A weighty issue

Yesterday we got a letter. The letter from the nurse saying Boy1 is due his Year 6 weight check. It got me thinking about the whole issue of weighing children and if the current system is right or even effective.

Part of me thinks it’s helpful for children and parents to know how heavy they are in case they want to make lifestyle changes before wider health issues kick in.

I’m fully aware that obesity is a serious issue in this country and the consequences can have a knock on effect on everyone. Physically, emotionally and yes, financially (we are paying for healthcare after all).

Yes we live in world that runs on data and this won’t change any time soon. Collecting this information can help public bodies to understand where obesity is a worse problem and hopefully tackle it. I get that it’s about prevention rather than cure at this point.

As the mother of a fairly active 10 year old, I’m expecting him to get a thumbs up and be sent on his way 👍🏿

But what if he’s not? What if they tell me that my boy who does football twice, plays tennis and swims every week, is overweight? What can I really do? Find another sport (and more money) to squeeze into his week? Or feed him less? Or maybe I stretch his legs a little to change his height and his BMI??

Because that’s really my issue with it. BMI is such a lazy way of measuring ‘health’, especially in young people. Most parents will agree that children seem to grow in one direction at a time. It’s like their body says ‘ok this month I’m growing out’ then ‘next month I’m growing up’. Nothing to do with their health!

Anyone who knew me at a young age will remember I was always ‘tall’, which is laughable now. But I just seemed to stretch earlier! Now, I’m short and my belly looks like I’m permanently 20 weeks preggers!

At 10/11 there are hormones starting to rear their ugly heads, which will affect their bodies and let’s be honest, their confidence too (so standing in scales in front of a school nurse probably won’t help).

BMI doesn’t tell you what’s happening inside. It doesn’t look at muscle mass, lifestyle, food and water intake. Yes, that might be more expensive to analyse but would be a better way to tell if a child is on the road to heart disease and diabetes, right?

Plus, from what I hear, when parents do get the ‘fat letter’ there isn’t any subsequent support. Just a few random leaflets with stuff they already know. “Eat 5 a day. Walk to school instead of driving. Eat healthy snacks.”

Yeah, thanks 😏

What if said child is doing all of this? Where is the additional support?

There must be a better, less accusatory, more helpful way of tackling the issue.

We’ve got a sugar tax, but I don’t see that money going into healthy food subsidies.

Schools are struggling to provide basic supplies, let alone free swimming lessons or after school sports, like the good old days.

I don’t think it’s down to the government to keep us healthy, not at all. Parental and societal responsibility is key. But just lighting a fuse and walking away ain’t helping.

We need a more holistic approach to tackling this issue, don’t we?

Our kids are getting fatter. That is a fact. We need to solve this problem before it’s too late. But I’m still not sure getting an active, hormonal 10 year old to step on the scales is the solution.

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