Reuben’s one of the overweight children…

Reuben's one of the overweight children...

Last week Roo had a reception weight and height thing at school. They are offered out to everyone, but you do have the option to refuse if you wish. I have to be honest and say I was rather surprised that people would want to refuse – why? It’s only a weight and height thing right? WRONG.

Picture me blissfully unaware as I sat at my desk fighting off Edith who was like a breastmilk velociraptor, as the post came through the door. An ideal opportunity to tell madam to get away from my boobs and jump up to give her whichever pointless bill had soared through the door to rip up… But it wasn’t just spam mail and bills this time. Nope, there was a letter to say my child was overweight.

At 5 years old. Overweight.

Not only was there a letter to inform me of my drastic parenting failure but it was accompanied by a startlingly bright guide on how not to make your child a fatty and how to parent and monitor food. I have to admit at first I felt a bit surprised. Roo is undeniably the tallest child in his class, he’s also one of the stockiest, strongest and broadest. According to the letter the tests done were build on weight, height and sex. Which means only one thing: fucking BMI.

Here I was reading away in my how to guide wondering if it was specifically written to make you feel like an errant child (especially with all that fun bright writing that made you wonder if Word Art was making a comeback) when it suddenly occurred to me that this was utter bullshit. The implication was that Reuben must be fed on a diet of fizzy pop, chocolate bars and neglect. I’ll happily cop to the last one from time to time, but our diet is actually really good. We believe in moderation and yes, on a Friday, we have an ice cream. We eat sweets occasionally and we will drink juice if it suits us. Just not constantly.

Then I flick to the next page and we’re all about adult size potions versus child size portions. Did you know that a child’s stomach is smaller than yours? I had no idea – I just presumed that the other vital body organs were held within the arms and gradually migrated inwards as the child grew (which is why I guess I always have had chubby arms – I’m short, it’s my burden). What in the fuckery is this? Whilst I would never claim to be a mensa member, I feel pretty confident that I have  acquired a rather basic understand of anatomy. Further to this, what are they suggesting that you do? “I’m so sorry darling, but according to your BMI – which is largely regarded as bullshit by the majority of health professionals and is NOT an indication of your health – you are a touch on the porky side, so no more than three peas and half a slice of chicken with your small cube of potato tonight, I’m sorry but you’ll simply have to be hungry”. It’s absolutely insane.

When I got to school I had a chat with the other mums and out of the four that said they had received a letter from the nurse visit, three had children that were overweight. All of which look like perfectly healthy, normal weight range children and none of which had a concerned GP. This begs the question, is our country suffering from rising obesity rates and an issue with overweight children, or are we misplacing funding and allowing our children to become subject to the dreaded BMI checks that are often wrong? o tot mention how much those oh-so-helpful guides must have cost to print… all the primary and secondary colours!

The truth is, I’m not going to change a thing with Reuben’s diet. His snacks are fruit and veg based, and he is given a treat every so often of sweets, crisps, ice cream etc. His meals are home cooked and his favourite food is pasta, rice with green Thai curry and (given the chance) a sausage roll. His drinks are water and milk. His cereals are weetabix or Cheerios. Like a lot of children, his diet is perfectly healthy and well balanced – a good mix of treats and nutrition. In addition to the fact that they are basing these stats off an unreliable chart, there is a huge undying implication here that for someone to be outside of the “normal box” means that they are automatically unhealthy. They aren’t – there are plenty of overweight people who are very healthy.

After chatting to the other mums they feel the same, yet some parents wouldn’t.

This could really be such a devastating blow to someone, who would put their five year old on a diet and slam them with a complex for life. Yet ironically whilst the government seem to have funding to send nurses out to schools to perform these simple and ineffective tests, I would love to see how they would fair if every parent of every child who is supposedly overweight were to ask for the advice of a paediatric nutritionalist. I’m banking not well.

H x

55 Comments

  1. May 18, 2016 / 1:33 pm

    Absolutely fantastic post. My 4 year old was born (and remained)non the 98th centile. We received a letter a few weeks back saying he was “very overweight” for his age and sex and height. BMI is clearly a crock of crap. He eats well, likes chocolate, but considers himself a “fruit monster” as he eats so much of it. Like Roo, weetabix or porridge for breakfast and pasta, etc for dinner. I was devastated when I received the letter. But knowing enough about nutrition, I trust my instincts and binned it.

