The timeless practice of “looking busy” has reached new heights, and I suspect this is just a small sample of what’s in store for the world in dealing with the “childhood obesity crisis.”  Massachusetts has taken upon itself to issue “fat letters” to parents when a child reaches a body mass index that is significantly above normal.  Yes, this is really happening.  Accompanying this letter are some recommendations on how to take action against rising body weight.  Pretty scary when the recommendations they are advising are most likely to be conscious calorie reduction and increased physical activity – both of which are well-known and thoroughly proven to increase body fat percentage over time – not to mention increase the risk of many adulthood diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even cancer. 

Of course some mom in the video says “Why aren’t they hiring more nutritionists and gym teachers?”  The answer to that question is probably “because educating children about healthy eating and exercise doesn’t work.”  But hey, neither is the guidance given in the fat letters sent out I’m sure.  From Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin… 

p. 198 (results of the Native American children diet counseling study) 

“The children in the schools that had the special programs learned their lessons well.  They could recite chapter and verse on the importance of activity and proper nutrition.  They also ate less fat.  At the start, their diet was about 34 percent fat; at the end, after two years of the program, it was 27 percent fat.  But alas, Caballero said, ‘it was not enough to change body weight…’  But the intervention’s failure to affect the children’s weight was a puzzle.  If such methods worked at all, you might expect them to work among Native American children, who have a very high risk of becoming obese.”

p. 199-200 (Another NIH study obesity education study amongst 5,106 children)

“It turned out that the children in the schools with the special programs learned their lessons, and their diet-recall questionnaires indicated that they ate less fat.  They also exercised more.  And they retained their knowledge for years afterward.  But their weights were no different from those of children in the schools that served as controls… Even the National Institutes of Health, which sponsored the two large studies on children, is acting as though the studies never existed, starting a new program called ‘We Can’ to involve parents and schools in changing children’s diet and adding more exercise into their day… it is a way of putting those interventions into action, with or without evidence that they work.”   

 p. 221

“What, then, is wrong with this picture?  Some scientists, including obesity researchers like Jules Hirsch and Jeff Friedman, suggest an intriguing hypothesis.  The origins of people’s recent weight gains may have little to do with their current environment or with their willpower, or lack of it, or with today’s social customs to snack and eat on the run or with any other popular belief.  Instead, they say, we may be a new, heavier human race and our weight may have been set by events that took place very early in life, maybe even prenatally.

These “fat letters” are all an elaborate attempt, like the Michelle Obama School Lunch Program, to address a problem.  But the solution to that problem is not clearly known.  The proposed solution to these problems have been proven ineffective, certainly not worth the cost of shaming young children over their body composition or increasing their chances of developing an eating disorder.  But “doing nothing” is not very acceptable to the general public, who are largely to blame for this increasing trend as they are putting increasing pressure on public entities to “take action.”  Yet, in animal studies, it’s known beyond a shadow of a doubt that doing nothing (never restricting food intake or forcing increased physical activity) has FAR BETTER outcomes than applying the standard eat less/exercise more prescription. 

As Jonathan Bailor writes in his very well-researched book The Smarter Science of Slim: What the Actual Experts Have Proven About Weight Loss, Health, and Fitness

“Doing nothing is better than eating less.  This study shows it is 400% better.  Researcher D.M. Garner at Michigan State University had this to say about starvation dieting: ‘It is only the rate of weight regain, not the fact of weight regan, that appears open to debate.'” 

 Here is Garner’s report… Title says it all – Confronting the Failure of Behavioral and Dietary Treatments for Obesity.

There is only a “debate” about these BMI Report cards because it is presumed that the interventions recommended are effective.  They are not.  There is no debate.  Making a kid feel bad about a body composition that was set in motion prenatally and pretending to have a consistently successful solution is just another thing to be filed under the long list of useless bureacratic programs – designed to make it look like a problem is being addressed even when the solution is unknown, and the proposed solutions are not only ineffective but counterproductive.

As Pink Floyd might say, “Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone.” 

As Billy Madison might say, “Massachusetts… More like ASSachusetts.  Right?”