This afternoon I was listening to Martha Radio on Sirius (geek alert) when I heard this story about the acclaimed French nutritionist, Pierre Dukan, who recently made a proposal in the form of a 250 page book called, “An Open Letter to the Future President”, in which he suggested higher marks be given to slimmer students.
Basically, he recommends allowing students to volunteer to participate in an “ideal weight” option on their “baccalaureat”, which I gather is somewhat like our SATs (I could be wrong). If the student selects this option, they will earn extra points if they keep a BMI between 18 and 25, which is considered the healthy range.
At first listen I was really bothered by the whole idea and had so many feelings and thoughts going through me, that I couldn’t quite sort out what bothered me most about this. One person after another called into the radio station to comment on the topic – most disagreed as I did, that this was a ridiculous proposal – some, however, thought Dukan was onto something. One woman even suggested they take it a step further and consider a person’s BMI at their annual evaluation at work, perhaps refusing them a bonus or pay increase if they fell in the over-weight or obese range.
As I listened I realized what no one else was saying. Thin does not equal healthy.
Growing up, my two best friends were tiny little things. Both were very thin and I was average. I didn’t eat more than them or anything different. We all survived on a typical American diet. As we moved into high school and started driving our own cars we ate fast food and other crap probably more than our mothers would’ve liked, and they stayed tiny. Though they were small and certainly would’ve been in that 18-25 range, they definitely weren’t healthy. I lost touch with my friends for a couple of years after high school and we met up in our early twenties to go to a movie and they were no longer the tooth picks that I remembered. They weren’t FAT, but my point is, that their metabolisms had caught up with them. That happens a LOT. The Freshman 15 doesn’t only happen because you go to college and go to hell with yourself eating pizza 5 times a day. That probably has something to do with it, but it also has to do with the fact that our bodies change as we grow. We become women and men, our metabolisms slow, and our fat cells multiply (especially for women).
On the other hand, I spent my late teens and early twenties suffering from Anorexia. During some of those years maybe I would’ve hovered somewhere on the edge of that BMI range, but I was no where near healthy. Just because you can fit into a numerical bracket does not make you “healthy”.
Awarding a student with a higher mark on a MAJOR test (or any test for that matter) because they are thin is a big mistake and send a terrible message.
If this nutritionist were really concerned with encouraging a healthy lifestyle to young people he could’ve thought of a thousand better ideas than an educational incentive simply based on a BMI number. What about scoring extra points by participating in a sport? Or a race? Or by signing up for the Health and Wellness Class at school? I think encouraging students, and parents, and all people to have good nutrition and overall wellness is a great thing. But from all the reports coming out, there was no education involved. The idea was to simply fit into these guidelines and be rewarded, regardless of the circumstance.
I know that our country, and others, are being plagued by the whole “obesity epidemic” and something surely needs to be done about it, but there is such a broad spectrum of reasons as to why people are obese, and so, making it really difficult to find a solution. I think the very best first step would be, like everything else, to TALK ABOUT IT. Communication is key – in the form of education for people that need it or want it, and especially for our young people.