Anonymous mom is a mother of two daughters, ages 9 and 7. Although she has her own blog, she’s written this post anonymously to protect the identity of her daughter. She does not need diet or exercise advice.
“Childhood Obesity” – even on this blog it tends to be discussed like it’s something esoteric and impersonal, like a bad weather system or a toenail fungus. As in, “how can I get rid of this awful childhood obesity, it’s so embarrassing when I go to the gym.” It’s a topic a lot of people like to grandstand about, like immigration reform or the importance of spaying or neutering your cats. Everyone, whether they have no children, or one skinny child, or maybe one or two slightly chubby cats seems to consider themselves qualified to dispense advice on the best way to fight flab amongst those under 18. Very few of those people will admit to any actual personal connection to the topic.
I was an overweight kid, and I have an overweight kid. My daughter and I inherited a strong build and the tendency to pack on the pounds from my Dad, who yo-yo’d between 200 and 300 pounds for most of his adult life. While my brother would come home from school, drain a milk carton, inhale a half a dozen bagels and never wear anything larger than a “medium,” I spent my childhood shopping in the “pretty plus” section and trying to develop the ability to appear invisible to classroom bullies. The adults in my life, though well-meaning, offered only one strategy for coping with the constant barrage of name calling: ignore it. They might as well have just told me flat out to envision the cheese crackers as all of my pent up anger and stuff them down my throat. Even teachers and others in a position of trust would see no conflict between telling me to exercise more and smirking while the other kids laughed at me in gym class. When I went to school in the 1980s, overweight kids were subjected to an annual abuse ritual known as the President’s test of physical fitness. Once a year, we’d prove to our peers what they already knew: most overweight children cannot run a half mile without stopping, or do chin ups. (Many thin children couldn’t either, but apparently out of shape thin people aren’t as funny.) In case you think marginalizing fat people is an effective motivational tool: it isn’t. I stayed inside most of the time where everyone would leave me alone. Even when I eventually lost the weight for the first time, I did it in a pretty self-hating fashion.
Fortunately, the world is a slightly kinder place to my overweight 9 year old. Although she’s a ball of fire and more interested in vegetables and sports than her naturally thin little sister, her weight is not even on the CDC growth charts. She looks a lot like I did at her age, but her school experiences have been very different. Since the 80s, our thinking on how to handle bullying has changed. Schools are adopting anti-bullying policies and parents are taking a more hands on approach to interactions between kids. While it’s true there’s a little bit of “helicopter parenting” going on, I’m glad my kid is growing up at a time when I can expect that if I contact her school with a concern about schoolyard bullying, they will take it very seriously and intervene. I know things will get much tougher as she approaches middle school, but I’m already strapping on my mama bear suit and getting ready. She has had some run ins with kids (mostly boys) who think it’s ok to call her names, but for the most part they are the exception. I’ve seen other kids stand up for her in a way that was pretty much unheard of when I was growing up. I feel cautiously optimistic that she won’t waste her adolescent years feeling ashamed of her shape, and I’ll be her advocate for as long as she lets me.
Of course, none of this relates to the “problem of childhood obesity” as we are supposed to regard it: as a public health issue. In reality, when we talk about combating childhood obesity we are confronting two separate but equally important issues: 1) Obesity and its effect on the health of individual children and 2) How we feel about obesity, how we feel about obese children and how they feel about themselves. In an ideal world, number 2 wouldn’t be an issue, but unfortunately the world is full of immature and emotional wounded people, ready to tear down anyone who shows a perceived weakness. It’s also filled with well-meaning but somewhat clueless people who are honestly under the impression that overweight people might not know they are overweight, or know that eating less and exercising might be a way to change that.
I support the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign and the movement to bring healthier school lunches into America’s schools, because I think they place the emphasis where it belongs: on systemic healthy changes rather than on individual obese kids. For people like me and my daughter who are genetically predisposed to being overweight, the sea of parking lots surrounding islands of sugar and fat that we have to navigate every day present endless opportunities to become morbidly obese. If school lunches can be made healthier for all children, chubby and skinny kids alike will benefit. If parents can get the support they need to feel safe letting their children play outside, all of America’s kids will have a more active and rich childhood. I don’t see programs like “Let’s Move” as an attempt to single out kids like my daughter, and I’m with them all the way.
