When I heard they had brought back the public weighing of students in the school gyms of some elementary schools, it brought back all kinds of memories.
“Hey, Fatso,” the boy said to me, as we waited in line to be weighed and measured. We were in fourth grade at Longfellow Elementary, 1971, and this was a dreaded annual occurence, especially for overweight girls like me. Deep down, I only wanted boys to like me.
This set off the boy next to him. “Yeah, Tub ‘o Lard! Why don’t you go on a diet or somethin’?” Both boys then went off into a fit of giggles, and I averted my eyes and tried to ignore them like my mom had told me. “Kids can be so cruel,” she said.
Being twenty pounds overweight at nine years old seemed devastating, and I felt like there was something horribly wrong with me. By the time I was eleven, I went on my first diet to lose weight — followed by almost thirty years of yo-yo dieting. Ten years ago I decided to stop, and simply live a thin lifestyle (see: Yo-Yo Dieting; Stop the Insanity!), and have kept off 50 pounds since then.
It’s with mixed emotions that I look at elementary schools that have started this public weighing and measuring again in the school gyms. Do they have proof that it helps children with their weight, or eating habits? Where are all those kids from my fourth-grade class of 1971? Did they follow the path of diet insanity, or did it teach them to be thin for life? And how can they have accurate height and weight charts for children at any age group, since all kids grow at different rates until they reach their adult height?
I like a more positive approach, like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, started over a year ago,
that gets kids moving. One in three kids are overweight in the United States. Making physical activity fun, and teaching kids good eating habits like stopping when you’re full, and making healthy choices, goes a lot farther than potentially publicly humiliating them in front of their peers in a school gym.
The only way I can ever see weighing and measuring an overweight student is if it was done in private, behind closed doors like in the nurse’s office, with the parent and child’s permission, and with a helpful and encouraging spirit — and tips on how to life thin for life. Your thoughts?