Thursday, October 24, 2013

BMI for kids??

I came across this article the other day. In short, some schools around the US are using BMI as part of their health check-ups on kids and if the child falls into the overweight or obese category, a letter gets sent home with them (I assume underweight kids get letters too?).  The letters are in sealed envelopes but then again so were our report cards as kids and it didn't exactly stop any of us from reading them before we got home (hey, you gotta prepare yourself!).

I feel very torn about this issue. On the one hand, we are super fat as a nation. Our kids are fat. Our parents are fat. Even our pets are fat. If we could prevent kids from ever getting to the obese category, wouldn't that be a good thing? Wouldn't it be better to address obesity, inactivity and overeating in kids rather than in adults?

But and this is a big but (no pun intended!) - these are KIDS! And BMI is a joke! I fall into the overweight category for BMI sometimes (depends on my cycle, how much I've been flying, bulking vs cutting etc) but for perspective, I wear size 2-6 in clothes or a size small.  My husbands hands fit almost all the way around my waist (and he doesn't have huge hands). I've run a half marathon and completed the Tough Mudder. I can bench press half my weight and leg press almost twice my weight. So...overweight? Yeah, probably not (check out my Instragram@fatcityfit for photos of me). So if I was a kid in school, all my athleticism and healthy eating would be reduced to "Overweight".  No context.  No education. Frankly, no relevance except yet another way for kids (girls particularly) to start criticizing their bodies and thinking they are fat and something is wrong with them.

Why not have more classes on nutrition? Why not send all kids home with some health tips and easy to prepare healthy recipes? Why not start cooking classes earlier and insist on daily or at least 3 times a week physical education (PE) for everyone? Why not have classes for PE that encourage all kids? I remember when they split up the boys and girls for PE and it was a great thing - boys who often played tons more sports outside of school could be more competitive and girls often felt less intimidated. I think we should go one further though - separate classes by how competitive you want to be (I'm thinking high school/middle school age where you get to choose electives). If you want to play really competitive baseball for example, you pick one class, if you just want to get your PE credit done and have it be fun and active but not a competition, you pick another class.  I know it wouldn't be easy but making PE more accessible and fun for all kids (and for the love of Pete, send some funding back into PE classes) is incredibly important.

Being fit and healthy contributes to better learning in all subjects. And it's something almost all of us can benefit from. But singling out kids based on an overly simplistic, outdated measurement tool isn't right . It doesn't help anyone (in fact, athletic kids are very likely to end up with one of these "fat" letters because they have more muscle mass thus raising their BMI) and it may end up triggering eating issues in an already very susceptible group.

What do you think of BMI for kids? What about these letters?

Did you have PE in your school?

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