Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ensuring that girls have a great start to life

More bad news in the obesity epidemic: girls who are overweight in their early school years are likely to achieve less academically than their peers later in life, new research shows.
When it comes to the 'obesity epidemic' the Press can't get through the lead paragraph without lying. Luckily the research was available for free on-line, so we can see what a shitty job the The Press did of reporting the research (and also see how frustrating myopic the researchers are).

The research didn't show anything like that - it showed that girls who were not classified as overweight at age five, but were classified as overweight at age nine had lower test scores, more internalised behaviour problems and more externalised behaviour problems. Girls who were classified as overweight about both 5 and 8 had similar test scores and externalised behaviour problems as those who were never classified as overweight. The only correlation for boys was that if they were overweight they had fewer externalised behaviour problems (I guess that's scientist speak for they were nicer).

The researchers pointed out that even the difference they did identify was not that significant - for example the education of the mother had 2 to 3 times as much effect on tests and behaviour as did whether or not girls became overweight. But they concluded with this:
The good news is that some recent school-based strategies have been shown to be effective in reducing overweight, particularly among girls.35, 15 Our study suggests that these school-based programs may have broader effects on school outcomes more generally by reducing overweight in the early years.
OK lets be really fucking clear, any correlation between a negative outcome and higher weight that effects girls and not boys won't have jackshit to do with the weight itself.

I can't believe that researchers can seriously suggest 'being overweight makes people feel bad about themselves, lets make sure we fight obesity'.

The best thing we can do for those girls is stop teaching them to hate their bodies. The fact that this was reported is bad news in the obesity epidemic - rather than bad news for the "obesity epidemic" - shows the refusal to look at the damage that's being done to young girls. It terrifies me that another generation of girls is being taught not to take up space as I write this article, and they're being taught it at an even earlier age than my generation was.

I'm going to end with a letter a mother wrote to Penlope Leach (from the book Baby & Child) asking if she's doing the right thing for her 'over-weight' daughter. I want you to try and guess what age the daughter is:
Unfortunately, though, she also takes after me in a tendancy to put on weight. I've fought this all my life and I'm determined that she shouldn't face the same battles. At home we just don't have fattening foods in the house. She already knows the danger foods and when she asks for something like chocolate or ice cream at the supermarket I show her the 'light' versions and we get those. When she goes out, though, other people try to sabotage our efforts, and not only people who mean to be kind and give her 'treats' either. A teacher at her nursery school insists she has the ordinary snack.
This particular child is four, and the age at which girls get treated like this is only getting younger.

But at least they're protected from the dangers associated with being over weight.

7 comments:

  1. Just as long as in practice they argue in favor of male obesity and are neutral to female obesity except where it is becoming more obese (fat chance).

    of course I assume as I guess you do too, that this profile implies obesity is more the effect than the cause so treating it probably will do little to solve the problem they want to solve.

    From my experience there is what I would call a very strong correlation between being overweight and good behaviour in boys. And more school absences would be related to the anti social behaviour of OTHERS and possibly a few more colds and such.

    In girls I'd be concernd about whether they controlled for all the obvious variables in antisocial behaviour.

    The one thing I do disagree with is the "even the difference they did identify was not that significant - for example the education of the mother had 2 to 3 times as much effect on tests and behaviour"

    education of the mother (major care giver would be better of course) is a bit like "gender of the participant" it is a massive effect. anything even vaguely close to it is worth some consideration. And statistically results are either significant or they are not (statistical tests), absolute magnitude shouldn't prove or disprove that.

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  2. I hate these sets of statistics that places keep churning out. I realise that obesity is a serious issue that needs to be tackled, but such contradicting statements are released week in, week out.

    All I know was that when I was back in school a lot of the bigger girls in the class did a lot better academically because they didn't fit in with the shallow looks-based politics that operated as a teen-spawned hierarchy. They sought escapism through books by being the 'class boffin' and concentrating on their studies because the 'in' crowd wouldn't accept them. So how can these institions make such random statements? I suppose bullying of larger children can distract them from their studies, though.

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  3. Anonymous1:10 am

    A four-year-old consuming nothing but "lite" varieties of common foods will be consuming a whole lot of artificial stuff that hasn't necessarily been tested on children, all for the sake of looking slimmer to her anxious mother? Yikes. Sugar isn't great for a kid either, I know, but at least it's real, and tastes good.

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  4. eniloraca11:34 am

    I saw this banner on stuff.co.nz - hope the link works.

    http://inl.adbureau.net/hserver/SITE=S/AREA=S.STUFF.HEALTH/AAMSZ=760X120/CH=/ACC_RANDOM=596632615?

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  5. Anonymous9:52 am

    women in todays society are so opressed by these fake ideals, i never see any healthy people anymore, i just see fat or anorexic. theres never a happy medium for women.
    sadly my almost forty year old sister smoked herself anorexic to a point where her body began metabolizing her brain matter and went crazy... and now she is comparing herself to her chunky 8 year old daughter.. and making her feel bad for being chunky, instead of actually being a parent and helping her daughter with excercise and portion control.
    as for mothers who poison thier childrens minds....
    EATING LITE ANYTHING IS HORRIBLE AND TOXIC, THE WORD LITE DOESNT EVEN EXIST!!!!!
    the whole food and drud industry has alot to answer for....
    splenda is made with toxic chlorine
    hmmmm i seem to be rambling but this issue pisses me offffffffff.

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  6. Anonymous9:54 am

    drug* industry

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