Do Parents Really Need An Online Test To Know If Their Kids Are Obese?

from the parenting-by-computer dept

We’ve seen all sorts of stories about governments trying to do a parent’s job for them, but, honestly, do parents really need an online test to tell if their children are obese? The article is actually a little vague about what this “test” is. It sounds like kids in the UK are having their height and weight measured, with that info being sent to parents by mail. Parents are then urged to type the height and weight into an online system that will do a simple body mass index (BMI) calculation to tell you that the kid is obese. However, if you need a computer to tell you when your kid is obese then perhaps the real problem is your own eyesight. Do we have an online test for that?

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Comments on “Do Parents Really Need An Online Test To Know If Their Kids Are Obese?”

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James Igoe says:

Fat Doesn't Seem Fat to Fat People

I’m 6’4″ and run about 205 pound, borderline overweight. Anyone that looks at me thinks I’m thin; I’m very fit and fairly slender, but still borderline overweight. When people mention that a relative has type II diabetes, I usually ask if they are overweight, and they invariably say no, even though 80% of type II diabetics are overweight; I’ve asked often.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, people accept overweight as normal weight, at least visually. Most people, particularly people that are overweight themselves, and likely have overweight friends and children, have little concept of the statistical measure of overweight.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Fat Doesn't Seem Fat to Fat People

“I’m 6’4″ and run about 205 pound, borderline overweight”

That’s funny I was told 205lbs is my ideal weight. I am also 6’4″.

Ever since my friend used his BMI to get a gastric bypass covered under his health insurance, I don’t put much faith in it. For the record he wasn’t obese he was just fat.

Obesity is not a desease it’s a life choice. I know what you’re all thinking “I’m made this way, I can’t help it.” Bullshit. I understand that no one is made the same. Some are larger than others. But when your arms don’t hang down, you’re far too fat. When you waddle, your too fat. Every one can be fit. You don’t have to have 3% body fat you just have to put some effort into it. It’s the reason I’m still skinny, every time I get a potbelly I start working out.

Max Powers (user link) says:

Count me in

Yes I have type II diabetes, and yes I’m overweight. But I have normal weight friends, and my family is normal weight. When I say “normal” I mean if you look at them there is nothing that would make you think they were overweight.

Any parent that can’t tell if their kid is overweight is an idiot, and they too can teach, and even demand, that their kids eat healthy, exercise and not stay in the house on the computer or video game for hours.

Should I set an example by losing weight? Probably, but I’m not going to wait and let my kid develop bad habits that can lead to weight gain and possible diabetes why I deal with my own weight problem.

I also think the weight issue is very different from the old days. I was very athletic through college then the weight gain started slowly year by year.

Today many kids are already obese, probably due the the lifestyle we have created with cheap fast food and entertainment from electronics instead of being outside and playing like we did in the past.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wait… are they saying that there are more than 1 type of BMI charts available?

Mexicans, Japanese & Chinese, Europeennes, Russian, Ethiopians and even Americans all have different body builds (read: muscle masses and bone sizes)… how can a single chart be relevant to each of these different cultures all at the same time?

According to the BMI standard, Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone, and Mel Gibson are technically obese. So are sluggers Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, boxer Mike Tyson, quarterback Donovan McNabb, and wrestling superstar The Rock. And it also turns out that Arnold Schwarzenegger—a bodybuilding legend—is obese, too!

Neverhood says:

Obesity is not an absoute messure.

“Anyway, cutting to the chase, people accept overweight as normal weight, at least visually. Most people, particularly people that are overweight themselves, and likely have overweight friends and children, have little concept of the statistical measure of overweight.”

I think you are very right, and on top of that many obese parents have such a hard time “forgetting” that they themselves are obese, that they are reluctant to do something about their children, because it reminds them of themselves.

I think the government makes a good investment every time they launch a campaign against obesity. If just two kids change their lifestyle for good, then the investment will have earned itself back in their lifetime in reduced medical costs. (Well it would here in Denmark anyway, where healthcare is a gov’t provided, citizens right).

I don’t know exactly how big a part the US gov’t pay in healthcare, but an obese person will potentially be more sick, and potentially make less tax dollers, so that gotta count for somthing too.

Anyway, all $ calculations aside, how much can it hurt to potentially make people take more care about their health?

Anonymous Coward says:

From the linked article, “The latest figures show one in 10 girls and eight per cent of boys under the age of 20 are chronically overweight.”

Reading a bit deeper, could this also mean that since the BMI scale was created a hundred years ago, when people were actually smaller and with shorter life-spans, that today’s boys and girls are maturing at a much earlier age? There are many 13 year old girls and 15 year old boys who actually look older than 18 years old.

Barrenwaste (profile) says:

I'm overweight....

according to those charts, and, when asked, most people say that I look like I weigh much less. I am five foot seven and a half inches tall and weigh in at just under one hundred and eighty pounds. What it doesn’t state is that I can pull backflips and roundoffs at the age of thirty, or that I can throw almost twice my bodyweight over my head. Not only is it inaccurate, but it targets “obese” people when our country is also having an equaly large problem with people being underweight. If the government really desires to help it should go back to advocating exercise and outdoor activities. Giving the populace another scale to highlight thier personal flaws isn’t really going to help much.

