January 8

Kids and their BMI report cards


Today’s New York Times has a front page article on the latest trend of schools sending home BMI reports on the students.  Money quote that says it all:

Here, in the rural Southern Tioga School District [in north central Pennsylvania], the schools distribute the state-mandated reports even as they continue to serve funnel cakes and pizza for breakfast. Some students have physical education for only half the school year, even though 34 percent of kindergartners were overweight or at risk for it, according to 2003-4 reports.

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  1. That is so sad. The feedlot approach for schools – make em sit all day and then feed them funnel cakes and pizza?
    Hi Connie–
    It is very sad. I suppose we should at least be happy that they’re not teaching them to make deep-fried Twinkies.


  2. Oh I couldn’t resist – how do you know that youtube kid didn’t learn it in home ec!
    When my DD was in high school, her home ec teacher said Kellogg’s cereal bars were a healthy snack. Completely opposite to what her mom said (me, who wouldn’t buy them).
    #1 ingredient, bar: HFCS.
    #1 ingredient, filling: HFCS.
    Hi Connie–
    You could be right; maybe he did learn it in Home Ec.  It would only be fitting.

  3. I would not be at all surprised if he learned it in home ec. From what I can recall, most of the stuff I learned to make back then was pretty much all sweets.
    BTW, I really got a chuckle out of your confession that you thought he was a “she” at first. But the tables were turned on me this past weekend when I thought my eleven year old nephew’s friend was a girl. Oops. There wasn’t really anything particularly girly about him, in fact I thought he was a tomboy. It was the long blond hair that threw me off.
    Hi Esther–
    The boy-girl mistake thing has happened to me more than once.  Glad to see others make the same mistake.


  4. School lunches make my blood boil. I can’t believe the garbage they are feeding those kids.
    On the menu today at our local elementary school:
    Turkey fritter on a bun
    mashed potatoes
    chilled pineapple
    dinner roll
    That’s gotta be at least 100 grams of cheap, processed, refined, fractionated junk. I’ll bet convicted killers eat better than that.
    On the positive side, my daughter says that there a few kids in her class that also eat low-carb, and they aren’t fat.
    Hi Karen–
    Convicted killers probably eat the same way.  One thing most people don’t realize is that anyone the government feeds, whether it’s the school lunch programs or prisons, has to abide by the nutritional guidelines, i.e. the current food pyramid.  Whenever I talk about the food pyramid, as I did on the O’Reilly factor once, the response always is, who cares what the food pyramid is (in fact, that’s exactly what Bill O’Reilly said).  Well, the government feeds about 53 million people per day, and they all have to be fed according to the food pyramid, so how the food pyramid is constructed is a really big deal.  That’s why industry has so many lobbyists at work every five years when the nutritional guidelines are being set.

  5. “34 percent of kindergartners were overweight or at risk for it”
    How exactly do they determine that someone is “at risk” of being overweight? You either are or you aren’t – that’s what the “Almighty BMI” is supposed to determine, isn’t it?
    True.  I don’t know how they calculate the ‘at risk’ part.

  6. It’s not just schools and prisons. Even hospitals pass off the same junk. My nephew, who is gluten intolerant, was hospitalized recently for a week and a half and his wife had to smuggle food he could eat to him, just to keep him from losing any more weight and being constantly hungry. As he said “it’s really not the best way to lose 40 pounds quickly.”
    Hospitals are the worst of all.

  7. Hi Dr Mike! Another great post/link.
    First, I thought the fried twinkee kid was a girl too….and wasn’t convinced otherwise until I watched a few more of his videos on UTube!!
    Second…..on this article, I feel soooo bad for that little girl!!! Like her mom said, she’s afraid to eat, afraid she’s doing something wrong!!! I can see my daughter reacting that way!!! I can also see the comments about making fun of the thin kids as much as the overweight ones….my daughter was always very thin (90th percentile on height, 10th on weight!!) and she was constantly being harassed!! The favorite, was “beanpole”, which to this day she hates! When she was just under 5 yrs old I was actually threatened with DSS if she didn’t gain weight! Yep, she was in the WIC program, and I was told to give her pudding, ice cream, frappes, etc when she wouldn’t eat her regular meals….luckily my doc stood up for us and called the WIC office and blasted them!
    My son was overweight “mildly obese” until he hit 18, my daughter was always thin. Today, at ages 24 and 22, they’re both tall and very thin. Funny, they’re both considered “perfect weight” according to the charts, but people always comment on how thin they are. DD is, at 24, 5’9″ and about 135#, DS is, at 22, 6’3″ and about 160#.
    DD works at a steak house and she’s amazed at the way people feed their kids! She especially gets upset when the kids don’t eat their meal, but mom and dad still insist they be given their “free” desert! (some of these kids eat NOTHING, but still get their ice cream!)
    I think the thing that really bothers me is the low fat mantra with toddlers. Past the age of 2 you’re supposed to feed your kid low fat!!! Don’t they know brain development in children is dependent on fat in the diet??? They knew it 30 yrs ago, so what happened?!?!?!
    Hi Cindy–
    I guess we unlearned it.