  2. May 18, 2016 / 11:13 am

    I hate this. When you look at BMI info it clearly says its not for kids. My friend recently had the same with her 5 year old, again, she’s tall for her age. I don’t think this is at all helpful, it just makes good parents feel like failures, and it’s quite obvious to see which children are actually overweight. Your little guy is not one of them. Ridiculous. x

  3. Iris Tilley
    May 16, 2016 / 2:26 pm

    Not only is it puppy fat but i don’t always believe what they say is true. If you want to force a lean child figuire cutting out treats wont work it will only make them and you more hardwork plus them prone to sneak treat. Instead ignore the experts get your childs and your balance right and stay happy

  4. May 14, 2016 / 6:48 am

    I think BMI is a handy tool, but it shouldn’t be the only one. I was overweight 6 years ago and after loosing weight and starting to exercise I realized that with the same number of stones, at the same height the difference can be noticeable depending on muscles.
    He doesn’t look overweight to me. I imagine how annoying it was to see that his diet was considered to be poorly. I agree with you that we all need a little bit of treats and if the balance is right and the healthy stuff makes up most of the diet, why not indulge from time to time. Sadly I don’t think they can have a personalized approach, but the way they did it wasn’t the best either. Antagonizing parents is not the way forward.

    • Harriet May 16, 2016 / 9:36 am

      I agree Anca, and the thing is if you antagonise parents, they just won’t change a thing. Also, if someone does allow their child to get the point of being seriously overweight then are they likely to want help or change things anyway? I doubt it.

  5. May 12, 2016 / 12:19 pm

    I didn’t think BMI applied to children, I wonder how they came to their conclusion then. I’d be right miffed too to get a letter like that!

    • Harriet May 12, 2016 / 4:40 pm

      It was based on the BMI Elizabeth – that is the guide they use as standard for these tests apparently – but no, it’s not a useful guide for kids.

  6. May 11, 2016 / 6:43 am

    I wouldn’t worry, I never really understand how they can justify these findings at that age. I just ignored it with mine.

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 7:39 pm

      That’s the plan Kizzy! So silly!

  7. May 10, 2016 / 8:05 pm

    How ridiculous! It’s so unfortunate that body shaming starts so early. Kids should be kids and not worry about their weight unless their doctor says there is a medical issue. BMI is an entirely outdated means of measuring health. I’m sorry you had to go through that but glad that you know it’s complete crap!

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 7:47 pm

      I know! I have told a few friends this – BMI is beyond a joke. H x

  8. May 10, 2016 / 3:59 pm

    Oh I love the way you have written this! Word art?? Pahaha seriously though, it’s all those Turkey twisters and chicken nuggets you’re feeling him…. Blatantly! Does this mean I can ignore my bmi result? Although now I’m only overweight not morbidly obese, can I stop with the crackers and iceberg?

    I’m glad you weren’t t alone though, and that you’re not going to change a thing!!

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 7:50 pm

      Turkey twisters? Haha they are farrrrr too healthy for him. We double dip them in grease first 😉

      Yesssss, ignore the BMI and move on to the more up to date measuring systems! H x

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  10. May 10, 2016 / 12:46 pm

    Thats crazy. I know my daughter is a good size and someone said something about her having a tummy and i was like thats normal. I agree stick to what your doing and don’t change anything. I think in life sometimes people are either too much over zealous about something or not enough..a good middle balanced approach would be better..and your child looks fine!

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 7:51 pm

      Thanks Angela! What??? Your daughter is perfect – I have seen so many pictures of her, she is perfect! H x

  11. May 10, 2016 / 9:09 am

    This is something that really annoys me! I hate the whole BMI thing as it just puts such pressure on everyone, my daughter is classed as overweight because of it but she is one of the tallest children in her class. She eats a well balanced diet, loves her vegetables and snacks on fruit… Obviously she has the occasional treat, she’s a kid! She is also sporty and is in many after school clubs like dance, gymnastics, basketball, netball and football plus she spends her days riding her bike and running around the park so she is more than active!

