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Emotions and the word "obese"

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Old 11-17-2010, 02:19 PM   #1
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Default Emotions and the word "obese"

This morning I was struck (again) by the amount of emotion a lot of us (including me) have about our weight. There was this show on NPR about a debate that was taking place about schools informing parents of children who are overweight and obese. Many people called in stating that the school had no business sending a note to the parents stating that their child was obese. At first I thought "Wow, that is a tough subject." but then I thought that it's only a tough subject because of the emotions attached to our entire country's view on weight. Seriously, the school does inform parents when their children are experiencing medical issues. They do scoliosis checks, lice checks, vision screenings (my son got a referral for his vision and I was grateful that they alerted me to his vision problems before it affected his school work, not angry), when I was in elementary school eons ago they did dental checks.

The emotionality of the situation became clear to me when a dad called in and said "I got a letter from the school stating that my daughter was obese. I couldn't believe it. My daughter is beautiful. The last thing you would think when you look at her is 'obese'". And there it is. Why can't his daughter be beautiful and obese? It's a medical term that has been become an emotional land mine by our personal and cultural views of the supposed character flaws of "fat" people. I have emotional issues related to my weight, so I understand. But really, should we let that interfere with ensuring the health of our children? I think we should get to a point where we can look at it as the school saying "your kid has a medical issue that could have a serious impact on their health and life, but you can help them." It's not like they told the kid in front of the class. They sent a confidential letter to the parents.

What do you think?
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Old 11-17-2010, 02:31 PM   #2
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I can't understand why parents feed their children junk until they are classified as obese and then are surprised when the school lets them know the child is headed toward life long health problems and probably a shorter life span than the parents. That's right. This is the first generation that will have a shorter lifespan than we do. We've feed them to death.

I think the school should inform the parents and if they don't take steps to correct the situation, they should be considered child abusers.
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Old 11-17-2010, 02:34 PM   #3
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Well, I think of the difference between treating a weight problem in a child and treating something like a vision problem or lice. It's so much more complicated than a trip to the eye doc or a script for Rid-X. Lice can spread to other children. Eye problems pose issues with learning (not being able to read the chalkboard). Being overweight really doesn't affect the well-being of other students, nor does it affect the learning of overweight students. I realize on a broader level that being overweight can be detrimental to learning, but in an indirect, complicated way that isn't remedied by a letter saying "your child has a weight problem".

If schools wanted to take a more integrated approach to managing weight in students I would be all for a letter home, but this isn't the case. In fact, it seems rather ambiguous. What do they hope to accomplish? As an obese child, I was weighed in gym class like everyone else; my parents were certainly aware that I had a weight problem and just tried to manage it as best they could. Weight issues in children are tricky and the solution begins and ends at home, IMHO.
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Old 11-17-2010, 02:42 PM   #4
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Were the letters home part if an integral program? I am all for the school starting a 'get healthy' type program or event. I think parents would be receptive then.
Kids have gotten so big alot of parents don't realize their kids are overweight. The kids look 'normal' compared to their classmates.
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Old 11-17-2010, 02:50 PM   #5
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The school sent home letters to parents stating the student's weight, a healthy weight range, suggestion to see the pediatrician (I guess for more comprehensive medical work up and plan- the same reasons adults go see doc or weight issues), and also provided suggestions for healthier lifestyle. They suggested 30 of activity with parents outside a day, suggestions for healthy snacks, etc. Honestly, I don't think the school can provide the comprehensive plan for families and kids. It can only screen and suggest the doctor. Who knows what else the kid is facing who has been determined to be obese. I used to work with kids and I actually know of two kids (one elementary age) with diabetes. Not every parent takes their kids in for check ups and physicals unless they are playing sports (I'm not sure that is likely for some of these kids) or getting shots every couple of years. It's likely the parents may know the kid is "chubby" but may not know that the full impact of that or if their kid has a medical problem like pre-diabetes.
The visit to the doc is not a cure all, but he is a starting point. My dental health wasn't impacting other kids and didn't impact my school work immediately, but it was an issue that wouldn't have been recognized or addressed anywhere else.
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Old 11-17-2010, 02:51 PM   #6
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I've been overweight, but never obese.

