’s PTA funds almost all the extracurriculars at their school.

  79. Sara
    January 9, 2007 at 9:44 am

    Another white mesomorph – by 13 I was 5’8″, probably about 150 pounds, and still growing. Conventional wisdom among my classmates was I was fat. I got mocked for my “fat ass” in my boy jeans (I didn’t get a waist until high school).

    I look back at pictures of me at that age, and later in High School, and I know now, with a heartwrenching certainty, that I looked *good*. That the guy friend who confessed during truth or dare that “You’re a long-legged blonde, what’s not to like?” was telling the truth… But without the confidence to carry my size, I slouched and hid behind huge clothes, and 20+ years later, I”m fighting the aftereffects and attitudes of being told that for girls, bigger is *not* better.

  80. zuzu
    January 9, 2007 at 9:47 am

    It looks like parents are almost uniformly against this thing – this seems to me to be the kind of situation where parental input could be of great use.

    Seems like the attitude is that the parents must not know their kids are fat, and must be told immediately!

  81. jennie
    January 9, 2007 at 9:58 am

    MARes, saying that phys-ed should be abolished because whent it’s poorly taught it’s humiliating for kids who are larger or less coordinated is like saying math should be abolished because when it’s poorly taught it’s humiliating for all the kids who are bad at numbers. You know, doing equations at the board, knowing that everyone can see that you reallly don’t understand what to do with a polynomial but you can’t even see them snickering because your back is to the entire room, and you’re waiting for the teacher’s sarcasm to cut through your fog of stress and humiliation and explain to everyone how if we had been paying attention we’d understand how to factor an equation, blah blah blah BEDMAS, all retire to our chairs in deep embarrasment.

    It’s not the subject. It’s the teaching.

    In elementary school, phys ed is often taught by classroom teachers, who didn’t study it themselves, may themselves be not-very-fit, and don’t really understand the paedogogy of health, phys-ed and games. It’s not about being good at sports: It’s about providing kids with a template for healthy, active living, and working to improve their physical skills and fitness levels. But teachers often don’t know how to do this themselves, at the elementary level.

    In secondary schools (I don’t know about middle schools, since as RM has pointed out, we don’t tend to have them in Canada), you get specialist phys-ed teachers. They’re not all great, but most of the ones I’ve met (and since I work for a publisher of phys-ed textbooks, I’ve met a few) are pretty committed to teaching students how to take care of their own health and fitness. They’re actually not interested in teaching the jocks: They know the jocks are going to be out there on the football team or swim team or soccer team or cheerleading team, in the weight room, on the track, without any extra support. They’re interested in the kids … well, like I was …
    who are game and willing and want to be fit and healthy, but are, under no circumstances, fodder for any but the most desperate of school teams (hand-eye coordination? That’s when somebody throws a ball at you, and you reach out to catch it and it flies past you about three inches beyond your outstretched fingers, right?)

    So just as a good math teacher will find ways to avoid humiliating the kid who just can’t quite get the numbers thing, by coaching them through a problem, or by giving them extra help or by not singling them out when they’re struggling for mockery and scorn, a good phys-ed teacher has a bunch of techniques for helping-not-humiliating the kids who aren’t going to be anyone’s first choice for a team. They randomize teams, using decks of cards or count-offs. They’ll create a separate tournament for the kids who really suck at a particular game. They grade based on kids’ understanding of concepts and abilities to describe physical skills that the kids can’t necessarily perform, at this stage. They work on creating individual fitness plans for kids that focus on improvement starting from where the kid is, rather than on reaching some abstract goal. Students’ assessments are personal, and students are never ranked against other students.

    I’m not trying to rehabilitate your memories of gym class. I kinda hated it too, most years, but I also hated math class (and, for one dreadful year, French class. Even in subjects I loved, a bad teacher could really ruin the experience.) But do consider that the problem may not have been the subject matter, so much as the incompetence of your teachers.

  82. Frumious B
    January 9, 2007 at 10:11 am

    BMI is a seriously flawed standard,

    This is such a rediculous canard. Anyone can tell by looking whether a person with a high BMI is fat or muscular.

  83. January 9, 2007 at 10:40 am

    I worry a bit, though, whenever anti-obesity measures are criticized in the name of preventing eating disorders: the former is decidedly a poor black kid issue, the latter decidedly a rich white girl issue,

    Because, of course, there’s no such thing as compulsive overeating. Or bulimia, which in some people leads to weight gain rather than weight loss. I think everybody else has covered the other problems with this viewpoint.

