'Overweight kids traumatized by public weigh-ins'

MK says when nurses weigh students, competition and comparison are created in class, which can be embarrassing.

July 17, 2012 04:15
2 minute read.
Overweight brother and sister sitting on a sofa

Overweight brother and sister sitting on a sofa. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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Although being too thin or too heavy is not healthy, overweight children are often traumatized and stigmatized at school when they are weighed in front of the class. This was brought up Monday at a session of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, chaired by MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu).

The MK said that when nurses weigh the children, competition and comparison are created in the class, which can become embarrassing for those who are not within the normal range. Parents, she said, say they do not know how to cope with it.

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“Children come in many sizes,” said expert Ayelet Kalter. “Weight is not a measure of health. Ninety-five percent of those who lose weight gain it back five years after their diet. Overweight and obese children are the most sensitive. They are endlessly anxious over parents who want to ‘save’ them from their weight and don’t know how to help them to slim down.”

“In our society, the overweight child is regarded as representing the parent, and if he is fat, it testifies to the parent being a failure,” Kalter continued.

She charged the media with “delegitimizing the overweight, who are always depicted as lazy, as a joke. They feel they have to suit themselves to norms that are impossible for them.”

Over 40% of overweight adults polled in Oklahoma said their childhoods were painful and they were hated and ridiculed. The worst outcome is if overweight children believe they deserve the bad image with which they are perceived.

A 17-year-old girl who spoke to the committee said she was always fat. “I went through many diets, at least 10 or 15, and I only gained weight. There was a lot of pressure from the family. Whenever we went to my grandfather for pizza, my mother always asked what we were eating. My grandfather told me that he prepared a special salad for me instead. Everybody enjoyed themselves, while I ate the salad.”

Parents’ good intentions can backfire, said Levy-Abecassis, whose previous career was modeling. The statements before the committee “give us a new perspective. I call on the educational system to train teachers how to transmit egalitarian models to children and to weigh them in a discreet way, without giving them immediate results.”

The committee also asked the Health Ministry, which is responsible for the School Health Service, to report back on how it implements the committee’s decisions.

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