I have to admit that I’m a total sucker for those who recognize bigotry for what it is when they see it, and even more so for those who battle against it. It’s especially crush-worthy when it’s someone who’s trying to change a societal paradigm that is harmful to our children. Jeff Dinelli, at The Left Coaster is one such person. His sixth grade daughter’s phys ed class is involved in a class project that included counting calories and calculating “ideal” weights for these youths. I don’t know about you, but I find the concept of an “ideal weight,” especially one that doesn’t take body composition (bone size/density, muscle mass, etc.) into consideration, not only unrealistic and appalling, but unconscionable.
Given that many of these school “nutrition awareness” and anti-obesity programs do more harm than good to our children, they don’t work, and anorexia is being diagnosed in children as young as five, maybe it’s time to consider a different approach to teaching nutrition and physical fitness. It’s time to get across that “survival of the fittest” is not synonymous with “survival of the buffest.”
Now, setting aside the fact that these kids are entering puberty and need fat and sugar for their bodies to develop properly, we are setting them up for disordered relationships with food at the very least and quite possibly full-blown eating disorders as well as depression and stress diseases. Sixth graders, at the verge of adulthood but not there yet, are practically obsessed with fitting in with their peer groups. If a teacher makes obsessing about their bodies a class assignment, said teacher is throwing alcohol gel onto an inferno.
Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recently performed a survey study to assess attitudes about the obese.
The study surveyed 4,283 individuals and discovered an alarming trend: to avoid being obese, people would be willing to give up a year of life, get divorced, be unable to have children, develop alcoholism, or become severely depressed. The survey also examined subconscious attitudes toward obesity and found that, regardless of their age or body weight, participants strongly associated fat people with negative traits, such as laziness and stupidity, while associating thin people with positive traits. Dr. Schwartz and her colleagues found that overweight participants thought poorly of themselves, making weight loss even harder to achieve and adding to a growing body of research that shows the striking prevalence and pervasiveness of weight-based stigma.
Even obesity doctors, who should know better, are likely to associate words like “lazy” “stupid,” and “worthless” to their fat patients. What chance does a sixth grader have to avoid assimilating these biases when they’re taught in grade school?