parent opinion

'My daughter is four. I just received a letter from her school saying her BMI is too high.'

This post deals with eating disorders and could be triggering for some readers...

Receiving a letter like this from my daughter’s school nurse really struck a chord for me.

 

My daughter is a kind, hilarious and smart four-year-old who absolutely loves swimming, running, watching movies and colouring in. 

She loves food and I think that is terrific. Since she started on solids, I have always ensured I provide her with food from all food groups, give her lots of fresh options, ensure she has regular meals and I have never used words like ‘treats’ or ‘good/bad’ foods. 

I leave it to her to decide when she has had enough and never comment on what she has or hasn’t eaten. 

Like all of us… some days she eats lots, other days barely anything. 

I trust my daughter to make those decisions for herself and encourage her at all times to listen to her body. We have an active lifestyle and spend our lives at the beach and river however of course she loves screen time and relaxation too. 

It is this outdated use of the BMI scale that desperately needs to be reviewed. 

How dare someone make such an assessment without considering so many other factors? I will never restrict the food my daughter eats as it is this kind of behaviour that led me to 24 years of disordered eating. 

To clarify the context of this situation, the ‘results’ were based on a Western Australia Government school entry health assessment. 

These are completed for all Kindy aged students in their first term of school within WA. 

No blame can be put on the school nurses themselves as this is a compulsory measurement that they have to complete and follow up. This is much bigger than them. 

I feel for the many wonderful parents out there who have also received letters like this. 

I hope they know better than to begin putting their children on silly diets or exercise regimes. It's pretty scary to think society is still so far from perfect when approaching weight vs health. 

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Restriction was the basis for all of my personal destructive eating issues. 

As a child, I was encouraged to eat low-fat foods as well as minimal carbohydrates and sugar. 

I was a very sporty and social child but due to my personal ‘weight concerns’, at 14 I joined a slimming club.

I was never discouraged when joining this program even though I was so young. This was the 90s… thin was considered healthy! 

This was the beginning of many years of starving myself, ridiculous exercise routines, binge eating, and a very unhealthy relationship with food, exercise and my body. 

I didn’t look like the skinny woman on the magazine cover so I felt I was failing and never good enough. 

When it came to food, I lost the ability to listen to my body and identify hunger/full signals. 

For me, being slim came at a price that certainly didn’t involve care and nourishment for myself. 

I didn’t see food as a wonderful source of fuel for my body or for the joy it could bring through family meals, celebrations or culture. Food was my enemy. 

Apart from a few times when I was extremely underweight, had a school nurse checked my BMI, I would have been in the ‘healthy weight range’ throughout most of my life. 

But I was far from healthy, both mentally and physically. 

I hated my body and never appreciated the fact that it was the vehicle that had allowed me to accomplish so much like getting excellent grades throughout school, having a very successful career, travelling the world for work and pleasure, happily facing challenges head on, having many wonderful friendships and not to mention an incredibly loving marriage. 

How sad that I couldn’t see all of these wonderful achievements. Thank goodness I have found my path to recovery. 

So when I received this letter about my daughter I was upset and furious.

 At no point will I ever judge how healthy she is by a ridiculous scale that simply takes height and weight into consideration. 

How about gender? Ethnicity? Muscle mass? Growth spurts? How outdated. 

She will grow up knowing that she has a strong, useful and wonderful body that helps her to do incredible things. 

She will be embraced for what her body achieves and not for what it looks like. 

I will do everything in my power to make sure she doesn’t buy into the looks/weight/body obsessed society we live in. 

It’s going to be a bumpy road but I know it will be worth it. I don’t want her falling into the ‘body complex’ trap that I, and so many women of our current and past generations, have been pulled into. '

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] You can also visit their website, here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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