  8. I hate, hate, hate the BMI! My husband and I are both large-boned, naturally muscular people. Even when I look great and have a very respectable body fat percentage, I am deemed overweight by BMI standards. (I hear Shaquille O’Neal and Arnold Schwarzenegger have an “obese” BMI). Not surprisingly, our incredibly active 6 year old daughter has the same physique and has a BMI of 95%. This is a kid whose favorite after school snack is nori seaweed, adores sauteed kale, and voluntarily leaves rice on her plate when it’s served to her at other people’s houses. If some school official tries to tell her she’s fat, I’ll go through the roof!!!
    Hi Beth–
    I agree.  The BMI is worthless, but many, many people use it as a standard without ever knowing what it really is or what it means.

  9. I had to take Home Ick 🙂 once for half a year, in 8th grade (1976?) because there wasn’t enough room in Wood or Electrical Shop class because all the girls were trying to avoid Home Ick (for different reasons, they thought it was too “domestic” and anti-feminist).
    I already knew how to sew quite well (which didn’t win me any points with the teacher), but even at that young age I was appalled that they were teaching us to “cook” with Bisquick and other boxed mixes (I’m sure I didn’t keep my opinions to myself, either). It was one of the biggest wastes of time I ever had in school and I think I got a fairly lousy grade (a C ?) because I couldn’t stop saying “this isn’t cooking”. I had been baking cakes from scratch since I was in grade school, even winning a local contest twice, so I’m sure I was a royal pain to that teacher.
    More recently, for K & 1st grade I packed my son’s lunch every day. Now in 2nd grade he has been asking for school lunch and about once a month I relent and let him (he always chooses the Domino’s pizza, I’m sure). It amazes me that some parents think the school lunch is great (and it *is* much better than some of the “home packed” lunches I have seen on my volunteer days – – plastic sacks of “warehouse” fare like Lunchables, chips, fruit leather candy, etc., usually eaten by some of the chubbiest, most hyper, or chronically unhealthy kids.
    This year the school has initiated a lot of diet and food related programs for all grade levels (to combat increasing childhood obesity) and it is making me crazy – low fat everything and no mention of the junk carbs! My son told me I used too much butter and it was dangerous. They were looking for parents to volunteer for the district and school food committees but I knew that I would be facing all the federal and CA state mandate/guidelines that adhere to the pyramid, so I didn’t do it. If I thought I could truly make a difference in the school lunch program I would in a heartbeat, but I think I would just be a thorn in the committee’s side. Even if I could convince the local folks of the misguised wisdom in following the lopsided food pyramid, I don’t think they would have the guts to do anything about it unless they were willing to break with the federal school lunch program, which I doubt would happen. It all comes down to the garbage food being cheaper.
    BTW, I had a great thing happen tonight. My son has finally started to eat salad but only without dressing (he doesn’t yet like tart or spicy foods very much). He asked for Ranch dressing recently, because he has had it at friends’ houses. I usually make vinaigrette-type dressings, but I looked up a recipe and made Ranch with home-cultured raw cream instead of buttermilk (no envelope!). I was surprised at how easy and good it was. He loves it and says it is better than the squeeze bottle kind. I’m making headway.
    Hi Anna–
    Your child told you that you were using too much butter and that it was dangerous?  God help us all.
    Keep fighting the good fight.  Seems like we are never going to get out of the nutritional dark ages.

  10. The more government takes over, the worse off we’ll be. The newest thing in the UK now is the food police. It probably won’t be long before they are here.
    I agree with you about the government and the food pyramid. When I was in the hospital a year ago, they put me on an 1800 calorie, diabetic menu. Almost everything on there was high carb. Then they tried to give me insulin because my blood glucose was up. You couldn’t tell them anything. Their attitude was you didn’t know anything and they knew everything because they were medical professionals.
    Hi Jay–
    Your grandmother probably knows more about nutrition than most medical professionals.