In school, I was very underweight (I'm talking 90ish pounds at 5'5 in grade 11 & 12... naturally). I also got comments from my PT instructors - for opposite reasons (eating disorder? no...), so I can understand feeling targeted but not for being obese.

Anyways, I think Water makes a good point- a lot of parents simply don't realize the trend that their child is taking after. Is it the school's place to say something? Well, that I don't know. I wish schools would start with healthy (and affordable) cafeteria options, nutrition classes, more PE, more open sports. Some schools don't even have recess anymore.

Most of us still went outside and played as kids. You don't have time to eat a lot of junk when you are bicycling into a creek area to play on a tree. Now, they stay inside on the xbox and have a bag of doritos.

It's the parents fault.. it's the school's fault.... it's everyone's fault for not taking a stand. It's not the child's fault - it is our role as adults to do something.
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Old 11-17-2010, 02:54 PM   #7
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I don't think it's so bad for a school to send this kind of letter out. Maybe it will wake some parents up. Obviously, a parent can see when their child is severely overweight/obese, but doesn't want to face up to it, so they become complacent. Maybe a letter will make them face the fact that their child is in danger. Obesity is a real health concern.

Probably a lot of the parents that are upset, are upset because they feel responsible for their child's weight, and feel like they have failed them as a parent.

That being said, if the school is going to choose to do this, I think they should make sure they are doing what they can on their side to help fight obesity in children .. things like proper nutrition programs in the school, and healthy eating choices in the cafeteria.
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Old 11-17-2010, 03:22 PM   #8
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Like some others mentioned, I would be extremely interested to hear about the physical education/health program at the school sending the letters out. I would also be very interested in what foods they are serving in the cafeteria. I totally agree with the poster who said this is not the kids' fault they are obese.

I imagine most parents are aware when their children are overweight/obese, and I think that if they are truly burying their heads in the sand about it, then a letter like that sent home would probably be met with hostility and anger toward the school, which could be counterproductive. I think a better approach than paying someone to send out all those letters would be to come up with a really inspiring, interactive curriculum that would teach kids more thoroughly about proper nutrition and the value of exercise. Obviously they aren't learning it at home.

Now if the parents are already actively involved in their kid's health and are trying to make changes, it would help immensely if the poor little guys wouldn't have to sit across the lunch table watching the other kids eat school lunch on pizza or chicken nugget day while they eat a turkey sandwich.

So I guess the bottom line for me is, the schools need to put up or mind their own business.
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Old 11-17-2010, 03:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shannonmb View Post

I imagine most parents are aware when their children are overweight/obese, and I think that if they are truly burying their heads in the sand about it, then a letter like that sent home would probably be met with hostility and anger toward the school, which could be counterproductive. I think a better approach than paying someone to send out all those letters would be to come up with a really inspiring, interactive curriculum that would teach kids more thoroughly about proper nutrition and the value of exercise. Obviously they aren't learning it at home.

Now if the parents are already actively involved in their kid's health and are trying to make changes, it would help immensely if the poor little guys wouldn't have to sit across the lunch table watching the other kids eat school lunch on pizza or chicken nugget day while they eat a turkey sandwich.

So I guess the bottom line for me is, the schools need to put up or mind their own business.
I do think that teaching kids proper nutrition is important. I don't know if they still do, but in my health class we covered that and female/male reproductive stuff etc. On the other hand, while the schools (I believe it is multiple schools not just one) are sending these letters home, I think they should address their school lunch and the fact that they have soda machines in schools. Also, The parents are ultimately responsible for the foods brought into the home and the meals that are prepared. I was aware of healthy eating when I was younger (though not taught by my parents), but was powerless over the groceries or meals my parents got from fast food places. Even the healthy stuff was doctored with fat and salt added, or fried. My mom's mac and cheese had sugar in it! As i got older I was able to negotiate for the money she would use for Burger king in order to go to the grocery store beside it to get yogurt and fruit. It would take a really determined kid to use the information the school gives them to go against family culture and lifestyle to eat healthy. Being the kid in the lunch room with healthy lunch is one thing, being the kid in your family (probably extended family, too) trying to go counter to that very same thing is a whole different ball game. It must start with the parents. They have the control of finances and set the tone for the rest of the family. How easy is it for those of us trying to lose weight when our spouse or roommate is sitting beside us with chips, beer, pizza, and cake and we're adults. Work is not my biggest downfall, the kitchen at home, hubby, family/friend gatherings are my biggest challenges.
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Old 11-17-2010, 04:02 PM   #10
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I read about this today as well and I'm truly conflicted. What is the expectation? That parents will suddenly look at their overweight/obese child and go "whoa, I had no idea you had a weight problem"? Because I really think that most parents of children with weight issues are well aware of those weight issues and, as we all know here, there are no simple solutions to the problem.

