Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An F for BMI

Switching the radio on in the car, I heard of plans to include body mass index (BMI) measurements on school reports. Later, when I looked around on the internet a little, it transpires that an expert has suggested this particular strategy as one tool in the battle against childhood obesity. The radio story made it sound like a done deal. Should BMI assessment be part of the school feedback system? Please take a moment to vote on the sidebar poll.

Of course, childhood obesity is a concern but strategies like this really concern me. I was horrified recently when all the children in my daughter's class were weighed in front of each other. Comments were made by some children to those who were heavier. Is this helpful? I think not and I really worry about the negative impact this could have longer term.

Apparently the report card thing is already done is some U.S. states and in Singapore. Does this happen in your particular part of the world? Would love to hear some feedback about your experiences.

Update: Poll results. Is including the BMI on a report card a good idea? 18% (2 votes) thought so, 18% (2 votes) highlighted some concerns, 64% thought it was a bad idea.


Supermouse said...

I've seen so many people for whom BMI just does not work. As soon as you build up some muscle, your BMI shoots up. It's so easy to be 'obese' but if you're at 5% body fat, what are you supposed to do?

My own weight shot up in my teens one year. It was because I was just about to hit a serious growth spurt and (finally) go through puberty. What if I had dieted? No, it's a horrible idea.

Psychgrad said...

I have heard the same thing about BMI not being accurate for those who are muscular. But, I'm not sure how much of an issue that would be for younger children.

I'm not a fan of any kind of public comparisons (weighing kids in front of each other). Even from a very young age, kids tease each other about weight. I'm curious what age groups this BMI stuff would apply to...

We had fitness assessments in school (number of sit ups, push ups, time to run a mile, holding yourself from a bar, flexibility, standing on one foot with eyes closed...) but never weighings.

Adiemus said...

A 12 year old girl in my daughter's class was slightly pudgy with puppy fat. She and my daughter were mad keen on models and fashion - and body size is of immense importance to them both. My daughter is very very slim, but her friend was built quite differently. Due to family stressors, peer pressure, the desire to 'fit in', etc, the wee girl at 12 started to diet. She developed an eating disorder to 'match' my daughters' physique. Thankfully she received treatment and is now back at normal weight, still plumper than my girl - but definitely not over or under-weight.

No, weight and body shape is already a challenging subject, comparing size/shape/weight in children is not helpful.

I question what use further assessment and recording like this can be - kids by themselves are not often able to make food choices because it's a family systems issue. Merely recording a 'problem' doesn't put in any solutions, and a solution that just addresses the child's weight is unlikely to be long-lasting.

BMI isn't the best way to record obesity for people with considerable muscle bulk,and I'm not sure that it's ever been validated for children... Perhaps reinforcing healthy eating by limiting adverts for sugary, fatty, salty and processed foods and offering healthy alternatives might be more use?

Dr. Deb said...

We used to get weighed in gym class in front of the entire class. It was so terrible. I hated it as did everyone else. And as for BMI on the report card - a gigantic F is what I'd give too.

Along a similar line, I read about this woman who was married and moving to New Zealand who was not granted permission to enter the country bc her BMI was too high. Her husband's BMI was acceptable and so he was admited. Can you imagine?

We know so much about genetics and set body point weight. What the hell is wrong with people!!!!!

Anyway, rant over.

Health Psych said...

Hi Supermouse,
Thanks for commenting. Good point about the BMI in terms of muscle.
A lot of children carry a little extra weight and then suddenly have a growth spurt as you say.

Hi Psychgrad,
There's enough teasing going on without adding more fuel to the fire. The talk is to introduce such a scheme in primary school.

Hi Adiemus,
That is a sobering story. I really watch what I say in front of my daughter. I noticed she'd created a Sims figure that was supposed to be me. Think Anna Nicole Smith chest, Mary-Kate Olsen waist. We talked about it. When I came back, she'd blown me right up. Hey, but at least I looked 'normal', whatever that is.

Hey Deb,
Rant away! That NZ story is really shocking. I had to have a medical before coming here and they did weigh me but I tihnk it was just part of the general medical check.

Katana said...

I'm a 5'2 woman who is rather slender, but quite "dense" (muscular). The BMI is INCREDIBLY inccurate for me. At my physical peak I was absolutely destroying people on weights, marathons, strength etc. But it came out that I supposedly had about 28% body fat. More than a quarter fat for someone who was as toned, and defined as I was? No way. Putting me on a diet back then would have resulted in a ton of serious injuries or a sudden decline in my fitness.
Bad idea. This idea must have come from a bunch of desk jockey's who havent seriously worked out before.

kittu said...

my bmi is 26.7, is it okay? , I checked it using BMI Calculator at weightlossnext.com do all sites use common methods to calculate it?