I’m a little bit nervous, however, about the Let’s Move Campaign’s goal of monitoring each child’s Body Mass Index. It’s easy to imagine how this could become another annual humiliation ritual like the Test of Physical Fitness. I hope the founders of Let’s Move are putting a great deal of thought into how that would be implemented, and not just assuming that every school would administer such a program with great sensitivity to the emotional needs of its students. The truth is, teachers and school administrators already know who the obese kids are in their schools, and the kids know this, too. There’s no real need to call all the children in to be assigned numbers which they can then wield as verbal weapons on the playground. Let’s concentrate our efforts on giving all kids the tools they need to be healthy, and leave personal humiliation out of it.
You might also be interested in reading this Newsweek column, which inspired this post.
59 thoughts on “Guest blogger: Being an overweight kid”
Thank you for a really insightful post and for sharing your experiences. You're a great mom.
i could have written nearly an identical recap of my childhood experience (also in the 80s). thank you for sharing!
BMI is an objective measure (not necessarily the best one, but an easy one to calculate) that can help determine if the program is actually working. If not BMI, what would you suggest organizers use to evaluate the effectiveness of the program?
Thanks for your post.
Dr. Robert Lustig said it best in his lecture "Sugar: The Bitter Truth". No child *chooses* to be obese.
BMI is indeed bunk. Many bodybuilders are technically obese by this ridiculous definition.
Just remember that bad science and politics have combined over the last century to lie to you, over and over. The lie is that obesity is caused by "gluttony and sloth" — eating too much and moving too little. This is not supported by the evidence:
Diet and exercise are only one way of addressing obesity. I think a better long term solution is to just have a better culture of healthy living in general. A "diet" is usually short term fix with poor lasting results. Unfortunately our schools have adopted the comfort food culture and it is much harder to make it healthy than it was to make it unhealthy.
Thank you for this post. I wasn't an overweight child. I thought I was, but in reality I wasn't. That Presidential Fitness Test was the bane of my existence during my elementary school years 🙁
I'm now raising children with wildly varying shapes and sizes and it's nice to see a voice of reason on the topic.
Thank you for your post, brought tears to my eyes because I was also a fat child and I have a daughter who is out of the weight charts.
Thank you so much for this post–I too was an overweight child in the 80's, and I too struggled with diets and such.
However, a wonderful family doctor pointed out to me a few years ago that my body type (which is just like my grandmother's), is what enabled my ancestors to survive famines and such over the centuries. He pointed out that that is why we have survived.
I feel something important was touched on here that you rarely ever see, which is that thin children are often also out of shape.
It's important that we address the overall health of all people, without focusing only on size.
I follow your blog (as do many people). I have a morning ritual when I get into work (sssshhhh). I go through the news and the blogs to see updates. I especially like this post! My family (my dad, brother sister and I) have always been "solid". I don't know if you use that word a lot but around my house a lot. I have never been a size 5 but I was a size 9 and had a "flat stomach" worked out two times a day and ate healthy. That was who I was. I got down to a size 7 at one point but it was in the most "unhealthy" of ways. Anyway, one of my children has inherited "solid" from my side of the family. My son just turned 6 in Feb of this year. He has been in size 8 (not husky, just a size 8) since his birthday. He doesn't need them because he is overweight, because we still have to buy the pants with the built in adjustable waist band or else they fall off of him. We need them because sixes are too short and too small. He has been this way his whole life. We brought him home from the hospital wearing 3-6month clothes and he was only 8lbs! He’s just always been "solid". When he was about a year and a half his father passed away. We had to get "state help" (i.e. WIC). They measure a child’s BMI buy height and weight. My son has always been off the charts and called obese! If you take one look at my child you will see there is no FAT too him (well maybe his cute little cheeks). I fought with these people every time I went in there. The looks and discomfort they caused me. I felt like they were saying I am a horrible mother. Not only did I need state help but I used state help to throw junk food in my kids face to leave me alone so I can watch oprah (not really but that's the looks and talks I got from them!) I finally shut them up by saying the pediatrician and I went through the process of actually MEASURING his body fat percent and according to that he was FIT! We really didn't but it shut them up! My son loves his "exercise" and vegetables. He will eat veggies before anything. He is one of the only Kindergartners that takes cut up peppers as a snack to school every day! Thank you for speaking out about this. I am all for having healthier choices for our children but do not "categorize" our children by numbers! I have a daughter and a son who took on their father's features and can eat every junk food insight and not gain a pound! It does not mean they should eat that though!