Personally, I would much rather see an integrated nutrition program at the schools where children aren't targeted as being overweight or obese but rather all children are taught through classroom lessons and example (crappy school lunches? I'm totally looking at you here) how to properly supply their bodies with the nutrients that they need to function best.

I was an overweight to obese child. It wasn't that my mother fed me "junk" like fast food or a lot of snack foods, etc. It was that we were poor and a lot of the foods we could afford weren't the healthiest for us. They were often very high carb, high salt, high everything because it was cheap. It was also food that didn't "stick" with us because there was very little beyond simple carbs (LOTS of rice and potatoes). Unfortunately for me this was a recipe for disaster weight wise. Not a whole lot that could have been done about it though - it's just the way things were.
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Old 11-17-2010, 04:09 PM   #11
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Quote:
That parents will suddenly look at their overweight/obese child and go "whoa, I had no idea you had a weight problem"
But some don't realize that they're obese and that obese is dangerous.

Like the father that said, "my daughter is beautiful".

It does need to be separated - beauty and weight.

So perhaps it's the parents that need to be educated. Not quite sure how to go about that though.

Obesity brings on real medical issues (not to mention mental ones) but is very often *caused* by emotional reasons and ignorance.

It's a very interesting topic.

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Old 11-17-2010, 04:22 PM   #12
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I think the reason the parents are upset is because they realize their kids are obese and probably feel some kind of guilt because of it. There's a difference between overweight and obese. I'll be totally honest. I feel awful for the kids who are very overweight. And I'll probably take a lot of flak for this, but parents who have obese children probably aren't living the healthiest lifestyle either, and by having their child's weight problems pointed out, they might feel like their own issues are being spotlighted.

I think what the school is doing is fine. Like someone else said, it's not like they are lining kids up and marking them with a big red O for obese. It's confidential.
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Old 11-17-2010, 04:29 PM   #13
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I don't know. My mother cooked all organic and never had much junk food in the house yet me and my brother both had weight problems. It was a big treat for us to go to our skinny cousins house and see the twinkies and stuff they had in their house all the time.

It really isn't a simple issue.
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Old 11-17-2010, 04:51 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by QuilterInVA View Post

I think the school should inform the parents and if they don't take steps to correct the situation, they should be considered child abusers.
Oh ouch. I know you didn't mean it this way and that I am one of many who could really take that the wrong way but ouch.

I have a little boy who is obese. It breaks my heart every day. I fed him better than I fed myself, though I admit I did not lead by example. Even now, with our house rid of junk completely he will eat 5 apples in a day. That's a lot of calories.

I would never blame my child for his weight, but it isn't my fault either. He's just a big boy. Maybe it's genetics. He also has low muscle tone, as many obese children do. Or at least it's the other way around...many children with low muscle tone are obese.

Now if I see a baby with pop in his bottle...yeah, blame the parent. Otherwise though, just like with a weight related issues, I try to give the parent he benefit of the doubt.

That said, I'm ok with the school notifying the parent. I am not ok with the school notifying my child!! Not at all.

***Oh, and sorry. I didn't mean to pick on your post in particular. It's just the first I read.
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Old 11-17-2010, 05:04 PM   #15
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I think this is a very interesting topic too.

But I think a lot of parents aren't really facing their child's weight problem. I know of someone who insisted, all through their daughter's high school years that she was chubby (overweight) because it was BABY FAT.

That it would eventually melt off... It didn't melt off her freshman year of high school, or her sophomore year or her junior year or her senior year or her freshman year of college or her sophomore year of college and now, finally that she's a junior in college, they are beginning to address her baby fat.

I think a lot of parents can see their kid and not see health problems, but assume it's "baby fat" and that it will magically disappear one day.
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