Tag Archives: New York Times

Recent Tests Show Sending “Fat Letters” Home from School Earns a Failing Grade

Forgive me for once again pointing out the blazingly obvious, but recent studies have not been able to find any actual benefits from sending “fat letters” home from school.  What is a “fat letter” you ask?  Many schools are now doing BMI testing on the entire student body.  When a student’s BMI is considered to be too high (using some relatively arbitrary measure) a letter is sent home from school to the student’s parent that goes something like this:

Hi.

Your kid is fat.  WE obviously don’t trust you to know your own kid is fat, because if you knew, you’d obviously have fixed it by now.  We also believe that you don’t know how to keep your kid healthy (because FAT) so here’s some arbitrary weight loss advice that hasn’t been shown to work long-term on anybody, but we’re sending it anyways (because FAT).  And obviously we know that you need help because your kid must be eating a whole cake and 4 liters of sugary soda every day and must need your assistance to run the remote as they watch TV because that is HOW kids get fat.

Also, clearly you aren’t showing the appropriate level of panic about this situation (because OMG Deathfat!) so here are some alarmist health statistics and nonsensical vague future health threats that indicate your kid won’t live as long as you (even though the statistics don’t bear this out because even though we’re in education EEK!  MATH!).  We don’t plan on doing anything to protect your kid from stigma because clearly if you were doing your job right there would be no stigma to protect against (and we don’t like the way your kid looks because OMG jiggly FAT!)

You’re welcome,

Signed Your Kid’s School

Wait, what?  You mean parents don’t love these letters?  You mean despite the fact there is nothing in medical science that indicates that there is a formula for long term weight loss, these kids don’t magically slim down like gazelles and become the most popular kids in the class after their parents receive the letter? Really?

Nope.  In THIS very recent study and this earlier study, no link was found between sending home fat letters and BMI, weight, health behaviors or health outcomes.  This doesn’t meant that the letters have no effect (for example we don’t know if it has an effect on self esteem or the price of broccoli in Boise.)  It simply means that after all the hoopla and distractions from study and public money spent, there is no discernable benefit.

Let me say this again.  State money is being spent on an educational program with no definable benefit.  Which begs the question, do fat people cost our country money or does the knee jerk requirement to “do something about the fatties” whether it does any good or not cost our country money.  Are we paying a premium to create a state-sanctioned forum for people to yell at parents of fat kids because we don’t like the way they look?  (We could create a thread on Reddit.com for a whole lot less money.  Look how much money I saved us!)

And let’s be clear.  This is not just a few dollars at a few schools.  According to the New York Times, nine states require that “fat letters” be sent home to parents.  And today, 25 states weigh public school students to monitor population data on obesity rates.

Yet the results section of Gee’s study states:

BMI screening and parental notification during late adolescence, given prior screening and notification in early adolescence, was not significantly related to BMI-for-age z-scores, the probability of being in a lower weight classification or exercise and dietary intake behaviors.

So what “grade” do you give this exercise?  After careful consideration, I’d have to give this project an “F”.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come speak at your school?  Check out my info here!

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A Different Sort of Tennis Star

You’d think since being rated the top Junior player in the United States, tennis phenom Taylor Townsend would be best known for her prowess on the court.  However, aside from Townsend’s legendary on-court tennis battles, are plenty of battles of a different sort.  Two years ago, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) asked Taylor to sit out of the 2012 Open Junior Tournament due to concerns about her “conditioning”.   And by conditioning, they meant body shape.  And by body shape they meant how Townsend looked in a dress.  According to Tom Perotta of the Wall St. Journal:

Her coaches declined to pay her travel expenses to attend the Open and told her this summer that they wouldn’t finance any tournament appearances until she makes sufficient progress in one area: slimming down and getting into better shape.

“Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player,” said Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA’s player development program. “We have one goal in mind: For her to be playing in [Arthur Ashe Stadium] in the main draw and competing for major titles when it’s time. That’s how we make every decision, based on that.”

But it doesn’t just stop at funding. According to Perrotta, the USTA actually requested that Townsend skip the U.S. Open, denying both her petitions for wild cards into either the U.S. Open main draw or the qualifying tournament. In the end, Townsend’s family decided to pay out of their own pockets for Taylor to compete in the U.S. Open Junior Tournament.  She was ultimately defeated in the quarterfinals by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

It’s clear that Taylor knows on which side her baguette is buttered.  In 2012 Townsend said:  “I’ve gotten a lot of great opportunities, great fitness, great coaching,” she said. “I’m doing everything that they ask me to do and being professional about everything.”