Sorry I could go on for days! I give you credit for doing what you are doing! God bless the “pushers” in this world!
this might not be the help you are looking for. but there is a product out there that allows you to send your child to school with a homecooked meal AND it keeps it warm until lunchtime. we have it, it works. it's like a thermos for food.we got tired of waiting for school lunches to change!!
go to http://www.warmables.com
Like some who have already commented I could have written much of that post…though not as thoughtfully and well written as you did it! Thank you. I am from Arkansas and we have been doing the BMI thing for a long time. It is totally different from the Presidential Fitness blah blah blah. It is more like the vision and hearing screenings. It is done in private. The results are not given to the child. They are mailed to the parents. I have no opinion about the worth of the bmi…but just wanted you to know that at least the way we have been doing it here (we were the first state to do this) it is not embarrassing to the child.
I really enjoyed reading this post, and I agree that giving value to numbers associated with body shape and size can be severely damaging to a person's self-image and consequent lifestyle habits. BMI in particular is a tricky measure, since it doesn't take into account stature, muscle mass or bone density. However, programs do need to be able to measure progress and success versus shortcomings and areas that need improvement.
What if they conducted anthropometric labs – a whole assortment of measures for weight-related health – without disclosing the results to the children, or even parents? It would be like any study, and the government, schools or administrators in general could receive their needed feedback without putting the lives (emotionally, physically, developmentally, etc.) of our youths in jeopardy.
Oh how I hated that Presidential Fitness Test. I received the Presidential Award for Academics, but never EVER ran that mile. (Half-mile? I swear it was a mile for us!)
I found myself nodding through your entire guest post, not because I was an overweight child, but because I've witnessed the very things you've raised…both in children and adults.
I actually recently wrote a post about it:
"Don't Judge Me" http://www.lookinggoodmom.com/dont-judge-me/
Thanks so much for sharing your perspective, and helping us all remember to focus on the real problem, not the people (especially children!) who are overweight.
Wonderful post! I agree completely that we (the public in general) tend to forget the individual while making sweeping, generalized comments. Your daughter is very lucky to have a mother who understands the complexities of this issue.
Thank you for your post.
I was an overweight child with well-meaning but clueless parents. My mother would tell me to have an apple for an after-school snack while my naturally skinny sister was offered cookies. Exercise was required after school before I was allowed to play or use the telephone (torture for a pre-teen girl!). My husband's situation was far worse. As the heaviest kid in a school that included grades 7-12, he was tormented for 6 years- punched daily, verbally harassed hourly, and literally peed on in the PE showers by the other boys in his class. School officials did nothing to intervene, even when it happened in front of them.
We are both so grateful that attitudes towards bullying have changed, but there's still a long way to go. BMI checks in school won't tell the parents anything that the don't already know, and have the potential to give wanna-be bullies more ammunition. I can understand schools using health screenings for things like hearing and vision, which affect classroom performance. But height/ weight information doesn't seem to have any bearing on academics. Aren't schools stretched thin enough without adding "monitor kids' weight" to the agenda?
Kudos to you and yes it sounds as if you were telling my story also! Thank you!
This is the first guest post I've liked. This was wonderfully written and I'd love to see this woman's blog.
I was overweight as a child and my family (who are supposed to be supportive) gave me the nickname of "Porky". As I grew, I became thinner, but my body image was damaged and as a teenager saw myself as a fat, but I really wasn't. My Mom's idea of helping was to call me "pleasingly plump", which was just a nicer way of saying I was fat.
As an adult I have been on and off a multitude of diets and even got down to a slim size 5 for a little while by eating an extremely low fat diet and working out every single day. I was cranky and unhappy, plus working out every single day wasn't all that much fun and it was time consuming.
Today, I have embarked on a mission to become "healthy", not skinny, not a certain number on the scale…….just fitter and healthier. I'm 52 this year and think I'm finally on the right track. I have lost a total of 13 pounds in about 3 months, which by dieting standards, is small, but my mental changes are what I'm excited about. I am developing a new "relationship" with food and with myself.