  12. May 10, 2016 / 7:03 am

    What utter nonsence, he’s clearly very healthy and not in the slightest chunky looking. These proffessionals are so concerned with their charts that they have no idea what actually constitutes a healthy human. My mother in law said that my husband was classed as underweight all through childhood – he wasn’t. He was just short and outside of their “normal” box. I however was a bit of a chunky kid but as soon as I reached 11 it all dropped off. I think they need to look at the bigger picture and intervene if and only if a child is truly and obviously overweight.

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 7:56 pm

      It’s ludicrous! H x

  13. May 9, 2016 / 10:50 pm

    BMI is a load of crap. I think schools need to get with the times and stop calling children overweight when they’re clearly not. I absolutely hate the school system these days. You follow your motherly instincts.

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 7:58 pm

      BMI is totally bollocks!

  14. May 9, 2016 / 8:08 pm

    Are they blind? It is quite clear to me that Rubeun is not overweight, he is in fact slim and his diet is excellent, far better than mine even as a vegetarian. My point being is that they can stick their condescending letter right up their arse and shove it where the sun don’t shine. How dare they be so patronizing to assume you are feeding your child wrong, I bloody hate BMI. I am considered underweight and yet I eat a lot.

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      I know! I don’t think you look underweight, I think you look perfect Ana – it is such a false indicator!

  15. May 9, 2016 / 3:49 pm

    This is ridiculous he looks perfectly healthy to me. I think there has to be a better way to assess children rather than BMI. A healthy balanced diet and lots of exercise are key to me. I let the boys eat pretty much anything but they’re always out playing and being active.

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      I know right? Bloody BMI! It’s tosh!

  16. May 9, 2016 / 3:10 pm

    There is no way he looks overweight and I can not believe that the school would say this! x

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:03 pm

      I know! To be fair it has nothing to do with school, rather the independent nurse that comes in on NHS participation!

  17. May 9, 2016 / 2:14 pm

    I remember being weighed in year 6 in front of the class – at that point I was 5ft 6 (as tall as I would ever grow) and I was well through puberty when it came to growing breasts and had, had periods for a while. I was just over 10 stone and was a size 10/12.

    However I got called fat, heavy, pin cushion and all sorts by the other kids – I had been all through my primary school years as not only did I have baby fat I was always so much taller than the others.

    It wasn’t till my late 20s I was able to look back and think my god – I was absolutely normal for my height and development. I am big now, my mobility and meds have helped me pile the pounds on and I feel sad I was never able to ever see myself as I really was thanks to the kids at school.

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:07 pm

      Oh Sarah that is heartbreaking! It makes me SO angry!!

  18. May 9, 2016 / 1:46 pm

    oh wow hearing this makes me SO MAD! Its another one of those not letting children be children things. Everything is so health and safety obsessed these days it takes the fun out of everything. I think its terrible also that they are labelling children as overweight. How is a child meant to built a positive outlook on them selfs if at 5 years old they are getting told they are over weight.!!!!
    Ive always ignored BMI, Until recently after having Lily. Ive always been underweight for my height. BUT its never been like ive starved myself.. I’ve always been a right greedy pig haha But I could just never put on weight. My Doctor was a nice one and told me not to worry about it.
    Im sure you already are going to.. but I would ignore this and carry on doing what your doing for your child the way you think is best. I hate how the government seems to think they know whats best for our children. Half the bloody government probably have nannies and don’t even see there children so how can they talk eh???

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:07 pm

      Very true! Hear hear!

  19. May 9, 2016 / 1:35 pm

    How annoying!!
    I feel you on this one … My youngest is in reception, and let me tell you – all of those students vary wildly in size, my boy is one of the youngest an therefore smallest (he’s still so tiny!) but If I had a £1 for every time someone remarked “OOh, don’t you feed him?” or “Oh look at him in his giant jumper!” I’d be stinking rich by now … my older boy is 12 and also one of the smallest in his year, whereas his best friend (also 12) looks like an actual fully grown, 6ft tall man – they couldn’t look more different when they walk off down the road together!

    Anna x

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:09 pm

      I know it’s dreadful, no child should be made to feel like they are over OR underweight unless they need medical help.

  20. May 9, 2016 / 1:18 pm

    This is so odd because looking at him I would never think he was overweight! I think the government should be spending their money elsewhere as these tests seem to be a waste of time..