  84. January 9, 2007 at 10:44 am

    This is such a rediculous canard. Anyone can tell by looking whether a person with a high BMI is fat or muscular.

    Even if that were true, doesn’t it prove that the BMI is ridiculous? If a muscular person and a fat person have the same BMI, and one is “healthy” and the other is “not healthy,” but they’re both getting report cards sent home saying that they’re overweight — wouldn’t that demonstrate that something is flawed?

  85. BStu
    January 9, 2007 at 10:59 am

    I’m all for encouaging a healthy relationship with eating and activity. While I’m not as convinced as others that this is really a problem, if done genuinely, this is not an issue. But its not being done genuinely. Its being done as a weight loss measure. And there is the problem. Because that means you’re not really encouraging people to be healthy and active. Your encouraging them to be thin. And when being healthy and active doesn’t achieve being thin, those people will be branded as failures and will be encouraged to take more extreme measures that will produce a disordered relationship with eating. Stigmatizing fat kids is the problem. Its not a solution. Weight loss efforts haven’t been shown to be successful and lowering weight, but they do mess up your metabolism, screw up your relationship with food and activity, and they actually are overwhelmingly likely to enduce weight gain. Targeted fat kids for shame is the same strategy that has been used for decades. If its so successful, why is the “problem” continuing to get worse?

    We need to take fat out of the picture. Accept kids for the bodies they have and encourage them to have a positive relationship with eating and to find activities that the enjoy and work with their bodies. And we need to stop doing such things in the name of eliminating fat children. Doing so is not just unproductive, its aggressively counterproductive. We need to stop doing right things with the goal of weight loss. Take weight out of the picture and focus on health and fitness at every size. Fat kids are not a blight upon society and we shouldn’t be treating them like they are.

    And we should also remember that a lot of these letters are being sent to kids who are “at risk” of being fat. Meaning they aren’t fat. But they get letters too. Because they aren’t “not fat” enough. But since weight loss efforts almost always result in weight gain, that’ll probably change once they are informed that they should be ashamed to be… well, not thin enough.

  86. Charlotte Smith
    January 9, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Isabel – I think we were separated at birth. Or at the very least had an eerie number of similar experiences. The schools I attended in central/eastern Ontario never did weigh-ins (thank goodness) and were pretty good with the food pyramid, etc. But gym class sucked hard. I have less-than-fond memories of being the only girl on the “rhythmically-challenged” side of the gym during dance class in PE. (Dodgeball, however, was a great way for me to take out my anger at being teased for being fat and ugly.) I wish we’d done more running around/aerobics stuff where everyone could participate and it didn’t feel like the Jock Worship Hour.

    Personally, my overeating has had more to do with depression/dysthymia than anything else. I wonder how many other kids are in the same situation I was (and still am)?

    I also appreciate hearing from other feminists with body issues. This is a wonderful blog and I will be visiting more often.

  87. Pansy P
    January 9, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    In high school, I was a two-sport varsity athlete, and played competitive basketball (among other sports) all year long. We had required physicals to play interscholastic sports, which were offered once a year at the school. My junior year, after the physical, a letter was sent home telling my parents that I was overweight and probably needed to lose weight. My father was livid.

    Was I over the ideal weight for a 16-year-old? Probably. But I was nearly 6 feet tall and worked out 2-3 hours every day. Cutting back on calories was pretty low on the list of things I should’ve been worried about. And god knows, I was 16, I thought I was fat anyway. A letter from the school confirming my neurotic teenage body image issues certainly didn’t help with that opinion.

    Point being, the kids know if they’re overweight. The parents know if the kids are overweight. And BMI is stupid.

  88. January 9, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    jennie: that’s a good point. However, I will say that, in my experience at least, you get made fun of a lot more for sucking at gym than you do for sucking at math. In fact, if you suck at gym, and you’re good at math (like me), you just get made fun of even more.