Sad to realize how much damage all those childhood years have done and the power that I let people have over me. Of course, it is difficult when it comes from your own family!
I went to school in the 90s and was constantly teased for being skinny. Even after I had my child (I gained 65 pounds) I lost all the weight, with no diet or exercise, and it's frusturating because I wish I weighed more. People do have to learn the difference between what's healthy and what's not and know that the physical isn't the medical.
Thank you for this post. I kind of skimmed through the newsweek article, and I want to add that we have to more careful on how we approach the topic of nutrition and obesity to kids, because kids are very black and white about everything and they don't yet have the ability to see the subtlety or the "gray-ness" in every issue. I'm not sure how I would apply it exactly when teaching kids, but just wanted to point that out we should be more careful when demonizing certain foods or being fat etc.
my daughter's boyfriend is 250 and stands 6'3" and according to his health insurance is obese. He would look funny and be very frail if he went down to 200 or less. He is big boned and has muscle…. It has made him think he is obese and is trying to diet.
Diets don't work. It a quick fix where the problem is the foods that are heavy served in our schools and restaurants. High Fructose corn syrup, fake sugar, fake food products and preservatives are proved to cause fat cells but we still have heavy government funds being pumped into these food programs. Where the vegetable farmers are being forced to produce GMO foods that again are proven to be harmful to our health and are killing the bees and butterflies.
They need to help the pure food production; the food are bodies know how to digest…. not keep feeding our children aspartame and preservatives in the name of cutting calories…
sad very sad, lets hope this is done the right way not a free for all on the "fat kids" Plus help the schools understand that children are all different sizes along with different backgrounds. You can't change this over night for it has been ingrained into the culture for too many years……..
This generation is the best at accepting people of different origins lets have the sense to help them accept people of different size.
Thank you!! I can relate due to being a fat child and having a daughter who is as well. Why is not socially acceptable to make fun of different ethnicities, different religious groups, people of different sexual orientation but yet it is still acceptable to make fun of obese people?
I agree that people should not be bullied or made to feel ashamed of their weight or appearance, and the topic of conversation should definitely be around health. But I think it's a bit ridiculous to say, "My daughter and I are genetically predisposed to being overweight." It's an excuse. Being overweight will present your daughter with a whole slew of health problems – juvenile diabetes, sleep issues, etc. Maybe it is more difficult for her to manage a "normal" weight than some kids, but with hard work and a positive attitude, she can lose the weight. I was an overweight kid, but then I joined track and basketball in middle school and stopped eating doritos and twinkies. Now, in college, I am a healthy 5'8" and 135 pounds. I work out three times a week and besides the occasional cookie or piece of cake once a week, I stay away from junk food.
I loved your post, especially the part about how healthy children would benefit as well as the overweight children. I was one of those kids that could eat anything I wanted and never gain a pound, that led to a lack of knowledge of how to handle my eating habits. Schools kept feeding me junk, I kept eating it, and when the weight started to pack on in Jr. High I started to get really down on myself but I just kept right on eating. Learning about healthy eating is good for everybody, not just the kids that are "visually" unhealthy.
My daughter is 11 years old and attends parochial school. Each year, the parents get a letter from the school nurse detailing your child's height, weight and BMI. As far as I know, the children are not told their BMI.
The Presidential Fitness Test was a horrible part of my childhood. Along with being overweight, i had (have) horrible asthma, which ensured that I would never pass. No matter what.
That's a horrible thing to do to a child. Directly and indirectly, tests like that affect their self-esteem and confidence. After about 3rd grade, I stayed inside most of the time, and I absolutely hated PE.
Wasn't until college(!) that i realized running was fun! I'm still over weight, still suffer from controlled asthma, and still hate the thought of PE. But now, I love physical activities.
thank you for writing this! i agree whole-heartedly that the BMI is a ridiculous measure. I know many fit and healthy adults that are considered "overweight" based on that. for the reader who asked for a proposal of how else to measure the success of Mrs. Obama's Let's Move campaign, there are many options. It can be measured by the amount of time children spend in exercise, the number of fruits and vegetables offered in schools and eaten by kids, height and weight measures (that can be followed over time), etc. There are MANY ways that can track progress that can be complimentary to the BMI or in place of it. I hope someone that can make a difference in the tracking of this program has already thought of these things!
