11-Year-Old Refuses to Eat After School Health Officials Say She’s Fat

scaleA young girl's self-esteem is severely damaged, and "health professionals" from her school are to blame: 11-year-old Olivia Lyndsay reportedly "refused to eat" for two days after she was told that her BMI (body mass index) was above the recommended limit, and her mother -- a personal trainer and nutritionist -- is furious.

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Olivia was weighed and measured as part of England's National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), which is meant to monitor obesity levels in children. Her results were apparently just above the normal range for her height (at 5 feet, 2 inches, Olivia's one of the tallest kids in her class), and learning this news from her school sent the girl into quite a state.

"After receiving the letter she was so distraught, I had to pull out my notes from university to convince her that she has no problem as she refused to eat anything for two days," said her mother, Amelya Lyndsay.

"They need to put something else in place," she said, criticizing the methods of the NCMP. "Don't just bring a measuring tape and scales into school to stress children about it."

"It is unbelievable how much damage can be done by this program."

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As a mother, I completely understand how she feels. I understand wanting to keep track of obesity rates in kids, but there's got to be a less humiliating way to do it. Plus, many experts believe that the BMI system is flawed to begin with, as it often fails to distinguish between muscle mass and body fat; it also can't take into account other factors that determine whether someone is actually at a healthy weight, such as body fat distribution. So it could be that the NCMP's testing is pointless anyway.

Amelya was especially irritated because Olivia's school "never bothered to investigate" Amelya's professional background (remember, she's a personal trainer and nutritionist), despite apparently being aware of what she does for a living.

"We never eat processed foods as I am always really careful of our diets," she said. 

I'm sure that just made this whole thing feel like an even bigger slap in the face. Like fat-shaming plus parent-shaming! It's really unfortunate that Olivia had to experience something like this at such an emotionally sensitive time in her life. And it sounds like she doesn't even have a weight problem -- more like she's having a huge adolescent growth spurt and her body is doing its very important work of catching up and coping with hormones and sorting itself out in general. Since she's clearly got a mom who encourages healthy eating and exercise, it's likely she never would have had to worry about her BMI -- until her school told her otherwise. 

Here's hoping she can find a way to stop worrying about it, and soon. 

 

Image via Allan Foster/Flickr

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