The other day a friend of mine shared a truly horrifying news article with me. The report shows how what we have accepted as “societal norms” can contribute to the issue of self esteem that is currently rampant among young girls. From personal experience I know just how damaging it is to be told at a young age that you are “fat” or “heavier” than the rest of your peers. It made me feel like a pariah and without a doubt played a role in the development of my eating disorder. I strived to be on the smallest end of the spectrum and as a result I had very little self esteem and was constantly consumed by my goal to lose weight. It was a miserable existence in all honesty. This is why I think I reacted so strongly to the story of nine year old Gwendolyn Williams who was told by her school, based on her BMI, that she is obese.
As you can see, in the picture above, Gwendolyn is no where near being obese, let alone even overweight. In fact she is an extraordinarily healthy young girl who only now, because of her diagnosis of having a high BMI, has started questioning the adequacy of her own physical appearance. She is only nine years old and weight should not be on her radar. She should be playing outside, learning in school, and cultivating meaningful friendships instead of worrying about what her BMI means. Fortunately, Gwendolyn’s mother saw right through the BMI measurements and took a stand against the evaluation that her daughter is obese. She fought the school and has gone public about just how damaging these assessments can be on young children. We need more parents like Mrs. Williams who are motivated to stand up for their children’s well being and recognize that BMI assessments are outdated. In further support of the possible damaging affects that this “fitness assessment” based on a child’s BMI, can have on children, a representative from the Binge Eating Disorder Association stated that “dieting, especially for kids, is the gateway drug for eating disorders, and so is the public shaming that can come with this.” This reinforces the fact that it is crucial that we change how we talk to young children about weight and also that we teach them that it is not what is on the outside that matters, but what is on the inside. I know that I no longer take BMI measurements very seriously and I hope that each of you further your understanding of this outdated practice and come to your own educated conclusions.