Goodness, you've brought back memories for me. I was never bullied (I went to a private Christian school where the would-be bullies had no one to back them up and watchful teachers always around), though us bigger girls were occasionally laughed at (not until puberty though). Our school didn't provide lunch, so we were all brown baggers, but honestly? I don't remember what I had most days.
The number one detriment to our physical exercise, however, was gym class. Yes, the one part of the day that was intended to make us active was the least effective. Why? Because gym uniforms had those horrible, slippery, short shorts. I wasn't comfortable even standing still in them, and the second I tried to take a step, they'd be up around my underwear. Even when we were allowed to bring in longer shorts (but no denim, or anything else that would actually remain down) I had to run with my legs squeezed tightly together to avoid showing considerably more than I wanted to. Even worse? Gym was co-ed.
Is it any wonder that I got out of gym class any way that I could?
And oh! Those stupid Presidential Fitness Tests! As you said, many of the thin girls didn't perform any better than I did. And now they want to test BMI? I can see that this is going to be soooo good for self esteem. :-/
I was not overweight as a child, but was the smallest kid in the class. PE was dreaded everyday and never more so than the Presidential Fitness Tests. It wasn't until I discovered hiking and pilates that I began to enjoy (and seek out) regular healthy physical activity.
This is my first time commenting on the blog – I rather enjoyed this guest speaker!
I am only nineteen years old, but unfortunately, I had more than my fair share of childhood obesity problems. By the time I was fourteen, I was 176 lbs and only 5'1" in height – not ideal in any sense of the word! I took it upon myself, though, and lost sixty pounds, and got all the way down to 110. My weight has fluctuated a lot since then, jumping from 110 to 145 again, and now, nearly six years later, I'm finally at a body weight that I am really happy with. Still, I struggle with food – I have recently lost fifteen pounds due to stress. Teen years is such a difficult time, you know? It was never meant to be easy, after all!
My case is just one of many, and I don't think people that have not gone through it can truly understand. The great thing about having weight issues, though, is that there are SO many people out there that can relate. It doesn't have to be a lonely endeavor, at least!
So, thanks for your blog. I appreciated it very much. 🙂
I forgot about gym class……what a HORROR!
One particular memory was when we were expected (all of us) to do a forward roll on the balance beam, which is 4" wide. I told my friend I was getting an "F" because there was NO WAY that I was even going to attempt such a thing. After several students just about "killed" themselves (thin athletic girls), the teacher decided it wasn't such a good idea. I could see that from the beginning, but wasn't quite sure why she couldn't?
Then there were the showers. I was a late bloomer (if you know what I mean) and had to be subjected to well endowed, thin, athletic girls prancing around in their birthday suits, while I took a shower as quickly as I could and then wrapped tightly in my towel.
I don't think PE teachers realize just how traumatic it all is for teenagers who are extremely self conscious about their body images as it is.
Wow, I hated the Presidential Fitness Test! I was never overweight as a child or even as a young adult, but my mother was and nagged me a lot about 'watching' my weight.
Gym class was a horror for me though, because I was not naturally athletic and I was one of the first girls in middle school to develop a bust.
Running was SO embarrassing that I simply refused to do it, resulting in detentions from the unsympathetic gym teacher and being picked last for each team. Interestingly enough although I knew the boys were looking, it was other girls who teased me more- usually flat chested ones.
I wasn't overweight- just always WORRIED about being that way. Looking back now, I can see how fit and healthy I was – and I wish the attitude of our gym teacher had been different- maybe I wouldn't have hated gym and by association, other sports so much.
Now, I am an overweight adult, 40, struggling to get back into shape. I lost weight after my son was born, got divorced and lost more weight, then gained it back and more. My son is 10 and is a perfect, healthy weight. Athletic and active, I don't think he will ever have the exercise issues I have now. For me, having to LEARN as an adult has been difficult- I hope growing up with healthy food and a healthy happy attitude towards exercise, he will never face my weight issues. Good luck to you and your daughter!
I hated that Presidential Fitness Test when I was in school. It was stupid because PE classes never trained us to be ready for it. Now that I'm a little more athletic, I realize you don't run a marathon (or even a 5K) without training for it.
Anyway, I loved hearing that schools and parents are doing more these days to prevent bullying. That's some good news!
