The Australian government’s plan to weigh and record the BMIs of 4 year olds is stirring up a lot of opposition, so much so that we had one fat positive opinion piece earlier in the week and (my god!) yet another fat positive opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, quoted below:
(Also further down the page, I have added links to contact SMH and other newspapers, if you want)
Call me old-fashioned, but further marginalising fat kids at an age when their peers display an apparently innate cruelty is not a good idea. What will we do with those who do not meet the arbitrary body mass index? Send them to kiddie fat camps?
A relative used to tell my curvaceous cousins that the doors would have to be widened if they did not stop putting on weight – and this to prepubescent girls. We live in a PC world now that recoils from such offensive language, but I’d rather that kind of jaw-dropping candour to the subterfuge people resort to these days. My relative’s brand of mean-spirited taunts now hides behind “concern” for our “health”, but this is not about health – it’s about appearance. If the issue is health, why are we not concerned about those skinny people who eat dreadfully? Everyone knows this person – rake thin, a McDonald’s bag always in hand, able to inhale a pack of Tim-Tams at one sitting. These lucky folk have their freak metabolisms to thank, which brings me to my next point.
The word hereditary rarely crops up in the obesity debate, despite overwhelming evidence that any health condition and body type is 95 per cent hereditary. As a society we want to assign blame. If you are fat it is your fault: you are slovenly, lazy, undisciplined. A dietitian will dispute this assertion, but society isn’t having it. It has gone so far that a television show recently polled viewers on whether Santa was too fat.
Apparently, we have had enough of being pushed around. Resulting in letters to the editor like this:
I want to stand up for the right not to be discriminated against or publicly ridiculed because I am obese. I find Australia’s media, especially the television networks, to be particularly offensive towards people carrying excess weight.
After so many years of people fighting to develop a healthy and positive self-image to stem the mental and physical issues associated with poor self-esteem and/or eating disorders, why would it suddenly be acceptable for the Australian Government to consider weighing four-year-olds (“Weight check for every child at four years,” December 12)? Or for a program on the Nine Network to ask, as it did recently, if Santa Claus is too fat?
One reason so many may be falsely classified as “obese” is that one of the main measurements used, the body mass index is blatantly inadequate. This is because the index calculates obesity based only upon your weight and height. It takes no account of your frame, that is, your body type or shape.
You don’t need to be a scientist, or health official, to note that people come in all different shapes and sizes, and that a person’s frame needs to be included in any “obese” calculation.
But, inevitably, all this talk about it not being acceptable to discriminate against or shame fat people has brought out the same old tired “it’s unhealthy and we are concerned” crap.
Smokers, excessive drinkers, and speeding drivers with small penises are ridiculed – why not excessive eaters?
Smoking and high blood pressure or diabetes all lead to health problems, and thus can be described as bad. Obesity is also linked with heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, which place a burden on the health system and society, as well as the individual. This is why it is considered bad.
If someone is a smoker they are advised to quit. If they are diabetic they need treatment to keep their blood sugar levels in check. If obese, they need to lose weight. This may not always be possible, due to some other condition. But the vast majority of people who are obese have the capacity to lose weight, and should be informed and helped in this, just as those with other medical conditions are treated.
This issue is not about self-image, positive or negative. It is a health issue, just like smoking, and the sooner this becomes apparent to people crusading against supposed discrimination, the sooner they can get on with improving their health and that of their children.
Or this, implying that parents of fat kids are too stupid to look after their kids.
There is something wrong with encouraging self-esteem in a child while ignoring their patent obesity, which in the long term may well cause physical and mental problems.
The parents of four-year-olds are responsible for their health. If weighing four-year-olds is what it takes to educate parents, then as sad an indication of parenting skills as it is, we should do it. A child of that age is not at school, so I don’t see that it will cause “public humiliation” to be recognised as needing some (constructive) attention.
or this, actively encouraging discrimination:
Saying that we should not test children for weight issues every four years because it discriminates and alienates is like saying doctors should not diagnose patients because they would be isolated from the non-diseased population. Of course the test will discriminate, but that is the point – to discriminate between those who are overweight and those who are not.
The Government’s plan is perfectly reasonable and will improve awareness of weight problems, thus allowing for treatment of these problems. Should we choose not to act, we will find ourselves with a generation of overweight workers and the string of weight-related diseases that comes with it.
Being overweight is a health problem. It is nothing to be proud of.
I haven’t seen any other coverage or debate in the other major Australian newspapers, but clearly this is an issue that we can’t allow to go undebated or unconsidered. I’ve included links for those of you who may wish to weigh in (ha ha) on the issue. And BTW, feel free to do so regardless of your location. The SMH and The Age regularly publish letters from readers who are overseas.