Should Schools Be Able to Label Our Children Obese?

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

What if you thought you were doing your best at feeding your kid a balanced diet only to have a letter arrive home from your child’s school stating that your kid is “obese.”

A British mom had this exact thing happen to her when her 11-year-old daughter Olivia Lyndsay, who at 5 feet 2 inches is one of the tallest kids in her class, was told her BMI was above the recommended limit by health professionals at her primary school.

Mom Amelya Lyndsay was furious after her daughter was so upset by the results that she refused to eat for two days. Why was Olivia weighed at all? It’s part of “The National Child Measurement Programme,” a government strategy in the UK to tackle the issue of obesity. Students are measured by their height and weight when they start and leave all primary schools in order to assess obesity levels.

Lyndsay told the Daily Mail, “They need to put something else in place, don’t just bring a measuring tape and scales into school to stress children about it.”

She isn’t alone.

My own cousin had this happen to her last year, when her 5-year-old son Ben was also declared “obese.” Anyone looking at Ben would see he is anything but overweight. He’s so tall for his age that he wears clothing for 8-year-olds. He’s stocky and strong — exactly the same shape as his rugby-playing father.

Ben lives on a farm and eats the freshest vegetables, meat, and eggs straight from the hens his dad raises. No child could eat a more healthy diet and yet this NCMP letter caused my cousin endless nights of worry — fretting over her son’s diet when it’s clear he is merely a strapping, healthy, happy boy. Thankfully my cousin ripped up the letter and never mentioned it to her son.

While the UK’s program means well, in these two instances, it is nothing but damaging. While I commend any initiative that tackles obesity, isn’t this going the wrong way about things? Surely what children and parents alike need is to be educated about nutrition, with regular school meetings to suggest what foods and vitamins kids should be getting.

UK chef Jamie Oliver tried to achieve this in Los Angeles back in 2010 with his TV show, Food Revolution. According to Fox News, “The program seek[ed] to overhaul alleged unhealthy and poor-quality lunch foods served in the nation’s schools.” However, he was met with staunch opponents when the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education refused to let him film at their schools.

Oliver’s suggestions were basic no brainers: try and get more vegetables and fruit into your child’s diet and step away from prepackaged foods laden with sugar. He used similar tactics here in the UK when he campaigned tirelessly to improve the quality and nutritional values in UK school dinners, eventually lobbying the government and succeeding in getting a £60 million initiative to provide advice to schools on the standard of their meals.

While I think Oliver is a modern day hero for his relentless crusade, I think a child’s standard of eating starts and ends with their parents. What example are you setting at home? Do you encourage your child to drink plenty of water or allow them fizzy drinks? Do you make sure they get their five portions of vegetables a day, or think of fries as one of those five? Do you think sugary cereals are a good breakfast? How often do you eat takeout? Are you always fretting over your own weight, constantly dieting and then binging, implying that food is the enemy?

Make no bones about it — I do judge those who are not invested in improving their child’s diet. Food is fuel for us and if we don’t understand the nutritional value of what we are stuffing our faces with — then why are we eating it?

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