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Posts Tagged ‘Dieting’

Our Young Children Shouldn’t Even Know What a Diet Is?

November 28, 2012

Message: Negative imagery painted with words like these are looked at by 500,000 people per year, a study has found

Our generation took body consciousness to a whole new level, with quite devastating results. We were taught to judge others not by the breadth of their character but by the size and shape of their bodies. It saddens me that this obsessive desire to look a certain way has seemingly overridden the desire of being a good person, resisting to gossip, being truthful and loyal to the people around us and acting with integrity. We live in a society where people would sell their souls for a preferred dress size and confidence is based on form and complexion over character development.

What has this philosophy provided us with?

Depression, peer pressure, cosmetic surgery addiction, diet crazes, suicide, bullying, anorexia and bulimia.

And what are we doing about it?

Passing the sickness on to our very young:

The internet is awash with pro-anorexia websites which thousands of girls – some as young as six – are using to compete against each other in deadly starvation games, a study has found.

More than 500 of these ‘gruesome’ sites exist and encourage vulnerable young women to barely eat and just drink coffee, smoke and take diet pills to look like a ‘goddess’.

Using the phrase ‘starving for perfection’ they say users should eat no more than 500 calories a day – the recommended level is 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men.

They also include ‘thinspiration’ sections with images of super-slim women and in the last year 500,000 girls have admitted visiting them, and one in five were aged between six and 11.

University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich has carried out research into the issue and found than many of these websites are set up by people with anorexia and other eating disorders.

‘It starts with an individual who wants to share their experience and as they get a following they set themselves up as almost Goddess-like,’ researcher Dr Emma Bond, senior lecturer in childhood and youth studies said.

‘When I started this research last January I came across a website set up by a girl who was disgusted with herself because she had put on a few pounds at Christmas. She planned to fast for three days and regain control.

‘In under two hours, she had 36 followers saying things like “You’re wonderful, you’re an inspiration to me, I’m only fasting because of you”.’

Some of the people are even posting pictures of themselves in very few clothes on thousands of blogs and on social media like Twitter.

Official figures show that one in 200 women and one in 2,000 men have anorexia – which means they starve themselves or exercise excessively to stay slim – although some experts believe the true number is much higher.

Around eight per cent of women and one per cent of men develop bulimia at some point. They binge on excessive amounts of food then make themselves sick or use laxatives to stop gaining weight.

Many sufferers of eating disorders hide their problem from family and friends by pretending they have already eaten to avoid meals and wearing baggy clothes to conceal their skeletal shape.

Doctors believe that anorexia or bulimia is more common in people who are perfectionists, tend to worry a lot or are often depressed.

Click on the link to read Charity Pays for Teen’s Plastic Surgery to Help Stop Bullying

Click on the link to read Most People Think This Woman is Fat

Click on the link to read It’s Time to Change the Culture of the Classroom

Click on the link to read Sparing Young Children the Affliction of Body Image

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Most People Think This Woman is Fat

June 3, 2012

This morning’s newspaper asked readers to comment on whether or not they thought this woman was fat. Whilst I don’t think this woman is fat at all, it is the question itself that got me worked up.

It reminded me about how obsessed we are about weight, and how this obsession is going to ensure that our children will spend more time aspiring to fit a certain look rather than to become good people.

Nobody seems to care anymore whether a person is caring, selfless, charitable or kind. These are attributes of losers. Surveys that ask what we would prefer to be, beautiful or kind, favour beautiful every time. The rationale being, that nobody is jealous of a kind person in the way they are of a good-looking one.

How are our children supposed to make sense of this?

It upsets me to see Primary aged children so conscious of their weight. It bothers me no end that 8-year olds know everything there is to know about the perfect body size and shape, but have no insights on the correct protocol for offering ones seat to an elderly person on a crowded train. The thought would never have entered their mind.

Haven’t we learnt our lesson? Did we not realise that an obsession with looks leads nowhere. It doesn’t make one happy. Why are we creating kids that follow our sick ways? Why are we perpetuating the message that there’s nothing wrong with gossiping, fakery and selfishness, but eating ice-cream is a sin?

