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Hey, fat-obsessed America!

By Alice Bradley

Last week I dared to take the I-will-take-no-stance stance, as I composed a please-let-me-offend-no-one, after-all-both-sides-have-a-point post. I’ve since recovered from my bout with objectivity, and I’m ready to judge someone, anyone. Like fat kids! Those underage slobs.
I… I can’t. I can’t even joke, when it comes to the children. Why did God make me such a softie?
Anyway, as I was saying: overweight children. We are raising a nation of fatties! So some schools are doing what they should have done long ago: sending the kids’ Body Mass Index scores home with their report cards.
The BMI, in case you didn’t know, is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. If you can’t instant convert your height and weight and then do the math, as I just did in my mind, go here. If your number is over 25, you are officially (in medical parlance) a fatty fatty boombalatty; if your number is under 18, you are officially dead.
You’ll notice that the BMI fails to distinguish between pounds that are dense with muscle tissue and the ones that are flabby with flabby flab. This means that muscle-bound types can easily fall into the obese category. Such is the plight of Tom Cruise and George Clooney, both of whom are overweight, according to their BMIs. And now Tom’s probably upset. “I’m all muscle! You don’t know! You don’t know anything about muscle! You don’t even know what muscles are! They’re on your body!” George is unfazed, but that’s George for you.
So: never mind that these scores are handed to the parents without any explanation or guidance, like what they mean or what can be done about them. Never mind that many of the schools who supply the numbers don’t have the resources to provide healthy meals or daily physical education. Never mind that the scores aren’t placed in any sort of context, such as the dietary habits of the child or their exercise habits, and may actually be rewarding kids with eating disorders. With this program in place, kids can feel bad about themselves, but have no clue what to do about it. Ignorance plus depleted self-image = sure-fire plan for success!
Even the experts who recommend sharing this information with families agree that the BMI is only a rudimentary indicator of anything. So kids everywhere get to feel worse about themselves than they probably already do, because of a number that could, in the end, mean nothing. But then again, when schools lack the resources to provide healthy food or increase gym time, students can burn calories by filling themselves up with shame and self-loathing! (Oh, if only shame were an aerobic activity. I would be so buff.)
In related news, apparently people with kids eat more fat than childless–or as I call them, “free”–people.
Our children’s predilection for macaroni and cheese and goose-liver pate, it seems, has a bad effect on our diet as well. Myself, I’ve had many a post-dinner snack of grilled-cheese crusts and pudding leavings, so I know whereof they speak. The experts stress that it’s not the mere presence of children that drives us to eat more fat (oh god my life is over where’s the ice cream WHERE) merely that the foods they tend to prefer, or that we believe they prefer, tends to be fattier. So in other words, with their refusal of steamed asparagus stalks and broccoli-sprout popsicles, the kids are dragging us down along with them.
But ho! Here comes a Swedish study to tell us that more fat is okay! Yes, a “full-fat diet” is slimming, according to this twenty-year study. When the Swedish (translation: sexy, probably nude) scientists tracked the dietary habits of 20,000 overweight women over a 20-year period, the women who ate full-fat milk and cheese lost significantly more weight. Thank you, people of Sweden! Once again you have saved the day.
In conclusion: your child’s BMI may or may not be an indication of their overall health, but you’re probably fat because you have a child, or rather you’re eating more fat, which means that you’re skinnier than you were before you had kids. Got that? Good. Now go make me a grilled cheese.

Published January 12, 2007. Last updated May 10, 2010.
Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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