Anonymous Coward says:

A BMI test is definetly not necessary to be filled out by parents. It’s a shame to watch children grow up in the first few years of their life already looking obese and it’s unbelievable that sooo many parents are not getting it and practically making the rest of their kids life less than what it could be. It’s not like these parents don’t know any better but it’s actaually an addiction to fatty foods that is the problem. Nobody could possibly say they’ve never heard that healthy eating and excercise is what you need to do to stay fit, so it’s like obesity is an addiction (to food) worse than alcaholism and drug use by far. And of course this computerized world is not helping at all with kids playing video games or whatever. Not playing outside as a child is so unhealthy not just because of the excerise but an under-exposure to extreamly healthy sunlight which is something many don’t know. UV rays are vital to keeping our immune system strong. Bottom line , please be responsible parents and do the best for your kids future. Cheers

James Igoe says:

Chubby Gets a Second Look (NY Times Article)


Two years ago, federal researchers found that overweight people had the lowest mortality rate of any weight group. Investigating further, they were able to link causes of death to specific weights. Obese people had more deaths from heart disease, they reported last week. And thin people? They had more deaths from everything but cancer and heart disease.


Steev says:

additional factor to having chubby kids

One additional factor that people aren’t talking about is kid safety. I know some parents that don’t let their kids out because they think someone is going to kidnap/abuse them. (watching too much evening news I guess) So the parents end up signing them up for 3 different soccer leagues, piano lessons, and karate. Then they spend all their time as a taxi driver, driving their kids to different events. And of course if each kid has 5 different activities, if you have multiple kids, the problem multiplies. Ok, maybe I am getting off track of my original comment. Basically, parents are keeping their kids inside because they are afraid something might happen to them if they roam the neighborhood unsupervised. So more xbox, less exploring the woods behind the house.

Kevin says:

BMI is completely useless

All it does it calculate the ratio of weight to height and determine whether you are “obese” based on this ratio. But it doesn’t take into effect build (big boned versus small framed), or other important facts like muscle mass. In fact, people with more muscle mass almost always end up being listed as obese when using BMI measurements.

In my case I’m 6’1″ tall and 230 lbs. According to the BMI, my ideal weight should be 180-190 lbs, despite the fact that I have a big frame and work out 4 days a week (30 minutes of cardio and about 45 minutes of weightlifting). I’m pretty sure I’m not obese.

erstazi (user link) says:


Since BMI is two dimensional, many physically fit people will be considered overweight at first. Until taped (the third dimension), then one can find out their true body fat percentage. Taping around the neck, waist, and thighs achieve this. Of course, there are other methods than taping.

Referring to post #14, I do agree about the parent(s) being extremely paranoid from the media outlets and also many parent(s) working full time hinder them *being* there to supervise children outside. Also, with urban or suburban children, its harder to find those “woods.”

True athletes have a very low body fat percentage and a much lower heart rate than the average human being, so take this into account. This is why I support these newer television programs that get children on their feet and exercising but at the same time making it fun. Children naturally have high energy, but if you throw them in front of a television with a program that numbs them, they will be come lethargic.

My opinion is, its not the fault of parent(s) all of the time. We, all, have to look at the big picture. A good read of how the culture of the world is turning, read The Machine Stops (URL: EM Forster wrote this in 1909 and predicted what is happening today with the Internet, social networking, and how one can become relying on technology.

chublover in Austin says:


First of all, the BMI scale is a ridiculously general measurement. It should instead be called a body density index. As one person already pointed out, it does nothing to adjust for bone or muscle mass.

Second, ignorance runs rampant on both sides of the weight issue. I quote “Obesity is not a desease it’s a life choice. I know what you’re all thinking “I’m made this way, I can’t help it.” Bullshit. I understand that no one is made the same. Some are larger than others. But when your arms don’t hang down, you’re far too fat. When you waddle, your too fat. Every one can be fit.” Ignorant, ignorant, ignorant. Yes, some people are overweight because of what they eat, and their failure to excercise, but some are overweight because of genetic diseases, thyroid problems (which may or may not be genetic), and sometimes an INABILITY to excercise. Weight has always been a class issue as well. At one time it was seen as an indication of wealth (a thought that still exists in some countries.) In the US today, it is more of an indication of poverty, as the foods that are available cheaply are high in calories and carbohydrates. Vegetables and meat are damn expensive.

Furthermore, not everyone looks down on being overweight as a problem. Yes, it is likely to cause some health issues, but there are people out there who are overweight, yet more fit than some thin people.

Besides, big-bellied men are very sexy.

Barrenwaste (profile) says:

Obesity by vanessa

I have to disagree on the forced diet. I have been dirt poor, even lived on the streets for a few years, and never failed to get enough healthy food in America. People choose to eat the high caloric foods because they are easier to prepare. You can get healthy foods at large discounts, and even free, if you put some time and effort into it. Then there is the preperation time. A box of mac and cheese with a hotdog for lunch takes only a couple of minutes, where as preparing your lunches with healthy foods means you take part of your leasure time the night before. Also, many people are confused as to what a healthy diet is. Take many vegans for example. A diet excluding meat products is not a healthy one, yet many choose to be vegan because it’s “healthier”. The problems are many, but the biggest I see are inaccurate standards, uninformed choices, and lack of motivation. Add that up and you get a population of mobile man-fills and ambulatory accordians.

Dr Tarnower says:

Fat is fat ...

To chublover … agreed that BMI is a screwed up scale, especially for athletes, but let’s get real, almost all people who claim some ridiculous reason for being overweight(fat) are just lazy people with bullshit reasons, e.g “I have a glandular problem”, … yeah, an open mouth and no willpower.

I actually did have a physical problem/reaction for three years from medecine I had to take and couldn’t exercise, but I didn’t get fat, I just cut calorie intake and any kind of junk food. It just takes extra willpower that fat lazy people don’t have.

Oh yeah, fat pot bellied men are only sexy to ugly fat women.

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