  11. Dr. Eades,
    Thank you for correcting my temporary lapse, I know all too well what damage the food pyramid incurs on people who are susceptible to, yet unable to defend against, its ravages. Didn’t realize that it was 53 million people a day, though! That’s an eye-opener.
    I was inadvertently thinking of “The Bear” (not a convicted killer), who typically traded his carbs for real protein and fat whilst in prison. Interestingly enough, he traded his carbs for pork, with the Muslims. 😉
    I guess he was smarter than the average bear. 🙂  I couldn’t resist.

  12. Dr. Eades,
    I recall an article recently where they discussed the “at risk for overweight” vs “overweight” categories. Maybe you could shed some light on this too. Basically a group was pressuring doctors to call a spade a spade. Currently, obese youngsters are called “overweight,” while overweight kids are called “at risk for overweight”. The fear is hurting their little feelings by telling them the truth. Perhaps that’s where the “at risk” comes from?
    Hi Scott–
    I’m not familiar with the term ‘at risk for overweight’ as a function of what a person’s weight already is.  I would assume that you’re right, and that they call obese kids overweight and the merely overweight ‘at risk for overweight.’

  13. As far as I’m concerned, BMI is just technobabble for the old height-weight tables and is just as useless.
    As for the food pyramid, I tried to follow the low fat, high carb food pyramid for several years. I just got fatter & fatter and ended up diabetic. Low carb has turned things around for me.
    Hi Dan–
    You’re right.  BMI is technobabble for height and weight.  The old height and weight tables had an advantage, though, because they listed body frame along with height and weight, adding an extra variable.  The more variables, the more accuracy.
    Glad to hear that low-carb has done the trick for you.

  14. My 5th grader eats school lunch, though I hope to change that by next year at the latest.
    They consider ‘lunch’ something like, green beans from a gigantic can, ‘fruit salad in syrup’ from a gigantic can, tater tots, and often something fried or in bread as the main course, plus milk and some kind of dessert. If I WANTED to set up an experiment to ensure diabetes I couldn’t do much better. It’s just so horrifying. And all this is set up by a nutritionist of course, HA HA HA.
    They don’t have much recess anymore. And they canceled half the things they did at recess that were the most energetic, like soccer for example — if one kid complains, “the others are being mean!” it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, or what the detail, they just don’t want to deal with supervising it so they say no more of that.
    So how can I complain when she comes home from school at 3:30 and insists she is starving? She’s had nothing but carbs since 7:30am for the most part, of course she’s starving. And yet she’s getting chubby. And then she feels guilty – she asked me if she had an eating disorder because it feels like she’s always hungry. For godssakes.
    Her father and I are divorcing (the best benefit of my 100lb recent weight loss) and when he leaves in two weeks, this house is lowcarb, including all her food and her lunch. I’ll let her have LC bread and any fruit/veg she wants, but the starchy BS the school (and her dad, who doesn’t work and manages her food) feeds her is a thing of the past. Some of my family think I am being ‘unreasonable’ and ‘forcing my diet on my kid’ but I think I’m just finally taking the responsibility to feed her properly.
    Hi PJ–
    I think you’re doing the right thing for both you and your daughter by getting the junk out of the house.  See today’s most recent post on how our kids are making us fat and not doing themselves a lot of good either.

  15. When my dad had his aortic valve replaced early 2006, he had the same experiences with hospital food. His blood sugar was high following his surgery and the so-called diabetic diet they were feeding just horrified me. They had him on the so-called heart diet, too, complete with margerine, etc. I couldn’t say much as my mom was running the show and she buys all that diet stuff that the medical professionals tell her as gospel. And she should know better too, as she’s conquered her type II diabetes with diet, but it’s like my brother says, she’s dedicated to eating as many carbs as she can get away with and still have normal blood sugar readings.
    I guess I was lucky in that I took home ec with a teacher that taught us to cook from scratch.
    Hi Esther–
    I love your line about your mother being “dedicated to eating as many carbs as she can get away with and still have normal blood sugar readings.”  How well that describes so many people.  Unfortunately, excess insulin is working behind the scene to store fat, increase fluid retention, thicken arterial walls, deposit fat in the liver, and slowly but surely chip away at good health, and all the while these people go blissfully along patting themselves on the back for having normal blood sugars.


  16. My wife is pregnant with our first (I just found out it’s a boy this morning!) Reading everyone’s horror stories just reinforces my urge to throw away the TV and home school my kids. I sell TV’s and appliances for a living and was recently horrified while watching Saturday Morning cartoons in the store. I don’t which network it was but I am definitely locking out ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX every Saturday Morning.
    Hi David–
    Best of luck with it all.  You’d better start gearing up for battle because it isn’t easy.

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