Childhood obesity. It’s one of the biggest challenges faced by the western world today. New initiatives are springing up like leeks in a Welsh valley all over the UK. Children are being weighed, measured and tested in schools across the island nation. Apparently, school nurses aren’t pulling punches either with letters sent home to parents telling them their child is obese and at risk of cancer, heart attack, asthma, high blood pressure and all sorts of other nasties. They’re making a point of telling the kids too.
One prime example made the front page of Sky News yesterday. I have to say, though it may seem cruel, she’s a real fatty. Truly this girl is disgustingly obese, the very ground must quake beneath her Uggs. Don’t take my word for it, have a look for yourself:
See what I mean? Disgusting. At 3ft 9in she weighs a whopping 3st 9lbs. How could a mother let her child get to such a healthy weight within the recommended limits for a five-year-old? What is the world coming to when a five-year-old’s BMI is 92%, one whole percent higher than the percentage that is classed as healthy? I don’t blame the school for sending a letter to her mother telling her she has been irresponsible enough to let her child get into such a bad shape. I think they were perfectly right to tell the kid she was obese and probably going to die one day because she was fat.
I mean it’s not as if her parents even encourage the child to exercise. She only does ballet, cheerleading, takes long family walks and plays outdoors all the time! What a couch potato! Kids today with their video games and cartoon networks, they never move do they? And parents just go ahead and leave them to it.
How dare the mother react with anger and accuse ‘nanny state Britain’ of scare tactics? Her child is a monster and her health is at risk. It’s clearly her who needs to step up her parenting. Isn’t it?
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m being a tad sarcastic. I read the article on Sky News yesterday and was horrified. Not at the fact that children’s health is being monitored, I happen to think this is a good thing. Obesity is one of the biggest killers in the world today and people need to be educated young about how to live a healthy life and be warned about the risks of obesity. Healthy children lead to healthy adults. This in turn benefits healthcare across the world. Win - win really.
What I object to is the obvious shortcomings of the system and the use of a “sliding scale”. You can’t simply measure a child, stick them on a scale and then bang them into a weight class. Some children may be particularly tall for their age, increasing their weight. I know that the BMI worked out in a height to weight ratio, but age is also included for kidlets. A taller, bigger boned child is going to hit a higher BMI than their other ‘average’ peers.
Not to mention the fact that there is something seriously wrong with the sliding scale being used if a child who is 1% over the recommended healthy BMI is classified as obese! Surly there’s wiggle room of a few percent?
Yes, we need something in place that helps kids and parents alike, but telling a perfectly healthy, active child that she is fat is scare tactics. I don’t care how the government pleads it this is out of line. Being 1% over a healthy BMI does not mean that a five-year-old needs to start counting calories and cutting out candy. As her mother puts it “As a parent, you are made to feel guilty about absolutely everything and this is just one more thing, … Young girls have enough pressure on them to be thin and beautiful, without being told they are fat aged five.”
Children grow up fast enough as it is today and, young girls especially, are drawn into the ‘size zero’ debate at a young enough age. We are forever reading about teenage girls suffering from bulimia and anorexia in an attempt to shed pounds that they do not need to loose. While this is a separate issue I think it does add a bit of perspective to the approach the UK government is taking on this issue. Surely the focus should be on kids being kids, just with a healthier diet and more exercise? You only have to look at a child to know whether they are eating healthily and playing outdoors enough. Why not just test those who appear to be at risk, or better yet, just introduce healthy eating and exercise initiatives for all?
Scaring parents into putting healthy children on a diet is not a good way to tackle the problem of childhood obesity. Not all parents would have the common sense this woman did to simply be enraged at the slur against her parenting and the fact that she had been forced to reassure her daughter that she wasn’t fat. Others would respond with fear, fear that their child is on the way to bad health and premature death. Calorie counting at five only paves the way for eating disorders and pressure to be thin as a teenager. This may solve the obesity crisis, but it will simply replace it with another.