Reader Laney e-mailed me this story: when she was called in front of her class to be weighed, Ireland Hobart Hoch decided to be brave, and said no. Even when teachers and other students pressured her to do it, even when they sent her to the office, Ireland Hobart Hoch refused to be weighed to have her BMI calculated.
“I really wasn’t comfortable with anybody but my mom and doctor knowing my weight,” Ireland said. “For another person to know — that’s not important to them.”
The adults involved used this as an impetus to look into the issues with publicly weighing kids at school and using BMI as a health measure and, based on the research, changed what they were doing with quiet dignity, modeling for the students that it’s ok to make mistakes and important to correct them.
Just kidding, they freaked out like feral cats in a bathtub.
“If it’s a math test, is a teacher not going to include something that is vital for a student’s math skills?” asked Jennifer Peterson, president of the Iowa Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
A student’s height/weight ratio is not vital to any skills. A measurement of a student’s height/weight ratio should not be compared to an academic test. Jennifer Peterson should have to find another job.
“I think there are some body image issues with this girl,” Ellen Latham, Southeast Polk’s curriculum director said. “The more attention to it, the more it challenges her.”
How do these people get to be in charge of children? Ireland made a very rational argument about why she wasn’t willing to be weighed, and their response is to call her “this girl” and claim that she is the problem? (And I shudder to think what they would have said about her if she were fat.) Fuck that.
“The use of BMI is widely recommended by the Institute of Medicine, by the Centers for Disease Control and almost every other agency because of the obesity epidemic,” said Gregory Welk, professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and scientific director for the Cooper Institute’s FitnessGram.
The use of heroin as a (“non-addictive”) substitute for morphine, and Lysol as a douche were also highly recommended but that didn’t make them good ideas. Suggesting that the existence of a certain number of fat people somehow justifies the use of a deeply problematic measurement of “health” makes absolutely no sense.
But what does the CDC actually say?
The CDC “acknowledges that little is known about the outcomes of BMI-measurement programs and their utility for young people.”
“Little is known.” And we’re strongly recommending it why? What has research found about the results of focusing on the weight of kids instead of focusing on health for kids of all sizes? Let’s take a look:
Research from the University of Minnesota found that: None of the behaviors being used by adolescents for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors.
A Canadian study found that eating disorders were more prevalent than type 2 diabetes in kids.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that hospitalizations of children younger than 12 years for eating disorders rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006. (Children UNDER 12) There was a 15% increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders in all ages across the same time period.
A study is looking at the effects of “school based healthy-living programs.” Turns out that these programs are being instituted in lots of schools, despite the fact that, per the researchers, there is little research on the effectiveness of these programs or any inadvertent harmful effects on children’s mental health. This study found that these programs are actually triggering eating disorders in kids.
Fat adults have been the unwilling, un-consenting victims of experimental medicine for years. Now society is moving on to experimenting on kids (that’s the definition of an intervention where “little is known about the outcomes… [or their] utility”) .
So let’s be clear on what’s actually happening here. The CDC, the state of Iowa, and her school wanted to practice experimental medicine on Ireland Hobart Hoch, and she refused to consent. Good for her, good for her mom supporting her, and shame on all of the so-called experts bloviating about things they obviously don’t know anything about.
Activism Opportunity: Find out if your kids’ (nieces/nephews/grandkids etc.) school utilizes BMI and/or weight based health initiatives. Insist that they provide you evidence of efficacy in improving kids health and avoiding harmful outcomes like disordered eating and eating disorders. When they can’t (because none exists) insist that your kids be pulled from the program. Bonus points if you get other parents involved.
Like this blog? Here’s more cool stuff:
Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. Click here for details
Buy the book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
Book Me! I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!
Dance Classes: Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details
I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com
A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.). Follow the progress on Facebook!