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As for BMI Testing and Labeling Children as Obese, Mrs. Obama, I Respectfully Disagree

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I strongly disagree with the emphasis placed on a child's Body Mass Index (BMI) and also the use of the word "obesity" in President Obama’s taskforce. Children know what obesity means, and it is a pejorative term not likely to increase the self-esteem of any child determined to have a high BMI, while possibly causing many other serious health problems such as eating disorders.

Yet, Mrs. Obama’s plan contains four initiatives that I agree with: bringing healthy foods into the schools, emphasizing exercise once again, insisting on food labels that it doesn’t take a scientist to understand, and encouraging grocery stores to open in under-served communities. So why not continue with this strategy of stressing children’s health?

Granted, obesity causes many serious health problems that must be addressed .But I disagree with the program’s basis. Why emphasize the BMI test? That’s only one indicator of anyone’s health and not a very good one according to npr.com’s Keith Devlin. He writes, “The person who dreamed up the BMI said explicitly that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual. The BMI was introduced in the early 19th century by a Belgian…. He was a mathematician, not a physician. He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the degree of obesity of the general population…. In other words, it is a 200-year-old hack.” Why use a 200-year-old hack to judge our children’s health?

The piece goes on to say that the BMI test doesn’t take into consideration bone mass, fat or muscle. So a guy on the football team with a large, dense bone structure and big muscles will have a high BMI and be in excellent health, but considered obese by the BMI standard.

Children determined to have high BMI will have one more reason to feel badly about themselves. It’s normal for adolescents to put on weight before a growth spurt and puberty. Children don’t need to feel like a disappointment to their parents because they don’t fit into our superficial society’s image of the perfect child. And Mrs. Obama, your children are perfect the way they are and nobody, especially not a well- educated doctor, should tell you they are not.

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EmpowHER Guest

I would like to know if there is a way to fight or opt out of the bmi of my child. I monotor, and watch wat my child eats. He will be a senior in school. I don't know where he will fall but he is not fat. he is in good shape. He is lean but not skinny. but the bmi is not a good source. They did a news report that according to bmi that will smith would be considered fat, michael jorden at his playing years for the bulls would be fat, arnold schwarzenegger would be even considered fat. The bmi is not accurate. My son is smart and can at time be tenderhearted and is sensative on his weight because he don't lift weights and are not buff like the football players (he's in the band), if they say he's fat because of bmi numbers that say will smith is fat, that is the last thing he needs. High school is hard enough. i was teased for being fat. I don't need teachers coming up and saying "your fat" too. Side note, I did loose weight but am constantly watching and obsessing about if I gain a single pound and I know it is because of being teased in school. O.K. pshyce eval over.

May 14, 2010 - 9:57pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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