Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The system is broken

I don't usually get political, but I'm afraid that when it is in regard to issues of diet & nutrition, I will have to speak up. And you can agree or respectfully disagree with me. But here is my piece...

Several months ago I received a letter from my first grader's school asking if we were OK with them weighing and measuring our child. We were able to opt out by signing a piece of paper, but I didn't. No biggie, I thought. Well, I got a letter from the school food service director yesterday. It started out this way, "Recently, in compliance with the federally mandated School Wellness Program and Senate Bill 210, your child's height and weight measurements were taken at school. Those measurements were used to calculate your child's Body Mass Index." (I'm still trying to figure out why the government feels the need to be involved in this area of my life :-)

The result was that she was in the slightly overweight range and it followed with this recommendation..."It is recommended that you contact your family doctor for follow-up care if your child's BMI percentile is outside the average or typical range." Now, what bothered me the most about this "diagnosis" was not anything personal. My daughter is fine. She is not overweight and she is healthy. Are there improvements we can continue to make in our health? Yes. But is this measuring tool really getting to the root of the problem? No. First of all, BMI is measured by weight and heighth. It doesn't take into account someone's body density (however you would measure that). I have always, always weighed a ton more than I look like I weigh. Out of my four children, one of them is as light as a feather and the others are as dense as a brick when you go to pick them up. (Elizabeth, the first grader, is in the middle on the right of the family picture above.) Second, although they ARE going to find those children who are most obese (which is the problem they are trying to combat) by using this standard, in the meantime they will NOT find the children whose weight to height ratio is perfect, yet they are plagued with sicknesses and allergies and live on refined, processed foods. Being overweight is just one symptom of an unhealthy body. There are many children who aren't overweight who have many other symptoms of an unhealthy body.

In the government's noble quest to save all the school children of America from obesity - this truly is not the solution! The BMI test is not correctly pinpointing which children are healthy and which children are unhealthy.

Another thing I see happening, is that children who are my daughter's size and perfectly FINE and healthy, will have parents who hear the news that their child is overweight and actually believe it. They are the parents whose self-worth revolves around what happens to their child and what other people say about their child. So they will start to worry and then put an unnecessary fear or worry into the child. That is when the child's self-esteem starts to suffer and they start to have body image problems when their body is absolutely fine! I just wish I could yell from the rooftops - it is not about weight, people! And it's funny that I say that because it
was about weight for me for most of my life. Until I realized that, as I just mentioned, weight was just a symptom of the problem. Being overweight is just one of many of the symptoms of an unhealthy, unbalanced system. Just like fatigue or joint pain might be.

Obviously the recommendations for these government programs to fight obesity are good. Eating a healthy diet and exercising is the no-nonsense solution. But is there a reason why we have to take the time and pain to weigh and measure every school child in America? Can we simply put the recommendations for the program into place and suggest that every child and family implement the changes? Shouldn't we ALL strive to be healthy regardless of how much we weigh? Ultimately it IS up to each one of us to be responsible for our health and be good stewards of our bodies that God has blessed us with. Nobody else can do it for us or our children.

In the meantime, thank you, government, for being concerned about the health of our school children. Because you are right, it surely is in jeopardy. But please, please realize that your system for measuring who is healthy and who is not is faulty. And please, please, PLEASE realize that these "overweight" children (some of whom may or may not be really overweight or even unhealthy, for that matter) are not the only children out there who are unhealthy. More water, more fruits & veggies, more exercise = less sickness, more energy. It is a simple equation and everybody - regardless of the size of their body - could benefit from doing that math!

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