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to think underweight teens are a bigger/more common problem than overweight ones?

(159 Posts)
manicinsomniac Tue 16-Jun-15 22:10:23

There is so much in the news/media in general about the obesity crisis and the number of obese children and teenagers.

I guess I believe the figures (I mean, I assume they're factual statistics!) but I find it difficult because it's so completely different to the reality I see around me.

My 12 year old year 7 daughter has been underweight and suffering from disordered eating since she was 7. She was diagnosed with anorexia earlier this year. Today we learned that a 13 year old girl in the year above will be leaving the school to go into a residential eating disorder treatment centre. She is anorexic too. A 10 year old boy in my tutor group is currently trying to avoid eating lunch and is already underweight. A 10 year old girl has recently been in counselling due to a fear of eating. There are many other very thin children in the school.

In my daughters year of approx. 45, I would say there are two overweight children and 11 who are thin to the point of it being surprising or noticeable (difficult to say underweight without knowing what's normal for them). For most, I hope it's pre pubescent/natural/the result of being very sporty. But I don't know.

I can count the numbers of visibly overweight children in the school on my fingers and that's in a school of around 350.

I worry that the publicity the obesity crisis is getting is actually starting to drive children the other way. I've had an eating disorder since I was 15 but at 12 I didn't even know what a calorie was and had never considered my body shape. Now we have 7 and 8 year olds learning about what foods they should 'rarely eat' and 10 year olds worrying about getting weighed. It feels counter productive and disturbing to me. AIBU?

Mistigri Tue 16-Jun-15 22:23:06

I would guess that if your daughter's school has a Y7 intake of only 45 that it is probably private? If I'm correct then this will skew your data, as obesity is linked with socio-economic status. It would not surprise me, in a selective school with an educated and wealthy intake, to see more issues with anorexia than with obesity (especially of the school environment is very pressurised as this can favour the development of eating disorders).

TrollTheRespawnJeremy Tue 16-Jun-15 22:25:50

Onus is on the parents to foster good habits. Most people have learned from our own experiences and don't want to pass that onto our own progeny.

We have a media blackout in our house. We watch some DVDs etc but there's no TV on. It's not even tv I have an issue with - it's adverts. Also no trashy magazines and whatnot.

She watches tv at her grans but she now questions "What is that all about???" when theres an advert showing slim women rolling around eating yoghurt as even she knows that it is not normal in any way.

Let kids be kids.

BuggersMuddle Tue 16-Jun-15 22:31:37

Watching the kids attending my local secondary, I would be surprised if this is the case. I was never a skinny teen compared to my peers, and that was at 7st, 5' at 16.

Most of the kids I see attending my local secondary (and I see a lot as it's less than 5 mins from my house) are medium build or larger. I see a few skinny kids, but I do see an awful lot of lumps and bumps, particularly given the penchant for leggings / shorts. I feel really petite next to them, which wasn't my experience in my teens / early 20s (despite being quite a bit lighter than I am now).

manicinsomniac Tue 16-Jun-15 22:33:28

Mistigri yes, it's private but not what I would call pressurised (no academic selection for example) And I see the same around us out of school in the childrens' activities and stuff (though, to be fair, I do live in an area of above average affluence and they're both heavily into dance and gymnastics so I guess that's not representative either)

Troll - I totally agree with you but it's like the curriculum won't allow for that anymore. There's so much pressure on reversing this apparent trend towards obesity that the propaganda has wormed it's way into the classroom. My very skinny 8 year old came home last week talking about these 'rarely eat' foods that have 'too much sugar and fat to eat except for a very special treat, mummy'. I was horrified. Her teacher is one of my best friends so I did query it and that's the Y3 scheme of work apparently!

ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Tue 16-Jun-15 22:33:34

Now we have 7 and 8 year olds learning about what foods they should 'rarely eat' and 10 year olds worrying about getting weighed.

In those instances I'd be looking closer to home tbh.

