Research: Weighing students not effective approach for health

In Charlottesville City Schools, students are weighed every year during gym class. Parents are not notified that the weigh-ins will be happening nor are they apprised of its results. As of May 4, it was confirmed during a school board meeting that the practice is currently suspended while it is under review. I have asked the Charlottesville City School Board to consider changing this policy.

To that end, I am compiling research on the effectiveness of assessing student’s health using body mass index, which is what weigh-ins are used to do (obviously some school districts may vary, but this is usually the reason schools weigh their students. I did confirm that determining their BMI is why CCS students are weighed). I will continuously update this post as I find relevant information. If you know of a study that should be included, please forward it to me at: christa@communitywellblog.com.

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NPR: Top Ten Reasons Why the BMI Is Bogus
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439

Public Library of Science (PLOS): Why the Body Mass Index (BMI) Is a Poor Measure of Your Health
http://blogs.plos.org/obesitypanacea/2012/02/10/why-the-body-mass-index-bmi-is-a-poor-measure-of-your-health/

Science (Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science): The Health Risk of Obesity – Better Metrics Imperative
(Discusses shortcomings of BMI metric)
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/341/6148/856.summary

New York Times: Weight Index Doesn’t Tell the Whole Truth

Chicago Tribune: BMI measuring in schools proves weighty issue – some parents argue that fat measure can have negative effect on students’ self-esteem

National Eating Disorder Association: Get the Facts on Eating Disorders
(The section Dieting and the Drive for Thinness includes several statistics on the alarming number of children who have poor body image.)
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders

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While there may not be much research on the effects of school weigh-ins on children’s psychological wellbeing, anecdotal evidence is compelling. Ask your friends if they have memories of being weighed in school. When I wrote about weigh-ins on Facebook, friends volunteered their stories:

“Oh how I dreaded weigh in day! I was always a fluffy child but generally healthy. I always heard snickers and whispers from the other girls and would fight back tears.”

“I distinctly remember being weighed in front if the whole cafeteria and my weight being called out to another adult to record down. I wanted to run into a closet and hide somewhere as my numbers were apparently nowhere near the acceptable range for the popular crowd waiting in line behind me. Oh what a shameful practice that is!”

“I remember exactly what I weighed in 6th grade and where all our friends fell in a hierarchy by weight. It was the first time I lied about my weight. I don’t even remember it particularly negatively… It is upsetting in retrospect how natural lying about weight to other women was for my twelve-year-old self.”

“I was weighed in gym class in the seventh grade, and it is still one of the most horrifying, mortifying memories I have in my life.”

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