The U.K.'s National Obesity Forum is calling on schools to start weighing students at the beginning of the fall and spring terms to encourage them to lose the extra pounds gained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suggestion garnered strong responses on Twitter, with body image activists like Jameela Jamil criticizing the incentive for its potential effects on self-esteem and mental health. So, why should schools implement the new measure?
So, why should schools consider weighing students?
Founded in 2000, the National Obesity Forum is an independent professional organization advocating for new methods to tackle obesity. According to a new suggestion, weight check-ups should be introduced at the beginning of the fall and spring term to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic won't accelerate the rising levels of childhood obesity.
The suggestion was discussed in a recent episode of the British morning show Jeremy Vine during a segment featuring politician Martin Daubney and journalist Ash Sarkar.
"[...] You know one-third of kids are now starting secondary school obese as reports say, now that is a problem [...] And we have to accept now that obesity kills more than smoking in the UK. We worry more about feelings over facts," Martin remarked.
"It didn’t make your kids feel shamed and that’s great but I have spoken about it before, but I have a difficult relationship with body image, weighing myself a lot, having a sense that people were looking at me and judging me a lot," Ash began by saying.
"It gave me such, not just a bad relationship with food but terrible relationship to exercise. What I am saying is that these things can be counter-productive," she added.
The suggestion attracted a great deal of scrutiny, spurring private individuals and pundits alike to express worries over its potential drawbacks.
As some claim, weight check-ups wouldn't necessarily encourage kids to take up healthier habits. Instead, they could give rise to a culture of shame, in which the children weary of public bullying would be more likely to develop self-esteem and body image issues.
"Hard pass. Being weighed at school was truly the minute my eating disorder started at 12. I can trace it back to that exact day. Understand that size is not an indicator of health and just teach children about nutrition, make exercise fun and stop serving them dogs--t at lunch," Jameela Jamil wrote.
"Is giving children a complex about their weight which may lead to bullying from their peers, eating disorders and life long struggles with their bodies...a good idea? No. No it's bl--dy not," actress Carrie Hope Fletcher tweeted.
Some schools are already weighing students on a regular basis.
Although regular weight check-ups aren't necessarily perceived as a standard practice, many schools do rely on them to keep track of the children's well-being and Body Mass Index, a recent article by Refinery29 reveals.
As a previous survey conducted by Kelly J. Blondin, Catherine M. Giles, and others has shown, as many as 14 states in the U.S. do collect children's BMI data.
Similar incentives do exist in the U.K. as well. However, the new suggestion by the National Obesity Forum is among the firsts to draw attention to the potential implications the coronavirus pandemic had on the rise of childhood obesity.