I’ve never been a fan of weighing children. Maybe it’s because I was the “big kid” when I was younger and I was bullied so badly for my weight, or maybe it’s because I feel like weight and, specifically, weighing myself is so triggering. A few years ago just after Edith was born, those scales would determine a lot – what I would eat that day (if at all), whether I could see friends for a drink or meal and even whether my sense of self worth would be high or low that day.
I know this isn’t a surprise to a lot of my readers – I’d be reasonably confident in my assessment that the majority of you will have weighed yourself at one point or another and felt like the scales were weighing more than your skin and bones, that they were weighing your worth too. It’s the way a lot of us have been raised, not necessarily by our parents, but by a society that has told us to be thin, have a round bum, perky boobs, flat stomach, smooth and mark free skin. It’s the image of perfection that we have been force fed by the media and each other for so long, and now when we’re making leaps and bounds in inclusivity, the government has proposed to start this cycle of weight-worth all over again with our children.
It’s been suggested that we should weigh children in September to see how much they have gained during the pandemic months, a stressful time for all of us with mental health stats over the last week providing alarming reading. It’s proposed that we weigh our children, and then set them up to lose the excess pandemic weight over the next few months and re-weigh them in January.
How about no.
My thoughts on this are crystal: no one, absolutely no one, will be weighing my children over the coming months and trying to shame them into dieting at the tender ages of 5, 7 and 9. Not a chance. My 9 year old has always been the largest of my children, and he has already asked me how he can lose weight because he’s been called fat by peers. His diet is mainly fruit and veg, two things he loves, and nutritionally I can assure you that he worries me a lot less than my 5 year old who is classed as “ideal weight” despite treating veg and fruit like it’s toxic. Edith’s diet is appalling, yet if we went purely on “weight” she would be passed over and considered a shining example of my ability to parent.
On top of this, we worked hard to stay somewhat active during lockdown, we took daily walks and when restrictions lifted a little we took advantage to get out to the more remote places locally, climbing down cliffs to see seals and visiting various landmarks that require serious effort to get to. We did this as a family, so we all had the same activity levels, we all eat the same meals and yet, when it comes to my children, two of them would be deemed “healthy” upon the return, with one “unhealthy and needing to lose weight”. What is this obsession with weight and it being a defining factor in your health?
Ahh, it costs the NHS money to treat obesity and thats a growing crisis in our country I hear the people for this weighing idea cry. Hmm. Do we know what else is a growing crisis, thrown into a much harsher focus by months of isolation and complete confusion? Mental health. What exactly are the government proposing we do to measure our children’s mental health and how that has been affected by lockdown and a global pandemic? Will there be additional funding to ensure that children who are struggling are given the help that they need, perhaps to see if we can improve their mental health by January instead of their waistline?
Weight is a cop out because it’s easier to see than most things, simple to blame and we have a society who already views gaining weight as bad. I am a stress eater, but when my mental health is really bad, when those close to me should be concerned, I don’t eat and I lose weight. I can’t tell you how many people have told me I look amazing over the last few months, and it’s really lovely to hear, but the reason behind my weight loss is mental health problems. I haven’t been ok. I haven’t been coping well, and that should be addressed in the same way that it would be if my weight was climbing due to mental health problems.
Children are no different – we can’t take for granted that the invisible danger here is mental health, and children need to be supported through this far more than they need to be shamed for weight. Will we also be weighing employees to see if their performance will be affected by their lockdown weight gain?
Didn’t think so.
When (if) children go back to school in September, let’s take the focus away from weight and create an impactful discussion around mental health. Let’s help create a next generation who are less interested in the size of your jeans and more interested in how you’re coping with the world.