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What are we doing to our kids???


Posted by Juliet J. Patient ExpertHealth Maven

 
Writer's Answer

Two items from my daily Google searches really upset me this morning.

First,there is this story from Australia, where officials are pressing to institute schools to issue Fat Report Cards. UGH.

Then, far more insidious,is this story from the UK about Fat School. That’s right, the Fat Camp program has been turned into a boarding school!!!

ARGHHH.

Britain’s finest boarding school exclusively for overweight and obese teenagers is to open in the Lake District. It will take children aged 11 to 18 who are at least 9kg (20lb) too heavy and have had diet problems for more than a year.

As well as being taught the national curriculum, pupils will learn food science and weight management. They will be encouraged to take part in intensive physical activity and consume just 1,500 calories and 12g of fat per day.

20 pounds too heavy? TWENTY POUNDS? You’re going to send your kid away to boarding school for being 20 pounds overweight? That’s absolute maddness. Not to mention, what a way to set up a competition amongst children to see who can lose weight fastest. The number of ways in which a

program like this will lead to disordered eating and thinking are just staggering.

1500 calories and 12 grams a fat per day for growing children and teens? That’s absurd. Especially when you add in what I am sure is an aggressive exercise program.

It is an absolute OUTRAGE that they can do this to children. They want to call parents of obese children guilty of child abuse, but I think this is truly abusive.

How long will those kids who are only 20 pounds overweight need to stay at the school, when eating next to nothing and being exercised like animals?

Well, according to their site, you have to stay at least four months.

Tuition at Wellspring is $6,250 per month. Tuition covers the entire program, including diet management, activity management, behavioral, residential and academic.

The minimum length of enrollment is 4 months. Students typically enroll for 1-2 semesters (4-9 months).

There are already two schools operating in the United States. Check them outhere. The US criteria are a bit more selective than what the UK criteria will be, but then again, from my Google alerts, the UK seems more frenzied over the whole obesity epidemic crap anyway. According to the website, for US entrance, you must be 30 pounds overweight, and you must have a two year history of struggling with your weight. The UK school won’t open for three years… I’d like to think people will come to their senses before then, but I doubt it.

I love the Student Profile description. Here, this is priceless.

Wellspring students are at least 30 lbs. overweight and have been struggling with their weight for at least two years.

Beyond this, no two Wellspring students are exactly alike. Many exhibit signs of low self-esteem. Some have been diagnosed with depression or other issues.Some appear as though their weight doesn’t bother them at all, although it’s obvious that returning to a normal weight range would be transformative.

Okay, my weight was a source of low self-esteem partly because of this sort of thought process. The thoughts that a fat child can’t possibly be happy and have a good life. You have to be thin to be happy, after all. Hollywood tells us that daily, right??? Yeah, because all those gorgeous people with their seriously screwed up marriages and the tabloids publishing any nasty bits they can seem “happy” to me. But you can’t be fat and be happy. It’s just not possible, right? Fat = miserable, doesn’t it?

Bullshit. I’m fat, and overall, I’m happy. End of story. There are things about being fat that make life harder, but that doesn’t mean that losing weight would be “transformative,” and who is to say that any “transforming” that happens as a result of dramatic weight loss will be positive? Just look at some of the outcomes of people who lose lots of weight with WLS, and you can clearly see that weight loss doesn’t always equal happiness.

Children should be taught to accept one another and themselves for who they are as people. While I think eating fruits and veggies and less candy is probably an overall good recipe for health, I think this should be something that is just allowed to happen. Give children fruits and veggies from an early age, and they’ll often adopt that way of eating naturally. Give them fun ways to exercise and they’ll do that because it is enjoyable.

Children often gain weight during puberty. Many will later take that weight off naturally, if left alone, and settle at a weight that is ideal for their body type. Problem is, we’ve all become so hung up on arbitrary numbers of what is “ideal” and society has decided that the “one size fits all” approach is best. We fail to realize that it’s our disordered sense of what is a “healthy” weight that causes so many of our problems.

There’s also the reality that parents who can afford these schools are going to be well off financially. Almost $7,000 a month??? My undergrad tuition was less than that per YEAR at my public university, and this wasn’t that long ago (and granted, I didn’t live on campus, but still). My experience with weight has taught me that being thin is a status symbol for many people with money. It was once the opposite. Being “plump” meant you had money to eat. Nowadays, being thin means you have money to buy chef prepared food, or pay for a personal trainer or belong to the “right” gym or health club. In NYC, I saw this all the time. The thinner a person was, the better off their status. In my neighborhood, most of the women were a size four or smaller. Fitness and diet were about willpower and punishment, as in, “oh, I shouldn’t have had those drinks and the cheese fries at the bar last night, I have to go work out for an hour this morning and then I can’t eat until tomorrow.”

Which makes me question the overall parental types you’d find amongst the children at one of those schools. You can bet these kids have been put on diets for years by the time they get there. The more money a family has, the more status, the more it matters that their kids not be fat. It’s sad, but it’s true. I’ve seen it up close and personal with friends.

Now, that’s not to say that families, in general, don’t put pressure on kids to lose weight. I certainly wasn’t “rich” growing up, and there was plenty of pressure in my family for me to lose weight. It’s just not the same sort of pressure, and in my family a lot of that was about control. I was different - aside from my weight, which was an issue on both sides of my family. I didn’t fit it, I didn’t belong and it was obvious from an early age I’d break free of the dysfunction. I think tearing down my self-esteem was their only hope to keep me like them… and it worked, a bit. Just not enough, and it made me all the more determined to break free of their sickness.

All of these extreme attempts to make children lose weight really concern me. I don’t think that long term this will result in a health weight loss, even if it might result in some short term maintenance. I think this blurb from the article sums it up.

‘I certainly don’t think this should be promoted as a good response to weight management,’ said Dr Russell Viner, an associate professor at University College Hospital’s Institute of Child Health in London, who runs a weight management programme for young people.

‘While the young people learn to control their weight in the entirely unnatural environment of a boarding school, they do not learn how to maintain their weight once they return to the normal world.’ Helping young people control their weight in a family setting was more likely to produce long-term results.

Of course, that guy has his own weight loss program, and probably wants to ensure its survival, so he’s bound to put down another program. All the same, it’s true. It’s like when I was able to control my eating disorder whilst in an inpatient program for eating disorders, but once back in the “real” world, I lost that control because I hadn’t learned it in a real setting, with all the dysfunction my family brought to the table. I learned it somewhere safe, somewhere that I felt protected. My seven weeks in the hospital did very little to help me, beyond giving me the chance to escape my family and feel safe for a while.

I dream of a world in which children are not persecuted by their peers, but until the adults who are supposed to care for and protect these kids wake up and realize that the current approach is wrong, there’s little hope for that. All fat people, young or old, are subject to the same cruel and vicious treatment… weight discrimination really is the last socially accepted - no, it’s worse, it’s a socially ENCOURAGED - form of prejudice.

xoxo,

Juliet

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