Fat letters?

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AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560
Fat letters?
ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

Good grief. Can't use 'BMI', can't give a 'F' grade. How many more letters can we take out of the vocabulary of the school-aged?

I see obesity as a much larger epidemic than anorexia. They don't want to use the BMI figure for fear of creating an eating disorder??? Well look around you - Schools are filled with kids with eating problems. Just their problem is eating too much and/or eating the wrong stuff, with zero exercise.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

If I had to choose one word, I'd go with harmful over helpful. This is something I expect from my child's doctor, not her school. Her doctor knows her, knows her historic growth cycles, and can offer real information about her health and nutrition instead of just "here's your number."

I'd rather see the money & energy being spent on BMI measurement go into an effort to get the kids to actually eat their more-nutritious school lunches rather than having kids go hungry all day & then pick up junk food after school. The grownups say, we need school lunches to be more nutritious, so the government is making it happen, and now the kids are throwing the fresh fruit & whole grain pasta into the trash. I saw this article the other day but couldn't post because DH was hogging the computer.

Some School Districts Quit Healthier Lunch Program - ABC News

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

Wow! The comments are vicious!

[quote]Call me when they start getting rid of the fat teachers that set such a bad example for the students.

So Right! We got the letter in the mail too. Teachers should get weighed in too![/quote]

When I was in school we got weighed twice a year and the weight was written on our report cards. AFAIK, this never created an eating disorder in my peers or me. They screened for several things that they still screen for - scoliosis, hearing, vision. They also test cognitive ability with standardized, GATE, and special ed. testing.

I just can't see it as a bad thing. It's data. It's educating parents as to what is a healthy weight and what is not. Every time I take my kids to the doctor, he or she tells us "you are in the ___ percentile on height; the ___ percentile on weight." Just like not every parent can/will take their child to the eye doctor, they don't all get to the doctor unless there is a problem. I would not take offense to a letter suggesting I see a physician re: my child's height/weight/vision/hearing/spine.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

I think it is more harmful than helpful. I agree with the lady on the video that says that someone that has an obese child, knows that their child is obese. Just telling a child that they are "bad" is not going to make them better. The only thing I can see this accomplishing is more bullying and more eating disorders.

Stacy - The school that DH worked in last year had a program like that. They had all kinds of fresh fruits and veggies. Kids threw the food out in droves. They ended up setting up a table for the kids to put the unwanted food on for others to take.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

I just can't see it as a bad thing. It's data. It's educating parents as to what is a healthy weight and what is not. Every time I take my kids to the doctor, he or she tells us "you are in the ___ percentile on height; the ___ percentile on weight." Just like not every parent can/will take their child to the eye doctor, they don't all get to the doctor unless there is a problem. I would not take offense to a letter suggesting I see a physician re: my child's height/weight/vision/hearing/spine.

I do not think it is terrible to weigh a child and record the weight. Grading it "saying it is good or bad", is what I find objectionable. (Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that is what was happening)

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

Stacy - The school that DH worked in last year had a program like that. They had all kinds of fresh fruits and veggies. Kids threw the food out in droves. They ended up setting up a table for the kids to put the unwanted food on for others to take.

Our school has a "share table" and it's amazing. Some kids will put their entree on there & take two apples, someone else will put their apple & salad but take another entree. I love it, at least the kids are eating mostly good things and there's a lot less waste. And occasionally you'll see a kid go back & pick up their entree because they took a taste of someone else's and discovered it wasn't as bad as they thought!

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I do not think it is terrible to weigh a child and record the weight. Grading it "saying it is good or bad", is what I find objectionable. (Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that is what was happening)

Agreed, but they shouldn't just sent letters home to the fat kids because then it becomes, who got a letter, did you get a letter, I heard Susie got a letter, Billy needs a letter, and there's enough negative stuff going on between the kids already, they don't need fuel for the fire. It should be information that everyone gets, along with education about how to either stay as healthy as you are, or how get healthier -- promoting bike to school day, asking parents to chaperone walking schoolbuses, set up a running club at recess, etc. -- or it shouldn't be done at all.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"Spacers" wrote:

Our school has a "share table" and it's amazing. Some kids will put their entree on there & take two apples, someone else will put their apple & salad but take another entree. I love it, at least the kids are eating mostly good things and there's a lot less waste. And occasionally you'll see a kid go back & pick up their entree because they took a taste of someone else's and discovered it wasn't as bad as they thought!

