My Thoughts About The Call For Schools To Weigh Children After Lockdown

crop kid weighing on scale

This week this tweet on Twitter came to my attention.

Being a survivor of eating disorders myself from my childhood to my early twenties, I really can not believe what I’m actually reading. Schools to weigh children on their return from Covid-19 lockdown.

I for one will not be giving consent for my boy to be weighed on their return to school.

As if our children don’t have enough to contend with on their return to school. They have been absent for 4 and a half months and transitioned into the next year group. With new expectations and new targets to meet.

Upon their return, they will be placed into bubbles, not be able to mix with their friends from other bubbles. They will be socially distanced, with new rules and boundaries put into place. Everything they remember from school has changed. Their school life as the knew it has been turned upside down.

photo of four girls wearing school uniform doing hand signs

On top of that, they may be dealing with anxiety around returning to school and fear of COVID-19.

That’s a lot of change, anxiety and stress for a child to deal with, without the added pressure of weighing them and expecting them to lose weight by the Spring term.

So, who is the mastermind behind this plan?

It is The National Obesity Forum that has called for schools to weigh children on their return to school after the Covid-19 lockdown in September and again in the Spring term.

The call has been made after a concern that children will have gained weight during the time they have been in lockdown. With the genius idea to ENCOURAGE children to lose weight!

Yes, ENCOURAGE!

As if our children need to be told that they are overweight. Giving them a complex about their weight, body image and self-esteem. Shaming them in front of their classmates. Giving them another expectation.

We all know the culture that we live in. We live in a culture that teaches us the being ‘overweight’ isn’t acceptable.

In my honest opinion, The National Obesity Forum is playing with fire. They’re encouraging the mindset and culture that could trigger mental health issues and eating disorders amongst our children and their future adult self be allowing schools to weigh children.

The fact that we are not in control of the figures on the scales is inventively setting children up to fail. Can you imagine a child’s self esteem being knocked down because they did not achieve their goal weight.

The Royal College Of Paediatric And Child Health states Almost 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese when they start primary school, rising to 1 in 3 when they start secondary school.  By 2020 it’s estimated half of all children will be overweight or obese. Obese children are much more likely to be obese adults, causing significant health risks as well as low self-esteem and body image.

Given that information, I’m thinking the effects on a child’s and future adults self-esteem and body image shouldn’t and won’t be affected if there was a change in our cultural beliefs and a respect and understanding that every body is different. As Alex Light shows us in the Instagram post below. At the same weight, all these women look different.

View this post on Instagram

Trigger warning: weight. ⁣ ⁣ @alexlight_ldn – I used to try desperately hard to stay in the ‘single figures’ when it came to my weight. Desperately. That was my measure for success. And the days when the scales would tip over slightly to show double figures? I felt like a failure. I felt disgusting, beat myself up, couldn’t bear to look at myself in a mirror, sometimes couldn’t even get out of bed… All because my weight fluctuated minimally. The single figures, this arbitrary measurement, meant EVERYTHING to me. ⁣ ⁣ I’m not proud to admit any of that, but it was my truth and I know that this mentality applies to a lot of you, too. Because we’re taught that numbers are INCREDIBLY important when it comes to the scales or our clothes or our body measurements. We’re taught that if we see a number not deemed ‘good’, we should think of ourselves as a failure. ⁣ ⁣ It’s not true and I wish I could reach out to every single one of you that feels that way and tell you that – give you a big hug, let you know that it gets better and that it’s possible to change our mindset. ⁣ ⁣ This picture represents something that was so eye-opening for me when I first saw it. Because it illustrates how arbitrary the number on the scale is. ⁣ ⁣ Also – comparing your weight to someone else’s? Futile. Unfair. We are built completely differently – and there are many factors that determine what number ends up showing on the scale: shape, height, bone structure, muscle to fat ratio, ethnicity… It’s complex, and categorically NOT just to do with how much we eat, or how much we work out. ⁣ ⁣ Check out all of these ladies – all slim, yes, and none visibly fat, but all roughly the same weight and all completely different. Perfect proof that numbers do not mean anywhere near as much as we’re led to believe. ⁣ ⁣ Sending love to each and every one of you <3