Great post. Thanks!
Thank you! I too was a child who was embarrassed routinely in PE class during the Presidential Fitness Tests and the skin-fold caliper test. I took dance classes 2-3 hours a day, 4 days a week throughout my youth and would never be considered thin. However, I was incredibly fit. I had stamina and strength, but I wasn't a runner and I couldn't do pull-ups. I vividly remember being subjected to skin-fold caliper test. It was brutal. We all stood in line and the PE teacher used the pincers to measure the fat on our arms. The number was announced to the teacher who wrote it down. I remember watching her take a small pinch on the skinny kid in front of me and wondering why she took such a big pinch of my arm. I figured out later it's because I was the fat kid. BMI doesn't measure a person's health. If you came to my dance classes, you would have seen a strong, healthy child dancing non-stop for hours. We have to find a way to help our kids learn healthy habits without humiliating them.
Thanks for such a great post!
I was skinny all my childhood- too thin. I was also very out of shape physically. I was teased about being underweight and my younger sister was convinced I was anorexic when we were teens (I wasn't). I had many friends who were overweight but they were so nice and I saw the beauty in them even if they didn't. My mom told me once that she felt so bad for one of my classmates who was morbidly obese and when I asked why, she replied that some people were unable to control their weight because of medical conditions (that had never occurred to me). I never forgot that and have routinely spoken about it to my children. Thank you for this post. It is a stark reminder of how cruel this world can be.
beautiful guest post, however I am very upset after reading these comments about the horrors of physical education and how they left such lasting impressions in all of us. I am a P.E. teacher, and I became a P.E. teacher for that very reason. I was an overweight teen, hated P.E, hated exercise in general because I associated it with "not fitting in" and being different from my friends. P.E. was dreadful, so I decided in college that I wanted to make that DIFFERENT. I thought I was one of very few people that felt that way about my childhood, but after reading all of your comments, I don't feel alone AT ALL:) Thankfully! All children need to be HEALTHY, no matter what they look like. Throughout college, I hated studying BMI(although it has its importance), I think we should not be associated with numbers AT ALL…it's about our overall health and wellness. I worked in cardiac rehab for a while after college and found that heart attacks come in all shapes and sizes and MOST of my patients were not "heavy" at all. This was shocking to me, but helped me understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle for ALL OF US! Now exercise is a part of my every day life and I LOVE IT, so I make a promise to share my enthusiasm with everyone, so they too will enjoy taking care of themselves on the inside and out 🙂
THank you for that guest post…very well said.
I teach at an elementary school, and we have this huge anti-bullying campaign, but I really don't see or hear kids bullying or making fun of other kids for being fat…because 1 out of 3 of them ARE fat. I'm too tired right now to expound on the many reasons why they are, but recall one incident: a couple months ago I was taking some 5th and 6th graders to an evening concert, and when they met in my room, I checked to make sure all had had supper before they came. One girl – who is 10 years old and weighs more than I do, I'm pretty sure and whose parents and older siblings are ALL morbidly obese – replied that she'd had chicken nuggets and pizza. I said, "Chicken nuggets AND pizza?" And she said, in all seriousness, "Well, yeah, because I only had 6 nuggets, so I needed pizza, too." Maybe there's some genetic influences there, but in this case, I'm thinking what food her parents provide for her has way more to do with it.
I grew up in the 70's and the Presidents Fitness Test included rope climbing. How I dreaded that every single year! Not only was I made fun of for being fat, but ridiculed for never being able to reach the top. Actually, very few kids were able to climb all the way up, but that never made me feel better because the others weren't teased.
I hope kids are kinder and more accepting these days.
Well written and compelling. You should send a version of this to Michelle Obama. Really great.
This post more than many others I've read about the topic really, really resonated with me (especially in regards to the Presidential Fitness Test — EFF THAT THING, MAN. I still can't do a pull-up!).
Thank you so much for sharing this. The poster is a great writer, a sensible woman and obviously a fantastic mother.
I generally agree with the sentiment.