So, no, I don’t find the woman fat. But guess what? I don’t care whether she is fat or not. I care whether she is a good woman, a kind wife, a loving mother, a loyal friend, a friendly co-worker etc. And ultimately, that’s what I want us all to look for.

There are frumpy, unfit people out there, with pale complexions who have unpopular taste in clothes. Some of these people are also tremendously kind and good-hearted. It would be criminal for us to marginalise these people, as some of them are the real beautiful people!

It’s Time to Change the Culture of the Classroom

January 5, 2012

I have a confession to make. As driven as I am to help my students master the curriculum, there is something more important to me than their academic achievement. I would not be even remotely satisfied if my students were at or above the national standard in numeracy and literacy if they also happened to be bullying, bullied or struggling to cope with everyday life. Conversely, if my students were below national standards but were functioning well and getting along with each other, I would be far more satisfied.

That’s not to say that I don’t understand that a vital function of my job is to educate. I know that all too well. It’s just that I wont let that distract me from my mission in setting up a classroom that is caring, friendly and allows each child to express themselves in their own unique way.

I am sick and tired of reading about how bullying is causing kids as young as 7 to diet. It infuriates me that so little is done by teachers to protect young kids from this stigma and prevent bullies from causing distress. I know what I am claiming will be seen as a gross generalisation, but how many teachers are prepared to overlook a hurtful comment about weight or ignore the activity by the “in-crowd?”

No classroom should have an “in-crowd”. In-groups cannot exist without a readily defined “out-group”. It is a teacher’s job to foster a classroom environment without such divisions. It is more important than any equation or scientific experiment.

Award Slim Kids Higher Marks: Dukan

January 4, 2012

It is disgusting how some sections of society treat overweight kids. As if the stigma of being overweight in a “body beautiful” obsessed world isn’t hard enough. I am sick to death of reading negative ideas when trying to solve childhood obesity. The latest negative idea, which seeks to reward slim kids by giving them extra marks for no other reason than their body mass index readings, not only compromises the fairness of the exam process but makes children already suffering from feeling neglected and judged, feel like dirt.

Pierre Dukan, the nutritionist behind the popular but controversial Dukan diet, has suggested that France tackle child obesity by giving extra exam marks for slimness.

Dukan, who has sold 8 million copies of his diet book worldwide, made the proposal in a 250-page book called ‘An Open Letter to the Future President’, which he sent out on Tuesday to 16 candidates for France’s presidential election.

The plan calls for high school students to be allowed to take a so-called “ideal weight” option in their final year exams, the “baccalaureat”, under which they would earn extra points if they kept a body mass index (BMI) of between 18 and 25.

Those already overweight at the start of the two-year course would score double points if they managed to slim down over a period of two years.

“It’s a fantastic motivator,” Dukan told Reuters.

When we even consider adopting methods like Dukan’s we do a monumental disservice to kids struggling with their weight. These kids are often well-mannered, generous, talented and caring individuals. These are traits we should be focussing on, not weight! You will never see a suggestion that caring, empathetic, selfless and considerate kids get extra marks. These qualities pale into insignificance compared to a person’s weight.

When we employ negative inducements to entice children to lose weight, we not only make it harder for them to succeed but we also make them feel not good enough.

My view (as espoused in my novel) is that whilst I hope our overweight children are successful in losing their excess kilos, either way, let’s not let weight distract us from the qualities and unique characteristics of the person.

Whilst childhood obesity isn’t ideal, ignoring who the child is and concentrating on how much they weigh, is infinitely worse.

Childhood Eating Disorders on the Rise

November 8, 2011

I was hoping that since there hasn’t been a great deal of coverage about childhood eating disorders recently, that the numbers suffering this serious disease had dwindled.

It turns out that I was mistaken:

Doctors at the Westmead Children’s Hospital in NSW have told the ABC that child admissions for eating disorders, particularly anorexia, have tripled in the past decade.

Children as young as eight are being admitted, some of whose lives are at risk.

Like other articles on childhood anorexia, fingers are pointed to the media when it comes to metering out the blame:

The head of the hospital’s adolescent medicine department, Susan Towns, suspects the media is to blame.

“Media portrayal can affect the development of body image in young people and this can happen at a stage and an age where children and adolescents aren’t able to conceptualise things in a complex and abstract way and they can take these messages in a very concrete way,” she said.

