Remember the DARE project? Signs, bumper stickers and snail mail postcards encouraging us teenagers to stay off drugs.
If you are in my age pool, how could you forget this commercial?
Yes. That one. The one the government spent billions of dollars on.
D.A.R.E. The program was the country’s largest single school-based prevention program in terms of federal expenditures, with an average of three quarters of a billion dollars spent on its provision annually.”
Our study supports previous findings indicating that D.A.R.E. is ineffective.” - Full article here.
And here we go again. Another school-based prevention program that not only will be ineffective, but will cause more harm than good.
Weighing kids in school.
Did you know, 40 percent of the nation’s schools use the body shaming and harmful inappropriate measurement of weight kids in school. 20 states actually require it. Usually in the junior high and high school years. Right in the middle of puberty.
Puberty and adolescence are the life periods most often associated with the onset of Eating disorders. Social norms promoting thinness and their expression in the media and youth culture were also frequently associated with higher incidence of EDs or disordered eating.” – Full article here.
There is no evidence that BMI testing has a positive impact on reducing obesity and contends it can do harm.” Eating Disoder Coalition
Of course I work in the field where the harm is lived out in the lives of children as young as nine and women as old as seventy. Weighing a child in school will not cause an eating disorder. But weighing a child in school is shaming and a measuring tool that will ultimately do nothing to change our obesity crisis. People are not motivated by fear.
Check out the story of this brave girl who was sent to the Principal’s office for refusing to be weighed!
Three alternatives to weighing children in school:
1. Focusing instead on sleep.
Kids who get less than eight hours sleep have about a 300% higher rate of obesity than those who get a full ten hours of sleep.”
Why? “Sleep loss increases the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger, and decreases its metabolic opposite, leptin, which suppresses appetite. Sleep loss also elevates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is lipogenic, meaning it stimulates your body to make fat. Human growth hormone is also disrupted. Normally secreted as a single big pulse at the beginning of sleep, growth hormone is essential for the breakdown of fat.” – Full article here.
This is crucial in children!
Children spend 40% of their asleep time in this slow-wave stage, while older adults are in this stage only about 4% of the night.”
2. Promoting emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to verbalize and express ones emotions as well as self-regulation and affect-regulation. In other words, teaching kids to say, “I am angry. I am sad. My feelings are hurt.” To recognize their own emotions as normal, learning to self-soothe in healthy ways without needing to turn to alternative coping skills (dieting, cutting, drugs) to manage emotions.
3. Encouraging moderation.
Yes. Not dieting. Most eating disorders begin with a diet.
By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.
Clearly, not everyone who diets develops an eating disorder, but research does show that 35% of occasional dieters become pathological dieters, and as many as 25% of those diets will progress into full-blown eating disorders. - The Thin Line between diet and eating disorders.
Many low income families cannot afford to the food that most of our society calls “good”. Sadly is an entirely different issue that also needs attention. So instead, encourage moderation. Eating three meals and three snacks a day with a variety of foods. Which allows the body to fuel properly. Eating this way also helps one NOT to overeat. The appropriate way to eat is shown here on myplate.gov. (Read here on my encouragement for parents.)
4. Diets don’t work.
Almost everybody who tries to diet seems to fail in the long run—a review in 2007 by the American Psychological Association of 31 diet studies found that as many as two thirds of dieters end up two years later weighing more than they did before their diet.” - American Psychological Association
Yes. We are in an obesity crisis. We are also walking a very fine line when we start to weigh kids in school. The shaming and the ridicule that can occur from this is much more harmful than helpful.
Fear doesn’t work. Look at the D.A.R.E. project!
I wish our schools could learn from this, read the research, and instead adopt the four strategies I mentioned above. I am tired of seeing young kids come in to treatment who were bullied about their weight, went on a diet at a time when life was extremely overwhelming, and develop life threatening eating disorders. Stop the madness.
Let’s take care of our children in a kinder gentler way.
Looking for more information?
1. Ellyn Satter is an expert in her field.
2. The Book, “Love Me, Feed Me.”