by Jolijt T '11

Does This Paper Make My Hips Look Fat: TMI About BMI

Legislators in New York have proposed passing a law that would require schools to include a student’s body mass index (BMI) on their report card. A person’s BMI indicates body fatness, which is calculated with the person’s height and weight. Legislators argue that the high rates of childhood obesity in the United States indicate a serious necessity for preventative measures.
9 million 6-18 year olds are overweight and another 9 million are at risk for becoming overweight. In fact for the first time is history the number of worldwide overweight people, 1.1 billion, is equal to the worldwide number of hungry, poor, underweight people. Many overweight people suffer from health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, the erosion of cartilage and high cholesterol. They are also at increased risk for many diseases such as stroke, sleep apnea, cancer and gallbladder disease. The New England Journal of Medicine predicted that our life spans are expected to be 2-5 years shorter then our parents because of body fat. Statistics show that overweight teens have fewer friends and are more susceptible to bullying. They are more likely to fall into depressions, be addicted to drugs, get lower grades, react to stress and require physiological help.
Many parents and students complain that schools that stress BMI and weight push society’s notion that “thin is in.” “We already feel pressure from the media, we always have to look like that model,” student Pamela Reyes said, explaining her opposition to the BMI program, “why does the school need to push that even more? School is supposed to be a comfortable haven.” In fact, many teens require physiological help for eating disorders. Stephanie Setliff, a doctor who treats teens and kids with eating disorders said, “we know that eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can be triggered by one comment made from a peer or a coach.” To have a number “grading” your weight may be too much for many teens. Yet many states are still advocating a BMI alert program.
In Texas, Senator Van de Putte is pushing to have BMIs printed on the report cards.  Arkansas has had a BMI program in affect for the past four school years. Students are weighed and measured. Then a letter is sent home explaining the concept behind BMIs and indicating the child’s BMI. Parents are urged to double check with their doctor and speak to their children about nutrition and exercise. The number of overweight children in Arkansas has not lowered however it has capped off and officials consider that a positive sign.
BMI screening is recommended for all children and adolescents by the American Academy of Pediatrics. For now BMI screening is considered the easiest and most affective way to measure body fat. However whether schools should measure and tell parents is up for debate. Teens seem unmotivated to control their weight. Many make excuses to avoid exercising and to continue eating; they tell themselves they’re not fat, instead using politically correct terms such as husky or big boned. Maybe a letter home from school would be a wake up call then again for some teens a reminder that they are overweight could push them over the edge. It is the school responsibility to teach nutrition however it’s also their job to keep students comfortable. Do we go with “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” or “stay healthy by losing weight?”

By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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