Fat Letters: Honestly?

Throughout your career as a student you will receive dozens of letters varying in content from school assignments, letter grades in a subject, to notices about upcoming events at the school.  But have you ever received a “fat letter” containing your Body Mass Index (BMI)?


Believe it or not, in 19 U.S. states this is a mandatory notice to all students whose BMI is too high or too low.  Each year students are weighed at school, then these so-called “fat letters” are sent out to the students as a reference.

A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics claims this helps families adopt healthier lifestyles; however, parents are saying it only hurts the children. They say that finding out about a student’s concealed BMI could lead to bullying. Preteen and teenage students are often insecure about their weight and seeing the numbers on the scale, or on a letter home can cause more harm than good.

Statistics show that by the age of 10 more than 40% of students have already been on a diet; a study completed by Duke University reveals that 60% of children between the ages of 6-12 are worried about their weight.   Ironically, for some students receiving that letter might be a negative turning point and the beginning of unhealthy or clandestine dieting, which in turn could lead to eating disorders. Students are already under enough stress at school to have this looming over their heads.

With most students still going through puberty it might not help knowing that “they aren’t the right number”, and it can really cloud a child’s outlook on life.  In response, parents are trying to get these fat letters banned and want to see a stop to the annual weigh-in at schools.  Other parents have expressed that they don’t see the harm in such practices.

What does the school feed the kids for lunch and sometimes breakfast? Is it still garbage like fries, burgers, cookies, and chocolate milk, or have the schools made an effort to feed kids a healthier diet?   If not, then part of the blame sits on the school’s shoulders, whose responsibilities include teaching kids healthy lifestyle alternatives and boosting self-esteem.  Sending home ‘fat letters’ seems counter-productive to this goal.

Part of the reality is that, along with rising food costs and everyday living expenses it gets harder and harder to feed a whole family with a tight budget healthy alternatives such as fruit and vegetables.  For example, a McDonalds happy meal (including a burger, fries and a regular drink) costs around $5, tough to compete with when the average steak costs about the same.  Addictive subsidized fast food full of high fructose corn syrup doesn’t help either.

Before pointing fingers and blaming parents and everyone else, we need to reexamine food costs, what’s being served for lunch at schools, and the low price of junk food compared to healthier alternatives.  It’s not such a mystery that kids are overweight. But do we honestly have to humiliate them by rubbing ‘fat letters’ in their faces?


Links to source articles:

For more on ‘fat letters’ click here.

For Massachusetts’ response to ‘fat letters’ click here.