  21. Sarah Ella (Mumx3x)
    May 9, 2016 / 10:27 am

    WHAT?! How can a five year old be over weight?! Seriously!! They all grow and change at different times. A five year old shouldn’t need to worry about about weight and being his mother, nor should you. Honestly, don’t worry about it right now, he is only five). I dread my daughter having hers because she IS tall (she’s 8 years old as tall as a 10 year old). There’s no way you can cut his food portions. Bless you and bless him! It’s so wrong. It does seem very pointless and I’m sure those nurses could be used elsewhere in the NHS system! I feel exactly the same as you.
    I know obesity needs to be taken seriously but not at age 5! That’s just.. I’m truly shocked.

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:13 pm

      It’s awful isn’t it? I think there is a real call to help children avoid obesity but BMI tests are not the way to do it.

  22. May 9, 2016 / 9:32 am

    Fecking BMI – utter tripe.
    Super post Hun, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with such a stupid thing as this. It’s infuriating.
    He’s clearly not overweight, my 8 year old had the same issue but like your son is just broader and larger framed than many of his friends.
    We have enough to guilt ourselves about already, without them adding to it.
    Carry on as you are.
    Gem.x
    #BloggerClubUK

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:14 pm

      I know! Absolute drivel!

  23. May 9, 2016 / 9:10 am

    We had the opposite when the height and weight charts came in, my 3yo is apparently underweight. He’s very slim but he eats. And eats. I hate the charts and the emphasis on weight. Too much. Too young. There are other ways to realise whether your child is healthy or not and that is watching what they are eating a diet of junk is obviously a path to an unhealthy lifestyle.

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:15 pm

      It really is too much too young!

  24. May 9, 2016 / 7:55 am

    Wow, this is crazy and would have made me really angry. I understand that we have an ‘obesity crisis’, but labelling kids at 5 as being overweight (when they’re clearly nothing of the sort) is ridiculous and hardly going to lead to a healthy attitude to food. It’s great that you’re confident enough in your parenting that you feel able to dismiss it as the rubbish it clearly is, but as you say, not every parent would.

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:15 pm

      Hmm I couldn’t agree more! It’s sad that not everyone would dismiss it!

  25. nicol
    May 9, 2016 / 12:13 am

    this whole bmi is ridiculous and shouldn’t even be used. ive read a lot of incidents like these in the news recently. just grrr

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:16 pm

      I know! it’s rubbish!

  26. May 8, 2016 / 10:03 pm

    Children have the rest of their lives to worry about their weight, society is going to be telling them they’re fat throughout. This makes me so sad! Let kids live

  27. May 8, 2016 / 9:40 pm

    Wow I am so shocked to read this – does this really happen??! I know now to refuse these tests when Tyler goes to school, that letter sounds horrible! You use your common sense and don’t listen to this crap! X

    • Harriet May 11, 2016 / 8:18 pm

      Yessss! Refuse em! It’s very pointless and I know if I take him back to his GP he will tell me that he is NOT overweight and is fine!

  28. May 8, 2016 / 9:21 pm

    Oh wow! So wrong saying a 5 year old child is over weight!! He is a child for goodness sake! x

  29. May 8, 2016 / 1:51 pm

    Sometimes things like this are crazy. He’s clearly very normal. I hate it when professionals don’t take a step back and actually look at the person behind the figures. I know that some kids will be genuinely overweight and it is usually obvious and this is a great service for those parents but some common sense must be used surely!

  30. Kate
    May 8, 2016 / 8:43 am

    I had the same this time last year when my ‘most definitely on the skinny side but holds a bit of muscle’ 4 year old had the same measurements done.

    I wrote to the nhs. I’m switched on enough to know their advice of cutting my sons portion sizes down to gnats fodder is, as you say, utter bollocks, but I spoke to at least two mums in that time who were not so confident about their choices. “Is it ok to give them pudding?” Their children were also what appeared to be a healthy state yet classified as overweight. I get the advice is good and some people do need it, but bmi’ing our littlies really ought to stop. Xx

  31. May 8, 2016 / 8:07 am

    I know obesity is something that we should be serious about but telling a 5 year old parent they are overweight because of bmi? Ridiculous! I swear I saw something before that even doctors said bmi was pointless?! X

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