Agreed, but they shouldn't just sent letters home to the fat kids because then it becomes, who got a letter, did you get a letter, I heard Susie got a letter, Billy needs a letter, and there's enough negative stuff going on between the kids already, they don't need fuel for the fire. It should be information that everyone gets, along with education about how to either stay as healthy as you are, or how get healthier -- promoting bike to school day, asking parents to chaperone walking schoolbuses, set up a running club at recess, etc. -- or it shouldn't be done at all.

Wait, wouldn't the other kids already know who is fat or not? Getting a letter/not getting a letter won't change that.

Why is weight still the elephant in the room? There is this social stigma that is really silly when you think about it. You're not a healthy weight but we can't point out that you're not at a healthy weight because kids who didn't used to know you are fat will now know.

On a personal note, would your children's classmates care? Around here chunky seems to be the norm. But no one seems to notice or care.

mom2robbie's picture
Joined: 01/20/07
Posts: 2541

Hmmm... I would not like to get a fat letter, actually I might like it since Robbie is so underweight...

Robbie's school is an APPLE school, we have to sign a family commitment to healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. When there are class parties there are healthy treats brought in, we do a candy exchange at Halloween (they get to pick a cheap toy), when we have hot lunches (2 times a year) they are healthy with all 4 food groups covered. They do random exercises during the day (do 10 jumping jacks and then get back to work as an example). The test the grade 5 class every year (when they take the weight, the kids do not see anything, it is hooked up to see in another room and they do a survey. The information is then averaged. Before the program started 3 years ago, 0% of the kids were getting 5 servings of fruits/vegetables a day, 5% were getting 1 hour of exercise/day (they have 30 minutes of phys ed daily), 60% spent 2+ hours on computer/tv/video games. In the past 3 years there has been a steady improvement.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Why is weight still the elephant in the room?
On a personal note, would your children's classmates care? Around here chunky seems to be the norm. But no one seems to notice or care.

No one wants to be singled out for their weight. Young or not. I also know a few girls who are overweight. In each case the girl eats no differently than the rest of their family. It is just how they were made. They also have each been called fat and picked on for their weight. It is a very real problem.

Obese And Overweight Teenagers More Likely To Have Considered Suicide
Teens Who Think They’re Overweight More Likely To Try Suicide
Body Image Issues And Teen Suicide - CBS News

It would be far more beneficial to work time into the day for physical exercise and education on nutrition then to make kids who already feel really bad about themselves feel worse.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I agree with Stacey that the idea that all kids get a letter to parent/guardian to say how tall/how much they weigh and the BMI calculations is a better way to go.

I don't expect my kid's school to tell me their health concerns since I bring them for check ups. Maybe only identify the kids who are not going yearly and advise parents on their general health?

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Wait, wouldn't the other kids already know who is fat or not? Getting a letter/not getting a letter won't change that.

Why is weight still the elephant in the room? There is this social stigma that is really silly when you think about it. You're not a healthy weight but we can't point out that you're not at a healthy weight because kids who didn't used to know you are fat will now know.

On a personal note, would your children's classmates care? Around here chunky seems to be the norm. But no one seems to notice or care.

To the first paragraph: Not necessarily. BMI is a calculation of weight to height, so a child who is muscular, perhaps from playing soccer year round or just lucky genes, might have a higher BMI than they really should, kwim?

To the second: a higher or lower BMI doesn't necessarily mean a child is healthy, or even unhealthy. Tiven tends to chunk up and then sprout up. That's been her pattern since birth. A BMI measurement at the wrong point in time might deem her unhealthy at either end of the spectrum when in fact she's 100% active & healthy. That's what I don't like, a snapshot measurement, it says absolutely nothing about a child's overall health.

To the third paragraph: chunky is not the norm here, at least not for the kids. Our school is very big on physical activity, good nutrition (no cupcakes for birthdays or candy on Halloween), drinking only water, and our PTA pays for P.E. programs that the district has cut. We have tons of options & opportunities for kids & parents to get active year round, subsidies to help with registration fees, uniform exchanges, etc. And right now, the kids who tend to be overweight are still getting support from their classmates, encouragement to join running club, invitations to join a team, not being last to be chosen for games, and I don't want to see weight becoming an issue for them where it isn't now, but I can see that happening if they start learning that "fat letters" are going home to some of them.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Stacey, that growth pattern happened to dd1 once. She gained weight but hadn't done a height burst and her BMI was just under "overweight". She evened out w/i a month when she grew. Now she's consistently where she should be.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"Spacers" wrote:

To the first paragraph: Not necessarily. BMI is a calculation of weight to height, so a child who is muscular, perhaps from playing soccer year round or just lucky genes, might have a higher BMI than they really should, kwim?