TalkinPeace Tue 16-Jun-15 22:33:38

Obese children out number under weight ones by at least a factor of 50.

Anorexia is common in private girls schools : its one of the few forms of control the girls have.

Obesity is common in state schools.

TiggieBoo Tue 16-Jun-15 22:37:49

I presume it depends on the area, environment, economic situation. My kids go to an inner city primary, not a particularly deprived area but a mixture of backgrounds. I would say more than 60% of kids in y5 and 6 are overweight, a lot of them severely. It's pretty shocking. Some of these 10 yo girls are bigger than me, and I'm no pixie.

Mistigri Tue 16-Jun-15 22:42:31

manicinsomniac If you live in an affluent area you won't necessarily see the obesity crisis. I have a number of UK friends who live in deprived areas in the north and midlands, and I've seen enough primary school photos where a good third to a half of kids are really quite overweight to know that the obesity crisis is definitely real.

As a PP said I really wouldn't expect to see this in a private school though, and I doubt your observations are abnormal for this sort of environment.

There is definitely a need to educate children about nutrition, although I share your concern about how simplistic/ simply wrong a lot of the teaching is. I'm not sure what the answer is - how you teach children about good nutrution while protecting them from eating disorders. There are certainly no easy answers: My own 14 year old has an eating disorder, yet she has grown up in a household where no one has ever dieted and we don't even own scales (and she attends a comp in a deprived area, couldn't be further from a private education!).

meditrina Tue 16-Jun-15 22:43:28

Most pupils are measured (weight/height) in year 6, as part of the long-running paediatric survey. So there's a very good data set from only a year ago, and it shows clearly that the numbers overweight and obese are much greater than underweight.

Now it used to be quite different post-war, and underweight was the problem, and the powers that be knew that because this survey picked it up, and it led to the introduction of milk, orange juice and cod liver oil in schools to counteract that.

Underweight caused by eating disorders requires specific interventions. If prevalent at your school, you really need to be asking why.

Yamahaha Tue 16-Jun-15 22:47:54

Try living in an inner city. We've had one anorexia case in five years. Many, many overweight children.

manicinsomniac Tue 16-Jun-15 22:53:50

meditrina - I don't know, would you say 2 anorexic children out of 350ish is a lot? Even if it is, I don't know that it's the school's fault. I certainly don't blame the school for my daughter's illness, I blame myself. The other girl's family is perfectly stable and healthy as far as I can tell but I don't know them well. I don't see anything in our school environment that would cause it though. Except what I was saying about the cack handed teaching of nutrition by people not trained in it. But this is something all schools are supposed to do. Because of obesity, And I think I think that's really wrong. It shouldn't be a school issue. I also think it's wrong to weight Y6s. It really upset my older daughter and I won't let my younger daughters do it when they get there.

Mistigri - I hope your daughter is doing okay.

TheFairyCaravan Tue 16-Jun-15 23:01:13

My children went to a comprehensive school in quite an affluent area. There were still many more overweight children than there were very, very thin ones.

If I go to the town in the other direction,that is much less affluent, and call into Asda at lunchtime, I would see loads of overweight children in there buying their lunch.

IMO your experiences do depend on where you live and the type of school your children go to. A family with 3 kids on benefits aren't going to be able to feed their kids in the same way as a family earning a high enough salary to send them to private school.

pieceofpurplesky Tue 16-Jun-15 23:01:59

I teach at a very average comp. more skinny kids than obese. And I am up north. So no to the poster who said obese kids are at state schools - skinny kids are just more able to hide it.

Mistigri Tue 16-Jun-15 23:06:08

The problem is that the children diagnosed with an eating disorder are very likely the tip of an iceberg (my daughter isn't anorexic - she eats but is very controlling about it - she does not have a diagnosis and I doubt the school / other parents are aware). Eating disorders are probably more common than obesity among the children of affluent high achievers.

