Thursday, April 09, 2009


This is exactly the kind of story that makes me wish the New York Times really would close the Boston Globe, as they've been threatening. Not to blame the messenger or anything.

But come on--has it really come to this? This fall, Massachusetts schools will send home "weight reports" with students in first, fourth, seventh, and tenth grades, which will, according to this story, alert parents "if their child weighs to much or too little."

Multiple levels of Argh! apply here. Too much or too little according to whom? Will this be another episode in the Annals of Administrators Acting as Doctors? Who, exactly, will become the Weight Police?

Authorities in Mass. promise that the new reports will "provide suggestions on where to turn for help." I'd love to see them. No, wait, I've already seen them! Because there's nothing concrete or new here. We can predict that the state's suggestions on how to "help" kids who weigh "too much" will not be helpful at all, because, um, read the news, people--we don't know how to make people thinner. Even if we all agreed that everyone should weigh a certain weight, we haven't the faintest idea on how to get them to weigh that for more than a month or two.

Have these folks not seen the research on how dieting makes you fatter? Do they think they know something the rest of us don't know?

The geniuses behind this legislation dismiss worries that the new mandate will trigger eating disorders. That's pretty ignorant. I'm guessing they have no idea how toxic the dialogue gets around food and weight, especially in middle school. My 8th grader tells me that body bashing is "a bonding experience" among the girls in her class; if you don't join in, you're not one of the group. Swell. I think a mandate like this will really help, don't you?

Please go to the article and leave a comment. Please, if you live in Massachusetts, write to your legislators. (Here's a list with links.) Let your voice be heard on this one.


IrishUp said...

Harriet, I heard this on the radio yesterday and almost drove off the road. GAH, GAAAHHH, and DOUBLE GAH, with a healthy OFFS thrown in.
Not only have I called my reps, but I've been in fairly regular contact with our state rep on various mental health issues, esp since D got sick. He's starting to get a very different picture on these issues from our household.

Suzanne G said...

Right on Harriet! Now... how to communicate those message to the self-styled Weight Police?!?

Rachel said...

Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, concluded a study last year about the effectiveness of sending home weight report cards. Most parents reacted simply by encouraging their kids to diet. Five years later, those fat kids whose parents encouraged them to diet were much more likely to still be overweight than fat kids who weren't encouraged to diet. More study details and links are here.

Harriet said...

Oh, thanks for the link, Rachel. That's perfect. Now those of you in Mass. have some scientific ammunition to take to your legislators. . ..

littlem said...

The irony of this happening in one of the few states that actually passed weight-discrimination legislation ...

I guess it was a preemptive strike since they figured the kids would need it once they came of working age, having yo-yo dieted and binged their way to larger sizes as a result of having to deal with the shame of their oh-so-accurate BMIs being broadcast on their report cards over the course of their school years.

*repeated headdesk*

Anonymous said...

AED's recently issued guidelines on childhood obesity programs are really worthwhile IMO:

Tricia said...

I was fired up and ready to go when I read this story on's so counterproductive and will do infinitely more bad than good imo...check out my lj for my rant:

mary said...

Maybe they can grade on cuteness too? And what about height? Some of those kids are short.....look around any kindergarten class! How else are we going to get them to compete and become obsessed if we don't shame them?
There are a few things I'd like to teach those who "think" this is the way to go and they are saving lives. This whole direction makes me sad. They're worried about weight yet forgetting human kindness and tolerance for differences. We here know that this trend is growing and it's going to require a different approach to stop it. This is emotional abuse at it's sneakiest!

I'm all FOR more time to get outside and run and play for our young children.

I think we must be mindful of the ANAL RETENTIVE ruling our lives. They never quite stop at their own life. We are talking about some basic human freedoms here and they keep chipping away at them. We have a right to an education WITHOUT discrimination. If Ma. passed a law against this they ought to honor it no matter the age!

Gwen said...

This is ridiculous. I'm not surprised by it, but still disgusted. This focus on a correct weight is just so harmful to the psyches of children (and adults!) This needs to stop and soon.

Michelle W. said...

Thanks for the suggestion to write the reps; I'm a Massachusetts resident and I contacted the DPH last fall when I first heard about this. I never got a response, but for some reason didn't make the connection to letting my elected officials knowing how I felt about this.

Time to write more letters! Woohoo!