I have a feeling that the BMI checks would be done by a nurse or some other medical figure. If so, that info would probably be protected under HIPPA and a slew of federal nondisclosure laws. I could see it being useful if the information was monitored by the school and given directly to the parents if they asked for it instead of giving it to the kids. I mean, even skinny kids can have high BMIs. It's called "skinny fat" and is a fairly interesting phenomenon considering the current stereotype of what an "obese" person is. I can definitely see merit in monitoring the health of the kids, including BMI, especially if a lunch change is put into place to see if there is any correlation between what the school has done to make lunch healthier and the effects on their bodies.
Marissa- Can I just say thank you? For many of us, it's the gym teachers who traumatized us. I can only assume that the average PE instructor goes into that job because they themselves are athletic, and therefore just can't understand the rest of us who aren't (just like how my science teacher couldn't understand why I hated his class, yet I was the English teacher's darling because I loved Shakespeare). I have a favorite radio preacher that says at least once a week "If you're trying to learn something, don't learn it from someone who thinks it's easy." Makes perfect sense to me!
For my part, I've always despised running, but I LOVE to take walks. I enjoy playing Wii, I like mini golf, and I've always liked volleyball. I even liked lifting weights. But I always barely passed gym because I have terrible depth perception, a lack of interest in sports (which means that I tended to daze off even if the ball was coming right at me), and I hate to run (too many bad falls when I was little). I'm just glad to see that someone got into the profession who isn't coming from being a sport team captain in highschool.
I too had to endure failing the President's physical fitness test every year in gradeschool. I was a year younger than everyone in my class and could have skipped another two grades according to my standardized test scores but I couldn't do enough sit-ups or any chinups much less run. I was always picked last at recess.
Honestly, when I finally got a personal trainer in my late 30s I had a lot of baggage to overcome about working out and looking stupid not knowing what to do. Trying to jump rope for fitness brought back horrible memories that actually caused me to cry.
Just like I was able to win awards for reading books in the summer; maybe there should be awards for running or biking or something during the school year. Just no more humiliation for the "husky-sized" kids.
thank you for the great post! I also hated the presidential tests, not because I was overweight, but because I was inflexible and my gym teacher would make fun of my inability to touch anywhere close to my toes. I'm sure if the students would have noticed, they would have teased as well, but I still remember being horrified that an adult would tease me about this.
Two things, great post, by the way.
First, people like Samantha who think having a genetic predisposition to something is an "excuse", let a Molecular Biologist enlighten you: Having a variant for the "fat gene" or set of genes that predisposes someone to weight gain can be overcome, but only by doing 3-4 hours of exercise per day! According to an extensive study of an Amish population who has a high rate of the variant "fat gene". http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26611180/
Show me one person in our society that has 3-4 hours EACH DAY to devote to moderate exercise. Oh, and that would be at the same time eating like the Amish do: eating only what you grow/catch, no junk food, etc. Also, tell all those people with Alzheimer's or any other disease based in a genetic predisposition to just "think better". Please!
Second thing: I loved this article because I too grew up as an overweight child in the 80's. I was never fat, but always made to think I was by other kids because I was a lot taller. The President's Fitness test was like a nightmare for me! I thought only our school did it as a punishment (Catholic school). The worst was the Bent-Arm-Hang. I'm not sure how an elementary school girl is supposed to hang from her arms for minutes at a time with no training. Made no sense then and still doesn't.
Basically, the rising rate of obesity has a lot to do with the way the government is subsidizing corn and soy at the expense of our children's health. Even if a visible symptom (weight) were not there, the diabetes and heart disease from eating a diet full of HFCS would be killing us anyway. This blog and others like it are great as an entry to the discussion of a system problem we all need to have.
I'm an anthropologist, so I am quite familiar with the supposed genetics behind "being fat". Obesity has not been a problem to the extent that it is now. Being fat has been medicalized. Labeling it as a disease makes people feel better, and gives them an excuse.
Exactly. Obesity has not been a problem up until our culture has reached a point where we no longer have the necessity or time to work unceasingly for a scant amount of calories. That is exactly the point I made.
Labeling something as a disease does not make people feel better. It gives skinny people an excuse to torment fat people because if it is a "disease" then it can be "cured". It also puts the blame for 60% of our country being overweight on the individual versus the government and culture that has led to this "epidemic".
Samantha, if you were so well educated on the genetic aspect of obesity, then you would not use the word "supposed". It is just your way of denigrating what you do not understand. It is rude and uncalled for in this discussion.
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