Nevertheless, Townsend has to be feeling more than a little gratified over Tuesday’s French Open results.  The match had some moments that seemed straight out of a movie script.  In the first set of her first match, Taylor got behind 1-5.  She then won12 of the following 13 games to win over her U.S. opponent Vania King 7-5, 6-1. Today (Wednesday, May 28) Townsend (ranked 205th) is scheduled to battle top-ranked Frenchwoman Alize Cornet (ranked 21st) at the 10,000-seat Suzanne Lenglen Court. So surely at this point we’re focusing on her playing prowess, right?  Right?

Well, today’s New York Times article on Townsend is titled “Questioned About Body, Townsend Rises and Inspires”.  Now the article goes on to say that Taylor is playing amazing tennis, and that Wednesday’s matchup promises to be very exciting.  The article contains quotes from Taylor’s new coach (Zina Garrison) talking about how Townsend is “fine”, and how she doesn’t wish her young tennis protege to suffer over criticism or worry about her weight.  So I’ll offer some slight props to the Times for inserting some body positivity into the article.  But let’s not forget that the first three words of the headline are not “Powerful Tennis Star” or “Young Tennis Phenom”.  The first three words of this headline are “Questioned About Body”.

I guess it’s not surprising.  As I’ve reported before, even winning Wimbledon does not protect you from the need to be attractive to men.  The top title in tennis does not forgive you for being less than supermodel gorgeous.

I hope that Taylor kicks some serious butt on the court tomorrow.  I hope she plays really well and ultimately triumphs.  I have to admit that I don’t hold out a lot of hope however, that Taylor Townsend will ever win victory over a public that is most interested in how she looks in her little tennis skirt.

Le sigh.

Love,

Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to take a virtual journey to France and work out with your friends?  Check out our Fit Fatties Virtual Vacations!

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Just What the #$%&! am I Supposed to Eat!?!

eatmyshorts

So have you seen the article in the New York Times that says it might be okay to eat salt again?  It seems some recent research is calling into question the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 1,500 milligrams a salt per day.  Now on the one hand, this question is almost moot, because it’s nearly impossible to achieve 1,500 milligrams of salt a day and do things like occasionally eat food that has had any processing, eat out once in a while, or you know, live in the modern world.   On the other hand, there are some indications that consuming sodium levels as low as 1,500 milligrams per day might actually be harmful.  So it probably does merit a second look.

So according to the article, several recent studies have indicated that a sodium level goal of 2,300 might be better than 1,500 milligrams per day.  Some of these studies have even indicated that the 1,500 level might actually be dangerous for some people–potentially increasing risk for heart attack and death.  The American Heart Association has fired back suggesting that the more recent research has flaws and that they don’t want to confuse people by giving them the message that a little more salt is okay, because you know, people might then go hog wild and eat lots of salt.

And then, near the end of the article is this little gem:

Although the advice to restrict sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day has been enshrined in dietary guidelines, it never came from research on health outcomes, Dr. Strom said. Instead, it is the lowest sodium consumption can go if a person eats enough food to get sufficient calories and nutrients to live on. As for the 2,300-milligram level, that was the highest sodium levels could go before blood pressure began inching up.

Okay.  So the advice that has been cemented in stone, that is inevitably printed on that bad, multi-generation photocopied piece of paper handed to every fat person in the universe by their doctor when they go in for a check up or to get that funny looking mole checked out is based on what now?  It’s no wonder that we are confused about what to eat.  The competing nutritional studies along with the sensationalist, usually premature reporting is enough to give any potential diner whiplash.  Eat margarine!  No, eat butter!  Eat olive oil.  Eat nuts.  Eat red meat.  Don’t eat red meat.  Eat fish.  But watch out, most of the fish is full of toxins.  Eat dairy.  Don’t eat dairy.  Eat low fat.  Eat low carb.  Eat only plant-based foods.  Plant-based foods are genetically modified and full of pesticides.  OMG.  Eat my shorts!  It’s no wonder that we are going crazy trying to figure out what on earth to have for lunch every day!  Add to that the woeful lack of education among GPs and pediatricians about nutrition and you get the typical photocopied sheet of “black coffee, one piece of wheat toast, and one glass of orange juice” advice.

Now all this is not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about what we eat.  But it is to say that nutrition is a very complicated science.  And that while we let the scientists duke it out about exactly how many milligrams of this and percentages of that we should consume, maybe we should simply focus on what foods feel good in our bodies and what tastes delicious.  I believe our bodies have wisdom, and that we benefit when we learn to listen to what our bodies have to tell us.  It may be hard to hear our “smarty-pants inner-selves” amongst all the screaming about “vitamin this” and “mineral that”.  But I for one, plan to make the effort.  Oh, and would you please pass the salt?

Love,

The Fat Chick