……………… I know it’s only Monday morning but I’m pissed. I mean, isn’t this what we’ve been saying all along? There are so many things wrong with this situation I’m wondering where to start. My mind is reeling and I’m praying that this won’t happen to another young girl—but it will. And having a daughter, let me just say right now, it better not be mine or I’m going to really have to chew someone’s ear off, Mike Tyson style.
Katie Owen, an 11 year old in Essex, UK, got a BMI report card (something I truly hate—and I talk about why more extensively in my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat due out October 1), from Barking & Dagenham NHS, that told her she was “overweight.” How did she react?
She burst into tears.
She immediately started to starve herself.
She called herself “too fat.”
Yup. The girl in the picture. So, yeah, I’m pissed.
Because here is a beautiful girl. With aspirations. Who now believes she is unworthy of nourishment. Whose beauty is obscured by a careless calculation. How careless, you might ask?
- She’s 110 pounds.
- 5 feet tall.
- BMI is 21.5.
That’s would be completely normal by adult standards. But not by children’s standards.
Annoyed yet? How about this…
She received the results from the National Child Measurement Scheme that she had “increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer as her body mass index (BMI) was outside recommended guidelines…
by ONE per cent”
Yup. One per cent.
I guess you can say that she fell on the “wrong side” of the scheme. I know. Ugh.
It’s all based on means. And 11 year olds are just not as tall, solid or filled out as Katie.
Looking at growth charts, you would notice that an average 11 year old (denoted by the 50% mark) is about 4 inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter than Katie. You know 11 year olds. Many of them still look like children. Katie is clearly an early developer—going through puberty earlier than her peers. And guess how many pounds a girl typically gains while going through puberty? You guessed it. About 25 pounds.
That’s one of the big problems with children’s BMI charts. Katie is in the 81st percentile. But—she is being compared to other girls who have not yet started puberty. So does that mean puberty=fat? Is that a fair synopsis of this situation? That’s a scary jump and an easy way for girls to reject a natural, healthy, beautiful thing that happens to herself.
Look at her picture.
- This is a photo of a healthy, beautiful girl.
- Who no longer thinks she is healthy or beautiful.
- And is now taking measures to lose weight that is not healthy at all.
In the midst of the report, I saw several disturbing things on top of what I’ve already brought to light.
She—and perhaps others who are trying to defend her– are qualifying and justifying her weight. No, she shouldn’t have to do that. She’s absolutely fine the way she is! The article says that Katie has some joint problems “which means she cannot always exercise regularly but the schoolgirl has always eaten healthily, avoids junk food and plays sport when she can.”
This is ridiculous. She’s a beautiful, healthy looking girl! No explanation needed.
But this is all trifling in comparison to the irresponsible responses from the Barking & Dagenham NHS spokeswoman who simply leaned on “confidentiality” and “no comment” clauses and the public health consultant Dr Justin Varney who said:
‘The NCMP letters are intended to encourage parents and carers to ensure their children eat well and take exercise and to let parents know what support is available to them.’ If parents, carers or the child concerned are worried about their child’s results, we recommend that they talk to their GP or practice nurse.’
The blood in my belly is boiling. The girl is a wreck. And we know—come on, we know it, that when girls are told they’re “overweight” or “fat” (warped societal translation= ugly, worthless, blameworthy, unworthy) they take the label with them everywhere they go…during everything they do…no matter where they are or who they’re with. To suggest that she should go to her GP or nurse is a freaking joke. The damage has already been done…and no, you can’t take it back.
So we should all be concerned. We should all be worried.
Because at the end of the day, this story is not at all about weight. It’s not about BMI. It’s not about a growth chart.
It’s about a girl.
A girl who is now starving herself and feeling bad about herself because of a mathematical equation that has labeled her at a single moment in time.
And that one little label…
threatens to mar her self esteem for the rest of her life.