My son has managed to get into a habit of putting the school newsletter that we get every Friday onto the kitchen counter. It’s taken him all the way to Year 6 to do this, but the truth is I always forget to go looking for it. We’re as bad as each other. This particular week the newsletter looked THICK and I was sure this would be some dreaded covid instruction, but it wasn’t – it was the equally dreaded letter to let me know that in a couple of weeks the Year 6 and reception aged children would be having their weight and height measured.
Sigh. Why are we doing this in 2022? WHY?
I know you might be thinking, for God’s sake Harriet there are far far worse things that could be going on, and yes there are… but this is one of those things that grinds my gears. You might be wondering why I would opt my child out of being weighed and measured – it’s just a quick thing and they aren’t made to feel bad, right?
Well, no actually. It has such a detrimental effect on children – not just because at 10/11 years old they are old enough to read their details and then compare in the playground, but the wider reaching implications. Letters that are sent home to tell parents how their children are over (or under) weight, advice on diets – sweet baby jesus DIETS AT 4/5! – and all based on… BMI. A disproved and utterly archaic method. Can you imagine a child going home to a parent who has really taken this supposedly helpful advice on board and whacks them on a diet, reminding them daily that they need to lose weight? The effect that has on mental health is diabolical, and it’s not even true for a significant majority of these kids.
Now, if my eldest were to be weighed, I can guarantee that for his age, height and weight, I would get one of these nifty little letters to tell me that he was overweight and something needed to be done because it was unhealthy. His diet is sound, he has a keen interest in archery and enjoys climbing and running about with his siblings when he wants. His diet puts everyone in the house to shame – show the boy a packet of crisps or a sliced mango and you will find he leans to the fruit every time. He far exceeds his 5 a day, and yet he is built very much like I was as a child. My issue here lies in the fact that health is not determined by weight, and we are instilling in yet another generation that it does. To further underline my point, by contrast, I know my daughter would be considered the “optimum” weight and yet her diet is terrifying. For years if it wasn’t a chip, custard creme or plain pasta, she wouldn’t touch it. I still have to hide veg in her food 80% of the time.
I’ve instilled in my kids the message that moving their bodies for joy is important, that eating a balanced diet that doesn’t focus on excluding anything is crucial to their health – food is fuel, but it’s also a source of joyful experience and never has ‘bad’, ‘naughty’ or any other shame including term attached to it. I’ve done my best to educate myself on the topic, reading books like Body Happy Kids by Molly Forbes and making it my mission to understand how weight and health are linked by society when they really aren’t at all.
What I’m saying, in a really round about way, is that I’m not going to allow my child to be weighed at school because it’s the (totally unnecessary) beginning of him wasting valuable time that could be spent playing or learning being told my society that weight should be a priority. It really shouldn’t.
I’d encourage you to do the same.