Is Your Child’s School Forcing Kids to Diet?

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Is Your Child’s School Forcing Kids to Diet?
Learn about the dieting programs public schools are implementing in an effort to reduce childhood obesity, and whether or not these efforts are healthy or detrimental to your children.
With the startling rise in obesity among young children, many schools are striving to combat issues of weight and poor health by enforcing new dietary restrictions. For example, some schools are creating workout and wellness plans that help students lose weight through fun activities. Similarly, some schools are prohibiting their cafeterias from selling certain types of foods to prevent poor eating habits. 

Ultimately, while all can agree that children are best served when they are at their optimal health and physical size, many individuals assert that the schools’ new focus on weight can lead to an array of mental and personal issues in young kids. 

The Obesity Issue

 According to reports, approximately 1 in 3 kids is considered to be overweight or obese. As the percentage of overweight children continues to rise at a startling rate, leaders are striving to seek out solutions to this serious crisis. According to Kids Health, children today are spending less time playing outdoors and engaging in physical activities due to the new appeals of technology, video games, and television. Subsequently, children are becoming lethargic, lazy, and large. Adding to the change in children’s activities, Kids Health further asserts that busy parents no longer have the time to prepare healthy and balanced meals: “From fast food to electronics, quick and easy is the reality for many people in the new millennium.”
This video suggests that school lunches and too much TV time play a role in childhood obesity.
Is Your Child Overweight?
The determining factor that indicates if a child is obese is a calculation called a “BMI.” A BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a number that reveals an individual’s overall body fat in relation to his or her height and general size. To calculate this BMI, an individual’s weight (kg) must be divided by an individual’s height (meters squared). Alternatively, parents can simply search the internet for a BMI Calculator, as these tools are widely available on an array of websites. Once your child’s BMI is calculated, your child will fall into 1 of 4 categories:
  • Underweight – BMI below the 5th percentile
  • Normal – BMI at the 5th to the 85th percentile
  • Overweight – BMI at the 85th to the 95th percentile
  • Obese – BMI at or above the 95th percentile
While a child’s BMI may not be a perfect calculation of his or her body composition, as some children experience odd weights and heights during growth spurts, the BMI can generally help to inform parents as to whether or not their child may need additional medical or nutritional support. 
Schools and Obesity
In an effort to combat the many issues related to childhood obesity and problems associated with being overweight, public schools across the country are experimenting with new programs to stimulate enhanced health for their students. For example, as The Boston Globe reports, Massachusetts public schools are beginning to send home “weight reports” to inform a child’s parents of whether or not a child weighs too much or too little. Based on a model developed by schools in Arkansas and New York City, early childhood obesity screenings are intended to provide both parents and children with greater awareness, information, and preventative support. 
In addition to weight assessments, many schools are prohibiting the consumption of sodas and certain types of junk foods in schools, as it impacts how children learn. As students today consume more sugary beverages and less water, students are arriving at school dehydrated, distracted, and unable to concentrate. Adding to the mental impacts of these sugary sweets, soda, and junk food consumption also adds to the problems of a child’s waistline. As a result, school leaders are taking a closer look at what students are eating, and they are refining rules to enforce what can and cannot be consumed on school grounds.
This video from Boston Children's Hospital offers 10 causes of childhood obesity.
The Implication of Young Dieting
According to The Independent, children even as young as 9 years old are now reportedly embarking on diets due to experiencing harsh teasing and taunting at school. Although many young kids who feel the need to go on diets are actually of normal weight, psychologists at Leeds University estimate that 21 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys who are of primary school ages are teased for being overweight. This experience results in an overall decrease in self-esteem and confidence. In fact, 20 percent of the Leeds University surveyed students reported that they have been bullied because of their physical size and shape; in reality, however, only a small percentage of the 383 taunted children were actually clinically overweight or obese.  
This video looks at obesity and bullying.
According to experts, a school’s focus on diet, weight loss, and appearance may be one of the many factors that are contributing to this bullying and harassment. As The Independent further explains, “Such an early initiation into the diet culture can act as a trigger for eating disorders including excessive weight control and bulimia.” Considering that weight is now a new focus for our schools and young children, experts assert that parents must take immediate intervention steps if they feel their child is struggling or being taunted. As Kids Health further asserts, any parents who are concerned about their child’s health or issues with weight should make an appointment with their child’s doctor. A medical expert can help provide a parent and a child with tools, tips, and resources to help boost a child’s both physical and mental wellbeing. 
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