This post has taken a little while to write because I’ve actually done some research….well not official research but I posted a few questions on social media and asked some women at work (thanks Emma and Lesley)…..that counts as research doesn’t it??
I was prompted to write this, by a status that was posted on Facebook by a friend. She had received a letter from School advising her that her 4yr old son “fell into the category of very overweight” for their age, height and sex. The letter also contained some advice about healthy eating and links to various NHS website to give further information. This was following what was essentially a blanket BMI test for all. The NHS website explains BMI as, body mass index (BMI), a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. For most adults, an ideal BMI is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range. For children and young people aged 2 to 18, the BMI calculation takes into account age and gender as well as height and weight.
If your BMI is:
- below 18.5 – you’re in the underweight range
- between 18.5 and 24.9 – you’re in the healthy weight range
- between 25 and 29.9 – you’re in the overweight range
- between 30 and 39.9 – you’re in the obese range
I knew about BMI but was completely oblivious that it was used in some UK schools. When I was at school, Jamie Oliver wasn’t famous and we were still aloud to eat turkey twizzlers. They really didn’t care too much about healthy eating or the weight of each pupil. Attitude to food and weight have obviously changed in the 2o odd years since I was at primary school. Nevertheless I was still shocked to see 4yr old’s been categorised by this test and parents quite blatantly told their child fell into the category of “overweight”.
This is a huge topic and I’m never really going to be able to give it justice in a blog post. To help me out and as part of my very ‘professional’ research. I wanted to gauge other peoples points of view, so I put it out there and got some really interesting feedback from teachers and other parents. The stand out remark was about the actual method of testing, is it reliable?? is it a appropriate?? is it a good indicator?? Matty from buggiesandbarbell got in touch and it turns out he’s not only a decent bloke but he’s a sports and exercise nutritional advisor. We shared very similar thoughts about the whole concept of BMI as a tool and how its actually pretty unreliable. Results can be distorted by a number of different factors, which dont necessarily mean you or your child are overweight. Matty himself would be classed as overweight due to weighing 14st and only being 5’9, but if you check out his instagram, he’s absolutely ripped. Children especially; grow, mature and develop at different rates, so for a test like BMI which relies on numbers, this will never be reliable, or something parents need to get too offended about. You know your child best and 99.9% of parents know that kids shouldn’t eat 42 chicken nuggets everyday and only drink Coke. Its about balance…do the majority of parents need a BMI result to tell them this….No they don’t.
So if that’s the case does a child’s weight even need to be tested?? In an ideal world…..No, kids should be allowed to be kids without the fear of been told they are overweight, underweight or unhealthy. Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world, you don’t need me to tell you that childhood obesity is a reality. As long as kids are eating too much crap and not exercising enough, there’s an issue that needs tackled. Schools aren’t nutritional experts but they are obviously there to educate…..and this is the important point for me…..Education. Not only for kids but for parents. In order to reach out to parents, schools need a starting point. Teachers cant go round the playground, rounding up the fat kids and testing them, so they can tell their parents to give them less Mcflurry’s. Schools needs something, they need to be inclusive, they need a test that produces results. BMI is the best they’ve got. Is it going to solve childhood obesity, rotting teeth and sedentary children…..no….but at least they are doing something and Turkey twizzlers are off the menu.
Finally and suppose what I have reflected on most……How would I feel if we got the same letter about Effy………well the reality is; it would make me think, it would make me reflect, it would make me consider choices, but after that I would do exactly the same as my Facebook friend who inspired this post………I’d put the letter in the bin and carry on parenting exactly the same. The vast majority of parents who got letters saying that that their child fell into the category of “very overweight”, know themselves its bullshit, and they can carry on exactly the same. However if it gets to a parent who doesn’t know, who is struggling to manage their child’s weight and hasn’t got a clue what food choice are right/wrong…..then its worked, the door has been opened and the education can begin.
Is your child fat…..probably not….but if they are, do them and yourself a favour and sort it out.
Thanks to everyone who got in touch about this, really appreciate your input and would love to hear anyone else’s thoughts/experiences on this.