To the second: a higher or lower BMI doesn't necessarily mean a child is healthy, or even unhealthy. Tiven tends to chunk up and then sprout up. That's been her pattern since birth. A BMI measurement at the wrong point in time might deem her unhealthy at either end of the spectrum when in fact she's 100% active & healthy. That's what I don't like, a snapshot measurement, it says absolutely nothing about a child's overall health.

To the third paragraph: chunky is not the norm here, at least not for the kids. Our school is very big on physical activity, good nutrition (no cupcakes for birthdays or candy on Halloween), drinking only water, and our PTA pays for P.E. programs that the district has cut. We have tons of options & opportunities for kids & parents to get active year round, subsidies to help with registration fees, uniform exchanges, etc. And right now, the kids who tend to be overweight are still getting support from their classmates, encouragement to join running club, invitations to join a team, not being last to be chosen for games, and I don't want to see weight becoming an issue for them where it isn't now, but I can see that happening if they start learning that "fat letters" are going home to some of them.

But we can't base the policy on the exceptions. For the past 2 years I've received a letter notifying me that my daughter has too many absences. In 3rd grade it was 12; last year 10. Today is day 17 of school. She's already missed. She's also been to the doctor for all but 3 of those 23 absences. She's been on week-long breathing treatments for 4 of them. Does that mean the school should stop sending letters to all of the parents whose kids have 10 or more absences?

The kids around here are very active. PE daily for 45 minutes. Many walk up to 2 miles to and from school. A lot of it has to do with diet, genetics, and attitudes.

No system of measurement is fool-proof. That doesn't mean we should abandon all measurements.

And my children were 100% active and healthy until they weren't.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3186

I finally read the article.

I don't see the negative. The smart thing is to send a letter to every parent, with the results. It gets mailed out; nobody knows about it except the parents who receive it.

Interviewing a 13-year-old who says she feels insecure about her weight is not compelling. Many, many 13-year-olds are insecure about the way they look, a letter or no letter is not going to change that.

But making parents aware of health issues potentially facing their children is not a negative to me. We have an obesity problem in this country, plus we have kids with eating disorders, I don't see how it's negative to have another check for that. Don't make the results public, then you don't have a problem. Make sure the kids get weighed in private. (Actually this wouldn't apply to the youngest grades as I doubt they care.)

I'm not sure what the negative is or how it's harmful unless you're announcing their weight out loud and saying if it's over or under weight when you do so, like that first season of America's Next Top Model.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I agree that the way to do it is to mail a letter home to every parent so that no one sees the results, and everyone gets a letter. I agree that the kids already know who is fat and who isn't (then again, if we assume the kids already know, wouldn't we assume that the parents know too?) but I still think that the letters have a risk of being a trigger for more teasing so they should be handled sensitively. That's disheartening about the healthy food being thrown in the trash. It just kind of confirms to me that we need to get the families in on the act of reinforcing healthy eating habits; schools can't do it on their own. It reminds me of when we debated schools selling hummus and veggies instead of chips at sporting events, and so many people were so sure that kids would never eat hummus. And they were probably right, if their kids had never had hummus before. My five year old loves hummus, but that's only because we always eat it so it's not weird for him. Same thing for those healthy lunches; I assume that if the kids were getting whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies at home, it wouldn't be weird for them.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1535

I am not sure how I feel about this. In a really great version of reality all parents would be versed in what healthy weights were and what impact they were having on the long term health of their children. So schools could focus solely on educating children and not have to take time to deal with health screening.
But in real life parents are not taking charge of their children's health. With the amount of overweight and obese children it is obvious a lot of parents are not monitoring that effectively. Today was the first day of school for public school here and on my way to work at 730 there were 2 boys that looked like they were struggling to walk and both were drinking huge sodas.

BMI should only be used by parents as one way to measure. Last year my oldest DD was super worried because her BMI had gone up quite a bit putting her close to the overweight number (she was told this during her sports physical) Over the last year she has grown almost 5 full inches and now all her clothes are falling off her. I continually told her BMI measurement was only one indicator but she really worried about that number