Sports Science Alert (SSA) #017
Bringing you the latest news in sport, science, fitness and nutrition
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Is It Wrong To Call Someone Fat?
This is a very controversial subject in sport science as well as within the field of health. I first became aware of the sensitivities of this area when taking skinfold measures of young athletes many years ago. No matter how I worded it, an elevated skinfold level would often be interpreted as "Oh no, I'm fat!". I did not have an answer for it then, and it seems things have not changed.
Last week parents of children at an Elementary School in Georgia USA were outraged at a school fitness letter sent home with the kids. The letter was meant for their parents, but some kids read it themselves and are now reportedly "damaged" from the whole ordeal. It is certainly not the first time that parents have complained about fitness testing results being sent home. I think a big part of the problem is that the reports can not be written subtly enough, or are being poorly interpreted.
According to the article, the results of one child in the standard Fitnessgram assessment was rated "not at a healthy level and needs improvement", which was interpreted by a 5th grader as calling her fat. It is obvious that you don't directly call someone fat (and they weren't), but a young impressionable mind may not comprehend these descriptions. This letter seems to be subtly worded, but it is a tricky subject. How do you call someone "moderately overweight", "carrying a too much excess body fat", "in need of some extra exercise" or "should change their diet", without them jumping to a defensive position and saying how dare you call me fat?!
There are definitely kids in schools all around the world today that need some incentive to get off their backside and turn around the growing problem of obesity. Maybe the solution is a bit of 'tough love' and call them fat to see if that can create the impetus for change?
It is a whole different discussion about the validity of using the Body Mass Index (BMI) test as a measure of bodyfat levels in children, but I will leave that for another newsletter.
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