Saturday 23 January 2016

And while we're on the subject of BMIs…

My sister pointed out this article about a friend of hers whose healthy, sporty son was sent home with a letter from school telling his mum that he was overweight. This especially incensed the boy's mother because she herself had been a victim of anorexia as a young woman and understood more than most people about the dangers of the many things that can trigger an eating disorder.

There's a massive conflict at the moment between the drive to do something about the escalating levels of obesity in the UK and the danger that warnings/solutions could trigger the wrong sort of people to lose weight i.e. those predisposed to developing an eating disorder.

The thing is, none of the measures which are being rolled out in a bid to combat obesity seems to be doing any good. Obesity levels are on the rise not the decline, and if these measures are influencing anyone, they are probably influencing young people that wrongly believe they need to lose weight.

I know that teaching in school about healthy eating, BMIs, etc, was one of the many different things that added up to trigger my sons descent into anorexia. He was a big burly rugby player, as you know, and as a result his BMI was pretty high. So when they came to calculate their BMI is in a PSHE lesson at school, the alarm bells went off inside Ben's head – his BMI was "far too high" according to the charts.

BMI was created by Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet around 1830 as a measure of obesity and adopted by the British government in an effort to promote healthy eating.

That's quite a long time ago.

It's high time it was revised to take into account the vastly varying biological makeup of human beings, not to mention genetics, and the difference between fat, muscle and bone – none of which the BMI scale takes into account.

Yet at the beginning of virtually every CAMHS  session after my son was weighed, the CAMHS nurse got out a little calculation wheel, twiddled it around and kindly let my son know what his current BMI was.

And of course because Ben's BMI was usually hovering around the so-called "healthy" range, Ben took this to mean that he was correct in thinking that he was fat – and that there was no need at all for him to put on any weight.

To say that these were the wrong messages, is an understatement…

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