Teaching children actual facts about nutrition might be a start, for children at risk of obesity AND underweight. But that would require primary school teachers who know proper food science. And it doesn't stop kids using the media/ the Internet for their "nutrition facts". My daughter is a clever girl who likes biology but some of the rubbish about "healthy eating" that she has absorbed from Internet sites is just scary. Part of her treatment has been a crash course on nutrition and the physiology of weight gain/ loss (which has been successful in stopping her losing more weight).

manicinsomniac Tue 16-Jun-15 23:18:27

Yes, piece , definitely agree with you that comprehensive school doesn't mean no eating disordered children. I became anorexic at 15 in a very average, northern, mixed comprehensive school. My best friend was anorexic too and 3 others that I can think of in the year group of 120 had eating disorders at some point during our time though.

Also, my daughter my be at a private school but she is not especially financially privileged (I teach there and I'm a single parent of 3 so we're no stereotypical private school family).

But I suppose the stereotype must have truth in it. Most stereotypes do.

ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Tue 16-Jun-15 23:19:26

Can I just point out that you don't have to be underweight to have an eating disorder? You can be a healthy weight or even overweight/obese and have an eating disorder. It's not unusual for people with bulimia to actually be overweight because of constantly binging and purging. It's also not unheard of for bulimia to actually lead to weight gain as opposed to weight loss for the same reason.

It's actually one of the main reasons why bulimia is a lot harder to spot than anorexia because sufferers have very few (if any) physical symptoms of it.

Obesity and eating disorders can and do interlink and crossover. I think it's dangerous to present them as being opposite ends of the scale.

manicinsomniac Tue 16-Jun-15 23:25:09

Oh yes, absolutely Toads , I know that. But, in this thread, I was just talking about what I observe around me as in underweight versus overweight children. Most of them, of all weights, don't have eating disorders. The eating disorders is perhaps a red herring but, because of my family circumstances, when I see an underweight child I do think of them. And I worry that the rhetoric given out in school is encouraging disordered thinking and behaviours, in children of all weights. Many of these children I'm thinking of probably won't even be underweight, just maturing at differing rates I expect.

MrsMook Tue 16-Jun-15 23:25:31

I've got one of the smallest busts in my school; 20-30 years ago my bust size was very close to the national average. Now so many of our 15 year olds girls look very womanly. Many of the boys would struggle to sit in an airplane seat.

When the primary school children come through at DC's swimming lesson, a significant proportion have "love handles" and "moobs". There are few children with a healthy hint of ribs or back vertibrae. The ratios are different between the schools and the private lessons.

According to the local paper 66% of adults in the county are overweight or obese, and that will have an effect on the population of children too.

littlejohnnydory Tue 16-Jun-15 23:26:43

Great post, Toads. The majority of people with Eating Disorders are not underweight.

Obesity and anorexia are part of the same problem - an unhealthy and distorted relationship with food, linked to low self esteem and associated problems (to put it simplistically and generally). People often swing from under to overweight and back again. Others stay at one end of the weight spectrum. But it's part of the same problem.

Babyroobs Tue 16-Jun-15 23:27:49

Way more overweight kids as my dd's school than underweight although admittedly I perhaps don't notice underweight ones so much.

TheHumourlessHarpy Tue 16-Jun-15 23:36:05

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

BertrandRussell Tue 16-Jun-15 23:38:29

It's very much a matter of class and privilege/ disadvantage. My ds's school has a very high % of children from significantly disadvantaged backgrounds- and there are a lot of children who are significantly overweight. My dd's school had a much more privileged cohort- and very few overweight children.

Cheap food is fattening. Healthy food is expensive.

however Tue 16-Jun-15 23:49:44

My daughters are a healthy weight. One of them is slender but well within the healthy range. I've lost count of the amount of times people have commented on how skinny she is. As if she's under weight. She really isn't.

ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Tue 16-Jun-15 23:56:19

That happens to me all the time however. My BMI is right in the middle end of healthy but as I'm quite petite and don't really have curves, people comment all the time on how "thin" I am. I also have people assume that I'm underweight and weigh a lot less than I do.

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