Amelya Lyndsay is a fitness instructor and mother to 11-year-old daughter, Olivia. She's reportedly furious over a school program that has her daughter distraught over test results pertaining to her weight.
Olivia's primary school, which is located in England, conducted measurements with the National Child Measurement Program at the end of her school term last year. The results left the girl so upset that she refused to eat anything for two entire days.
As a fitness instructor, Olivia's mother has a background in nutrition. She says she makes a valiant effort to monitor both her and her daughter's diets, and she steers clear of processed foods. Olivia, who is 5 feet 2 inches tall and one of the tallest students in her class, was weighed and measured according to the National Child Measurement Program's standards regarding proper BMI. They claim to take age, height, weight and gender into account while calculating results, and the results are sent by mail to the parents of the student.
Olivia's letter stated that she was overweight, though her mother revealed that her results were barely over what the program considers a normal BMI range. Her mother had to search through her old university textbooks in order to show Olivia that she was perfectly normal in order to console her distraught daughter.
It's unclear how Olivia saw the results as they were sent to her mother, but no matter how she found out, learning that she may potentially be overweight would be understandably upsetting for any young girl. Adolescence is such a confusing time, and the changes happening in our bodies are often hard to adjust to. Adding something like having been labeled "overweight" by a test only adds insult to injury.
In recent years our society has begun to embrace the many sizes and shapes that our bodies come in. We've expanded our views and taken valuable steps towards accepting the many varying forms of the human anatomy, which is great. However, being overweight still carries a stigma that can be especially distressing for young children.
There's also the question as to if the responsibility of monitoring a child's weight should fall on schools at all.
We can't just sit by as children's weights rise to unhealthy levels, and we rely on schools to identify other problems with our children's emotional and physical health. However, if they are going to attempt to assist children in maintaining a healthy weight, parents should also be reassured that they are mindful of how they handle them when delicate body image issues are at stake.
The best tool to encourage a healthy lifestyle is to show children by example. It appears as though Olivia has a great example in her mother, and programs like the National Child Measurement Program are put in place to also serve as positive guidance as well. If we can just find ways to work together so that our children see positive, helpful and encouraging messages on all fronts, we'll be much more successful.
Perhaps they need to find a better way to communicate with parents; perhaps they need a new system to measure health. There are no perfect answers here. But the bottom line is that if schools are going to be involved in the nutrition and physical education of our children, then they have to work with parents as a team in the effort to push for healthier lifestyles instead of just handing out distressing diagnostics that might not paint the whole picture.
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