    Also, while I’ve had (weirdly) many gym teachers over the years (never an academic teacher for a gym teacher though–oh, private schools), the nice ones still didn’t manage to make gym class not suck (except, as I mentioned, my jujitsu teacher, who wasn’t really a gym teacher anyway). I think it’s a cultural thing out of the control of most gym teachers. You’re absolutely right that a subject sucking isn’t a reason to abolish it for the curriculum; my point (which I should have made clear) was that a lot of times I hear “these kids don’t even get gym class most of the time!” and I have to wonder, “and if they did, would that really be any better?” Especially considering that, while there are definitely some good gym teachers out there, the vast majority… well. “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym” is a saying for a reason.

  89. geminimama
    January 9, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    “Teaching your children healthy eating habits is as important a parenting skill as teaching your children to read, count and get along with others. These are fundamental skills children need to learn from the earliest ages to avoid serious health problems later in life.”

    Easier said than done. I have raised my five-year-old on whole-grain, organic, fresh veggie and fruit, mostly vegetarian food since he was a baby. When he gave up baby food at 9 mos, he lived on mostly frozen peas, carrots and corn for months, until he grew enough teeth to chew. He was picky then, and has only gotten pickier, eliminating legumes, rice, most grains, and many vegetables. He lives on milk and macaroni and cheese (only the tubey kind, and even though it’s organic, it’s pretty much nutritionally empty) and fruit, although he’ll eat a big mound or raw kale with balsamic vinagrette or raw carrots for vegetables. Since starting public school, he has discovered chicken nuggets, pepperoni pizza, corndogs/hotdogs, and a huge variety of junk food. When I send him his lunch (he still hasn’t dared to try ground beefy things) it comes home completely uneaten and he is in blood sugar meltdown. He is skin-and-bones, but I’ve long since discovered the more I try to make him eat something, the more determined he is not to. He declares his love of sugary things and junk food regularly (face it, don’t we all love the chocolate.) If it’s this hard instilling nutrition in a kid with two parents committed to super-healthy food, how much harder can it be when you don’t have the time, money, resources, education, experience, etc. to even try to fight against the tide of really bad school lunches and the constant barrage of candy and junk that comes with every so-called holiday? This is not an individual problem, it is a cultural one.

  90. Rose
    January 9, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    When I was 29 years old I became very sick and I couldn’t hold down food. I literally threw up everything I ate, and I became known around the office as a bulemic, although I certainly wasn’t doing it on purpose.

    Of course, I started losing weight, but very slowly because my metabolism had slowed dramatically in response to starvation. The doctors thought I was making this all up, because they couldn’t find the root of the problem and also, I believe, because I was too fat in their opinion to truly be starving. In the meantime, friends, family and co-workers started telling me how great I looked. Now keep in mind that I looked truly miserable, and I was pale as hell. But I was thinner. So I looked “great” and “healthy” and all the things that are associated with being thinner, but I felt like I was probably dying, and nobody was going to help me.

    Eventually, I found a chiropractor who started doing adjutments to my stomach and he saved my life as far as I’m concerned. But in all of that I learned a very valuable lesson. Most of the time people who lecture the overweight about how unhealthy they are don’t give one shit about your health, they care about fitting in, and looking good, and being a good Barbie doll. If a person gets thin though illness, cancer, smoking, or snorting their way there, it’s all good, because in the end you’re thin.

    Bullshit.

  91. Lorelei
    January 9, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    RM, in Quebec, the US ‘middle school’ would count as Secondaire 1 and 2, just for comparison.

  92. Lorelei
    January 9, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    My baby cousin is 10 years old, and last year she had her appendix removed (yes, at 9 years old). She was forced to be completely inactive for about two months while she recovered from surgery, and subsequently gained weight.

    All of us are tall, so even if she ends up being the ‘shortest,’ she’s still going to grow to be 5’5″ at the very least. She’s TEN for god’s sake, and my entire family has been on her ass about her weight. Even if her weight was as important as they thought it was, she’s going to grow half a foot in a year or two anyway! And she does figure skating every fucking day for hours, it seems, and she doesn’t lose weight. How the hell is that her fault?!

    Besides, kids are supposed to be chubby, I think. Maybe because I’m Eastern European, but it always freaks me out when I see skinny kids.

    Now they’re all telling her to strive for my body type. In March 2005 I was 180 pounds at 5’8″. I was raped by my exboyfriend who took the time to make sure I knew he thought I was fat and because of that, depression, self-esteem issues, and my severe PTSD, I lived off a meal a day of pasta, cigarettes, and diet Pepsi. By April 2006, I was 135 pounds. Now I’m 18 and 128 pounds because I can’t stop hating my body (I still think I’m fat). Of course, she doesn’t know this, and my family doesn’t.

