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Monday, March 11, 2013

Please Grade My Weight.

So... BMI on report cards, Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign . . . I’m so sick of seeing things on TV advocating for more physical activity and healthier food in schools. Before you all disagree with me, just hear me out. Health is wonderful and important. Play and physical activity is wonderful for the mind AND body. But BMI on a report card?
Actual Billboard. Made by Grownups. Who should know better . . .


BMI the Body Mass Index: an arbitrary number used to calculate whether someone’s weight is appropriate. It doesn’t take into account sex, genetics, build, or athleticism. Men are generally more muscular than women, women naturally have more fat, muscle weighs more than fat, etc. Higher muscle mass often puts athletes in the overweight category by BMI. 

So I’m wondering: are we trying to give kids another reason to bully eachother, or are we just trying to teach them to hate themselves? To find moral value in a number? Are we advocating eating disorders under that guise of “health”?? (And by eating disorders I mean anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and other.) I’m not saying kids don’t need to learn correct eating practices; they do. And they should also be taught about staying active (notice I said “staying active,” not “exercise”--that’s an important distinction). I think all of America could benefit from a refresher course on eating (and moving) intuitively. I AM saying that if we’re working at one side, we need to at least acknowledge the other. BMI on a report card is ridiculous. Even health professionals will tell you that  BMI is merely a guideline. We’re all built differently.. I know, please try to contain your shock.

Kids are dieting younger and younger, and America is getting more and more unhealthy. Obesity and eating disorders are becoming more rampant. We’re killing ourselves trying to be “healthy.” How messed up is that??

Does anyone else think this ad is child abuse? 

“In one study, researchers asked normal-weight middle school students if they intended to diet in the future—and when they followed up a few years later, those who had said "yes" weighed more than the non-dieters did. "The act of dieting, for the most part, leads to further weight problems," says registered dietitian Melinda Johnson, a lecturer in the nutrition program at Arizona State University. "It's not appropriate for the vast majority of kids to go on a weight-loss diet." --Angela haupt. U.S. News: Health.

(I can personally attest that the above statement is legit. I NEVER thought about my weight or my body until I started trying to lose weight. And as soon as I did that, I gained more weight. )

Mrs. Obama, I understand the good intent behind the “Let’s Move” campaign, but I IMPLORE you to address both sides of the food and exercise coin. Yes there are children who over eat and under exercise, but there are also kids who are restricting, binging, purging, over exercising, and the consequences of these behaviors are just as scary; just as deserving of attention. 

When I searched for “obesity," there were 35,200 results; "overweight" had 308, "anorexia" and "bulimia" both had ZERO, and "eating disorder" had three. THREE. One is a blog briefly mentioning that one in three girls have “depression, anxiety or eating disorders.” The other mentioned “binge eating disorder.” And exactly zero articles defined eating disorders, why they’re dangerous, or how someone can be helped if they have one. One in three children are overweight or obese, but the lack of attention paid in this campaign to the other side of disordered eating is offensive to me, and very irresponsible. 

According to ANAD,“Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.” The last time I checked, “over one-half” means at least one in two. And that’s more than one in three. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

“Although eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder,  the mortality rates reported on those who suffer from eating disorders can vary considerably between studies and sources. Part of the reason why there is a large variance in the reported number of deaths caused by eating disorders is because those who suffer from an eating disorder may ultimately die of heart failure, organ failure, malnutrition or suicide. Often, the medical complications of death are reported instead of the eating disorder."

Kids don’t need to learn about “good” and “bad” foods. They need to learn about listening to their bodies and eating when their bodies want and need. Why is moral value attached to food? It’s all just fat, carbs, and protein. Teaching kids to diet isn’t ok with me. And that’s what this is, only it’s wrapped up in some pretty words and sugar coated (ironically . . . ). If food is good or bad, it has moral value; when I eat this, I’m “good”, and when I eat THAT I’m “bad.”

Let’s teach this: Moderation in all things; food and exercise included. Thinness and sickness; obesity and health, neither of these are mutually exclusive. There's no weight limit on AWESOME.

Until this happens we’re going to get sicker and sicker and pass on this culture to our children and theirs and on and on. That is NOT ok with me! I don’t want my children to go to school and have their teachers tell them what they’re eating “wrong” or that they weight “too much.” I don’t want them to think they have to diet. Dieting=starving=obsessing about food=losing control and binging=unhealthy weight loss or gain.

And guess what.
TRUST me on this.

I think this current “kid’s diet” trend will teach children to view food as reward or punishment, not as energy to fuel their miraculous, extraordinary, and beautifully unique bodies.

That really scares me. . . 


  1. Thank you Camilla,
    For expertly voicing the opinion of so many mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and frieds.
    Love you!!

  2. Amen sister!! If we all made "bank" and had personal trainers and full-time chefs then we'd all be "healthy" (a.k.a. skinny). I wonder if they take that into account in their master plan on this war they've declared on childhood obesity?

  3. I agree with you. My husband has been labeled obese since he was in 3rd grade. It has absolutely affected his self esteem. He's the same height as me and according to BMI he's supposed to weight the same as me! ha! It doesn't take into account his build at all. I am hoping to raise my children with confidence and self respect, no matter what the scale says.

  4. I couldn't agree more. I think we can find effective ways to fight childhood obesity without tearing down children's self-esteem. Many people who have suffered from eating disorders were over-weight as children and were bombarded by these types of messages.

  5. I absolutely agree with you Camilla especially in regards to putting a moral value on food (i.e. good vs. bad food). Childhood and adolescence are already challenging enough stages in life without us adding extra guilt and shame in regards to how a child looks. I do believe that there is a correlation between the growing popularity of video games and the rate of childhood obesity but I think that it is the responsibility of the parent to encourage his or her child to be more active (family bike rides, hikes, etc.) and not the responsibility of the media and society at large. My heart breaks for the children whose images are being used in those ad campaigns, it's already hard enough to be a heavy kid in elementary school without having your image plastered on a billboard next to the word FAT. The adults behind these campaigns may have their hearts in the right place but they are going about it all wrong.

  6. Hi Camilla!! I have been reading your blog for a long time now and this is actually the first time I have commented. While I rather remain anon, I can't seem to figure out how to do it (I just don't want some people finding me b/c they don't know of my past ED), but this post really hits home for me!

    I actually started developing anorexia after a health lab we did in science class. In this lab,we had to write down our meals and measurements for a whole week. After the lab, I found out I was eating way too many carbs and i began cutting them out soon after (funny thing was that i was slightly naturally underweight at this time)Within ~8 months, I had lost about 40 lbs and I was in critical danger. I was forced into recovery and 4 years later, here I am!
    I can say that my mindset is better than what it was when I was under ana's control, but in no way is it the same and carefree as before. I struggle almost everyday and it kills me to know that this was all caused by a little health assignment we had in school.

    My little sister is in middle school right now and they are literally attacking the health system. She has extra P.E. classes and a nutrition class that she has to take for half a year. In school, no desserts are allowed. I am worried for her , but I also do know that she is different from me. I know if I were in her position now, I would be having panic attacks everyday at school though!

    I agree with you that what Michelle is doing is good, but she needs to address the other side of things as well. I have lost a great deal of my years to ana and I would not like for anyone else to go through what i did... However, I am not that influential so I don't think I could make a difference.. maybe you could? =)

  7. Milla,

    My baby sister has a Non-Specified Eating Disorder. It began when she was in Fifth Grade. The doctor told my mom that my sister should lose 5 lbs, and my sister heard. Thanks Doctor!

    This post is so important. It touches an issue that most people never consider.

    Also, you got this. You are an amazing person, and a beautiful soul.

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