Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website   Read more about this blog.
Posted: March 8th, 2013
There is something wrong with ‘fat letters’

When my son was in elementary school, I got a fat letter, albeit a carefully worded one. It told me that my son was in the 98th percentile of his class in weight for his height. ANd his BMI was well over what it should be. The letter fell short of actually saying he was a big fatso, but I got the message. And I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Of course, I knew my son was chubby. He’d been so skinny as a little kid, but once he hit prepuberty, he ballooned.

It wasn’t his diet, I knew that, because he didn’t eat processed sugar or foods. He wasn’t that short, but I also knew that he hadn’t stretched out, either. He wasn’t an athlete, but he wasn’t a couch potato, either. He played baseball and soccer, rode a bike, hiked in the White Mountains, and even ran.

When he asked me what the letter from his school said, I lied and told him nothing. Why?

I didn’t want him to know that went this was the result of the recent weighing, measuring and eye test he had at his elementary school–a letter reducing him to numbers that would make him feel more self conscious that he already did. And would most likely humiliate him. He’s 21 now and 185 lbs. at 6′ 1″. The weight fell off him as he flew through puberty and grew into manhood. The baby fat by and large went away.

But now, 10 years later, these kinds of letters still go out to parents. But across the country, I’m happy to tell you state legislatures are starting to ban the collection of such data on students. According to National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA),

“Children whose parents were told they were overweight were no more likely to have lost weight than children whose parents were not notified according to the School-Based Body Mass Index Screening and Parent Notification study. The findings were based on data from nearly 7 million children.
The focus on overweight and obesity has led to increases in body dissatisfaction in children as young as six years of age.  Lower body satisfaction does not serve as a motivator for engaging in healthy weight management behaviors, but rather predicts the use of behaviors that may place adolescents at risk for weight gain and poorer overall health according to the study, Does body satisfaction matter?”
I believe in health, but I have a huge issue with stigmatizing kids.
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