Whilst I don’t like blaming the media for everything.  I couldn’t help but reflect on the damning study conducted in Fiji, where they found that within three years of introducing television cases of eating disorders among children rose significantly.

The Harvard Medical School visited Fiji to evaluate the effect of the introduction of television on body satisfaction and disordered eating in adolescent girls.

In 1995, television arrived and within three years the percentage of girls demonstrating body dissatisfaction rose from 12.7 per cent to 29.2 per cent.

Dieting among teenagers who watched TV increased dramatically to two in every three girls and the rate of self-induced vomiting leapt from zero to 11.3 per cent.

 

Diet Book For Children Is a Concern

August 28, 2011

There are two significant problems with a book like Maggie Goes on a Diet, which is pitched at pre-teens and preaches dieting as the best form of weight loss.

The first problem is that young children should not be dieting.  On the child related health website, Kidshealth.org, it states that, “Diets that don’t include a variety of nutritious foods, or have too few calories, can be dangerous for kids.”

My second concern is the type of messages we send kids about weight.  At a time when these young children are trying to work out who they are and trying to find a sense of self it is terribly destructive to focus on their weight.  Children who need to lose weight don’t need a novel to tell them that.  They need a support network of loving parents and dietitians who will be able to consider the child’s virtues as well as their struggles.

As much as childhood obesity is a concern, in my view children lacking in confidence is of far greater concern.  It is not sufficient to tear down a childs self-esteem by recommending diets and drawing attention to their weight.  To be motivated to do anything positive one has to be in a positive mindframe.  You have to believe in yourself and think of yourself as worthy of the breakthrough.

I too have written a book (albeit not yet published) that focusses on an obese child.  But I have taken a very different approach.  My child learns not to obsess about his weight and see the bigger picture.  He is not going to get thin tomorrow, but in trying to improve his health he will reflect on the things he has learnt about himself over the course of the journey.

I don’t think the carrot stick for potato chip packet works or is very responsible.

Diet Book Targets 6-12 Year-Olds!

August 18, 2011

 

You don’t need me to tell you that it is unhealthy for preteens to target.  I would go even further than that and say that it’s unhealthy for preteens to be fixated on their weight to begin with.

Writing a book advocating child dieting is irresponsible and potentially destructive:

A book aimed at helping young children lose weight has outraged an eating disorder help group.

Maggie Goes on a Diet, aimed at 6 to 12 year olds, tells the story of an overweight girl who goes on a diet and goes on to become the school soccer star.

Its Hawaiian publishers pitch the book on their website as an inspirational tale for kids.

“Maggie has so much potential that has been hiding under her extra weight,” the website says.

Deb Schwarz, manager of Eating Difficulties Education Network (EDEN), a New Zealand not-for-profit organisation, says the book could have the opposite effect, and encourage eating disorders among children.

“Research shows poor body image is associated with depression, bullying, eating disorders, risk taking behaviours, and reduced physical activity. Messages like those in the book promote body dissatisfaction.”

She says there are concerns that dieting messages increase disordered eating in children.

This is another sad situation of literature published for the purpose of stirring controversy and making money at the expense of the vulnerable.

Not good enough!

Does Obesity Equate to Child Abuse?

July 17, 2011

Last week Harvard obesity specialist David Ludwig advocated putting children in temporary foster care when the child is found to be obese.   The obvious conclusion being, that in his opinion, allowing your child to get to the stage of obesity equates to a form of child abuse.

I don’t agree with this statement or the measures advocated by Mr. Ludwig.  And more importantly I think the debate will distract rather than positively influence what is a very important issue.  I appreciate the words of Dr. Arthur Caplan, the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania who wrote:

“I am not letting parents off the hook,” he wrote in response to the article, “but putting the blame for childhood obesity on the home and then arguing that moving kids out of homes where obesity reigns is the answer is short-sighted and doomed to fail. We need the nation to go on a diet together and the most important places to start are the grocery store, schools and media.”

My only query on the above quote is why he omitted “home”.  Surely “home” is the most important place to start a change of habits.  Not just in what is eaten, but how food is eaten.  It is sad to hear of the demise of family dinners.  Surely the television and computers can be switched off for half-an-hour every evening.


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