    I always wonder if by the time *she’s* 16, she’ll be living off a meal a day, cigarettes, and diet Pepsi, all because my family is full of assholes.

  93. Lorelei
    January 9, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    If a person gets thin though illness, cancer, smoking, or snorting their way there, it’s all good, because in the end you’re thin.

    No, they really don’t. Like I said in my last comment, I lost as much weight as I did by eating close to nothing and smoking cigarettes. People ask me how I’m skinny and I tell them straight out, ‘because I don’t eat and I smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, I don’t recommend it,’ hoping that it’ll serve as an example of some sort, and they don’t seem to understand that it’s actually a bad idea.

    I was also highly considering snorting/swallowing speed for awhile there so I could lose more weight, but Adderall ended up making me feel really shitty, so I was thankfully smart enough to opt out of that one.

  94. Rose
    January 9, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Loreli,

    Many people who are thin achieve it through using some kind of speed (cigarettes are a type of speed). Very few people in a society as unhealthy as the one we live in are either very fat or very skinny because they are making good choices about how to eat and live their lives.

    I hope for your sake you start eating and taking care of yourself. I get the feeling you know that your self-loathing about your own body is harming your very soul, and that’s why you don’t want people to emulate what you’re doing. Loreli, you are better than that, and once you can look in the mirror and love the person you are, your body will follow along with the ride. Meaning, if you need to be a little heavier to be healthy, you will be and you’ll be okay with it because if you love yourself, you have to love the body you live in too.

    Good luck to you, I think you will be okay.

  95. ks
    January 9, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    Personally, I’m in favor of keeping kids in school eight and a half or nine hours a day, not six and a half, and I say that as a former teacher and coordinator of a program for at-risk high school students. I’d keep six hours of academic time, half hour lunch and three 15-minute unstructured breaks during the day, and have an activity period, required PE with elective choices, and a structured study hall with tutors. But no one asks people who actually have experience, and no one would want to hear what we have to say anyway. What’s the bumper sticker say? “It’s a shame the people who know how to run the country are busy teaching school”? I’m not teching school any more, but I haven’t forgotten either

    What she said.

  96. zuzu
    January 9, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    BTW, I read recently that some schools are using Dance Dance Revolution for part of their PE requirement.

  97. car
    January 9, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    This is such a rediculous canard. Anyone can tell by looking whether a person with a high BMI is fat or muscular.

    Except when they’re still idiots about it. I listened to an RN today complain about how her pediatrician was treating her son. He’s 15, 6 feet tall, and weighs 250 pounds, and every last bit of it is muscle. He lifts weights, is on the football team, rides his bike in excess of 500 miles a year, is in marching band, etc. What does the doctor, the DOCTOR who should know better, say? He’s overweight and needs to lose it, because it’s unhealthy to weigh so much. She shot right back at him that if the doctor was so worried about his health, then he should run (insert gamut of bloodwork tests she knows all about) and if any come back with bad numbers, then he’s allowed to talk about the weight. The BMI is gold nonsense has even gotten to the doctors who should be smarter than that.

  98. zuzu
    January 10, 2007 at 10:34 am

    The CDC discourages the use of BMI as a diagnostic tool for children and teens:

    BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for children. CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend the use of BMI to screen for overweight in children beginning at 2 years old.

    For children, BMI is used to screen for overweight, at risk of overweight, or underweight. However, BMI is not a diagnostic tool. For example, a child may have a high BMI for age and sex, but to determine if excess fat is a problem, a health care provider would need to perform further assessments. These assessments might include skinfold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, family history, and other appropriate health screenings.

  99. Linda
    January 11, 2007 at 10:27 am

    You people are all missing the point! First, a rural PA school district should not be compared to a NYC school, where simply there is not enough funding to do EVERYTHING. This is a start in the school system towards fighting the childhood obesity war. The previous replies to this article come from individuals who are very ingnorant to the whole issue. 1. The issue of people not having the money to buy food is not saything that they can not afford any type of food, but generally the cheaper products on the market whether in a grocery store or a fast food restaurant are MUCH cheaper for lower income families than the high priced fruits and vegetables. We are talking about an area where the avg. household income is

Comments are closed.