GIRL TALK: Chewing the fat on childhood ‘obesity’

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First Posted: 6/17/2014

School’s out for summer! The song rocked through my house on Friday as my daughter came charging through the door with her report card envelope in hand. She was eager to show me her grades now that first grade was over. In addition to her report card, there was also a letter inside, and she wanted me to read it to her. As my eyes scanned the letter, my blood started to boil. My daughter received a note home stating that she is obese.

Obese?! This is the same child that I have spent the past six years begging to eat a meal so she doesn’t seem malnourished. Any parent of a fussy eater will admit to bending over backwards if that’s what it takes to get their kid to eat something. I didn’t know it was standard practice for the school to check this; I would think that if her weight was a problem that her pediatrician would let me know.

A friend’s child also attends the same school. She unfortunately has multiple health problems and has been told by doctors that she may need a feeding tube because her weight is so low. The letter classified her weight in the “normal” category, while her doctors have labeled her as “failure to thrive.” My daughter is in sports year round. She is an ice skater, cheerleader, and softball player. She participates in dance and gymnastics and spends every day on her trampoline and swing set in the yard. She eats a balanced diet, takes vitamins, and has extremely limited TV and video game time. How is it possible that she would be classified as anything other than a healthy, happy, well-adjusted princess?

In today’s society, girls and women alike struggle with body image issues. The media paints a picture of what is perfect and shoves it down our throats from the time we are children into adulthood. We should be building our children up and reminding them how beautiful, special, and unique each one is, not tearing them down and calling them fat.

While I understand childhood obesity is a problem, my 6-year-old should not be worried about counting calories. We live in a shallow world with unrealistic expectations. She handles enough at school between bullies and peer pressure. The fact that the state of Pennsylvania finds it appropriate to label her as obese lays the tracks for a future of self-hatred and poor body image issues. Lucky for me, her reading abilities are limited to that of a 6-year-old, but what about the 10-year-olds who received the same letter? They can comprehend the message, and it needs to stop.

“Healthy” is a lifestyle and cannot be classified simply as “thin.” Ask any girl who grew up struggling with an eating disorder. Or better yet, ask the family and friends of those girls who died due to their desire to be skinny. At what age do we begin to so desperately want to be someone else? Can we not let kids be kids without pushing our body ideals onto them? All that children need to know is that they are perfect just the way they are. It’s time for a change to the way we act as a society; let the change start with you.