Wednesday, October 30, 2013

As someone who suffered from an eating disorder in her teens I am increasingly concerned with the latest "fat letter" trend. First, California schools take it upon themselves to send notes home with students whose BMI indicates they are obese. When faced with public criticism of this act the school district Super Intendant claimed they were acting in the child's best interest and aiming to trouble shoot potential health risks in the future. Fair enough. But isn't there a better way to address the issue other than branding students with a scarlet "fat letter."

At least the school district had the medical backing of a nutritionist and dietician. Now, a woman from Fargo, ND has taken it upon herself to hand out "fat letters" to children on Halloween whom she feels do not need candy because they are "moderately obese."

This woman has no medical background. No social work background. She's going off of what she sees with her naked, untrained, judgmental eye when she answers her door tomorrow night. How shattering is that to the child who, instead of a candy bar, gets a piece of paper? In front of their friends and the whole neighborhood!

I suffered from anorexia and bulimia. The primary reason for my eating disorder was a lack of confidence. I never thought I was good enough, and for some reason "good" to me meant "thin." I thought I'd be more attractive, more popular, a better athlete, a better dancer and my future would be brighter if I was skinny.

And I didn't have people telling me I was fat all the time.

Imagine if I had!

I had people telling me I was perfect the way I was. I didn't need to lose weight. I was already too skinny. But I didn't listen. I still didn't think I was good enough. It wasn't until I dropped down to 93 pounds as a Junior in high school and had to see a doctor for a torn esophagus that I realized I wasn't doing myself or my future any favors. It was time to get healthy.

I feel awful for these kids. Kids! So much younger than I was when I went through my own problems.

Society needs to back off.

Yes. This country has an obesity problem. Yes. Children are overweight. Guess what? Children are also underweight. Children are also insecure. Children are also dealing with baggage that their school systems and neighbors know absolutely nothing about. Do we honestly think overweight kids don't know they are overweight? Do we really need to formalize the announcement and make it official for them? What do we expect this to result in psychologically?

I'm getting angry. This is a form of bullying at its worst. It's grown adults picking on children to make themselves feel better. They think they are doing something noble. They think they are "saving" these kids from a future of diabetes, heart disease and a thousand other weight-related health issues. But they're not. They're just not! They're leading these kids down a path of self-hatred, insecurity and depression.

If there's a problem with my child's weight I want to hear about it from their doctor. Not their teacher. Not our neighbors. If my son's health is at risk I want to know from a certified, medical professional. And that's the only person allowed to comment. Everyone else can shove their "fat letters" where the sun doesn't shine.



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