This week there’s been a new report out and lots of media discussion around children and obesity, with the report recommending children’s BMI checks annually. This all ties in with discussions on sugar tax recommendations – in particular on sugary and fizzy drinks (I wonder if orange juice is included in these talks despite it being natural sugar and having nutritional benefits).
I’m of mixed view on the matter. Overall I think there probably is something that needs to be done, and if it helps keep kids on the healthy size/eating track, then that’s a good thing. Yes, there’s the nanny state moans from people, that people (and parents) should be able to make their own decisions as to what it right for their children. But ultimately there is a problem with obesity and education methods so far doesn’t seem to be working very well.
As I see it, with obesity (of the eating too much and not exercising kind) is about choice and taking ownership. As someone from a family where the middle aged females have always been overweight, I’ve allowed myself to get that way twice. Once after moving in with the OH – not aided by my love of food, a 2 hour commute each day meaning reduced exercise, and eating portions that were more suitable for the OH who does a physical job and doesn’t need to think about what he eats. It was easily lost through exercise and calorie counting. Then after having N, I’ve spent the last 5 years trying to start a diet, but struggled with willpower and just ending up eating more of the food I love.Awareness and wanting to make a change to lose weight is personal choice…. timing of the choice is key Click To Tweet
With a year off my 40th, that was it. The reason to do it once and for all and lose the extra 6 stone over my maintainable healthy weight I should be at. 3 months in, I’ve lost 3 stone thanks to initially reviewing the New You plan but continuing it afterwards, and hopefully in another 4 or 5 months I’ll have got to goal weight and be maintaining a healthy weight.
But I would hate to see N be overweight, and I would do everything in my power to stop that from happening. Luckily although he has a big appetite (and was always on the 91st centile as a baby), he’s so active that even a daily treat, and snacking all morning is just burned off quickly. I’m hoping he has more of the OH’s genes where all the men seem to stay the same size into their 60s or 70s.
It’s quite often larger parents who have larger children…unhealthy eating habits at home will of course be the norm and teach children to eat the same way. Sometimes children put on weight later on due to freedoms like having pocket money, walking to school past shops and being able to eat what they want when out and be able to hide it from parents at home (we always used to buy crisps, chocolate or ice lollies on the way home from school when we were at secondary – thankfully we were active enough not to worry about it). This is where education needs to come in, especially where parents (and children) may be in denial that there’s a problem.Annual BMI checks for children - to be encouraged or too much and a nanny state? Click To Tweet
I suspect this is where the annual BMI checks would come in. They seem a better option than the writing of a letter which can be seen by parents as accusatory. I can’t see parents allowing their children to have their BMI checked at school like a sight test or jabs might be done.
I remember going into 6th form when I changed from comprehensive to private school, and all new children had to have a health check during the first week. We all went to the ‘San’ building, we had to get stripped to underwear and sit in dressing gowns until the school nurse checked each person’s height and weight, before getting dressed and the doctor checking various other health aspects. With girls in the 6th form at a boys boarding school they wanted to keep an eye on the pupils health, but also watch out for potential eating disorders and any other issues with children away from home. But I can’t see this happening at a state school.
So it would need to be via doctors’ surgeries which are already too busy, and how many people are realistically going to take their children for an annual health check when there’s nothing wrong with them and when they could stand them on the scales at home?
I do think children need to be kept an eye on with their weight along with other health checks like eye sight and the regular . The only way you can do it is to have it as blanket checks so it can’t be seen as pointing the finger and singling people out.
My only real issue is how they would measure it…and with BMI it’s not always the most accurate way of measuring healthiness and fitness for adults, let alone children. We all know how big burly but superfit rugby players all have BMIs well over the healthy range, and the same as some superfit athletes who weigh more but are all muscle. And that compares with superskinny people who maybe be underweight or at the lower end of healthy BMI, but eat nothing or junk food and might have unhealthy fat unseen inside.
With children it’s a mystery to me on how BMI works.
While N was a big baby (9lb 5oz) and continued to be solid and one of the bigger ones in our NCT group, he was never an overweight child. He eats loads, a well balanced diet with plenty of nutrients, freshly made meals and variety, but he is given cake and other sweet treats. His activity level is such (even including school) that everything is just burned off. Although once he is less active at school with more sitting down learning, I’ll keep a watch out.
But he’s been pretty much the same weight since he was just over 2. At 5 years old, he’s around 2 stone 9lb. He’s in the right size clothes for his age, I need to pull in all his trouser waists, and sometimes he looks a little slimmer when he’s having a bit of a growth spurt. But he’s normal for his age and probably middle end of the spectrum of his classmates. Some are solid, some are slimmer, but not one of them looks chubby or unhealthy. The larger boys are also the ones that do a lot of sport outside of school.
But if I plug in N’s weight, height, age and sex into BMI checkers online I get different results each time.
The NHS BMI calculator shows him at the bottom end of the healthy BMI on the 3rd centile. That’s probably about right from the way he looks and the way his clothes fit now he no longer has his toddler belly. But I use another calculator and he comes out with a BMI of 29, saying he’s overweight which is madness for his size.
How can something be so extreme? That’s my concern.
What measure will be used and will it be accurate with some leeway for background, genes, appetite, activities they do?
Will annual checks start to worry children, or will it just be another thing they do and not worry about it. Maybe it could be good for healthy children to know there’s a good range for them to be in – maybe being told they’re healthy would stop them thinking wrongly that they’re fat, and dieting at a young age. Or if it’s not accurate, you could end up with more eating disorders if children are told they’re obese when they’re not and they’d grow out of their baby fat naturally.
Will it really encourage parents to take a look at their children and make changes for them? And potentially themselves if there’s an issue. So much of healthy eating and healthy lifestyles comes from parents, so there’s no point trying to help the children if the parents don’t buy into it and make the changes themselves.
I’ll be watching out to see what more is said on the matter and if any changes come into play.
What are your thoughts? Would you like to see children’s BMI checks introduced or are you against it?