A post shared by Alex Light🕊 (@alexlight_ldn) on

Let Me Tell You A Shortened Version About My Experience

Growing up I was a dancer from the age of 3 to 17. As you can imagine, I had to be fit and ‘in shape’. My mum who had mental health issues used to put me on diets, tell me not to eat certain foods, tell me to lose weight. Especially once my body was transitioning into puberty and my curves developed. I became overly obsessed with my weight and the only sense of achievement I felt was when I lost weight. Even at my dance classes, we were weighed and banned from having certain foods and drinks. I always remember after our weigh-ins we would all compare our weights. Oh, the shame I felt if I had gained a pound or two. Telling myself I must eat less and work out harder to lose the gain and more.

The numbers on the scales became an obsession. My main focus in life. I’d weigh myself 10 or more times a day.

Looking back at photos from this time in my life, I was never overweight. But it was drilled into me that my weight and body were a form of achievement and acceptance within my family and society.

I ended up developing Anorexia and Bulimia. Getting to the point that I was so underweight I was hospitalised and given months to live. My potassium levels were high, causing an irregular heartbeat and putting me at risk of a heart attack, my periods had stopped due to my low weight and my hair had started to fall out due to malnutrition. I was so tired, I couldn’t function.

All of this because I was convinced I was overweight. I was always told I needed to lose weight! It took me until my 30’s to accept my body and realise my weight doesn’t determine my self-worth.

You can read a more in-depth version at From Anorexia to Mummy :: My Eating Disorder Story

blue tape measuring on clear glass square weighing scale

Let Me Give You Some Facts And Figures

BEAT states that although many eating disorders develop during adolescence, it is not at all unusual for people to develop eating disorders earlier or later in life. In fact, we are aware of cases of anorexia in children as young as 6. Outside of the stereotypical age bracket, people are less likely to be appropriately diagnosed due to a lack of understanding and awareness of eating disorders in these age groups.

Exact rates of eating disorders are difficult to gauge. A 2017 study by Hay et al found that anorexia accounted for 8% of cases, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) 5%, binge eating disorder 22%, bulimia 19%, and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) 47%

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, from medical complications associated with the illness as well as suicide.  Bulimia is associated with severe medical complications, and binge eating disorder sufferers often experience the medical complications associated with obesity. In every case, eating disorders severely affect the quality of life of the sufferer and those that care for them.

PIN ME FOR LATER

So, Hear Me Out…

This is how I think the situation needs to be handled in the best interest of our children and their future.

  • We need to do is start educating our children on making healthy lifestyle choices. Educate our children on how their lifestyle choices now as children as well as in adulthood can impact their health.
  • We need to be providing our children with healthy and nutritious meals within the school system. Lowering the prices of high quality and nutritious food, allowing families to afford to buy them.
  • We need to encourage our children to become more active, not just through playing competitive sports, where is a sense of or lack of self-achievement. Make movement fun, that way children are more than likely to enjoy exercise.
  • We need to educate our children on how to have a positive relationship with food. That food is essential to living. That food is not our enemy.
  • We need to educate our children to accept and tolerate that everyone is different.
  • We need to educate our children that bodies are as individual as the person. No two bodies are the same. That bodies come in all shapes and sizes. All bodies are to be celebrated and accepted.
  • We need to educate our children to be accepting of themselves and build their self-esteem. That an individuals weight and body does not determine their self-worth.
  • We need to educate our children about the changes they will experience in their body before, during and after puberty.

What Are Your Thoughts About The Call For Schools To Weigh Children After Lockdown?

For more information on how I can help with your child’s mental health and well-being go to WITH YOU IN MIND MINDSET & WELL-BEING COACHING

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