Illustration: Simon Letch
CHILDHOOD obesity is in the spotlight again, with Professor David Penington's suggestion that a child's weight be recorded on their primary school report. As the mother of a 12-year-old girl, can I just put up my hand and say - no, shout - what most women with tween-age daughters are probably thinking? This is a BAD idea.
There are so many flaws in his proposal that I hardly know where to start. At a recent obesity summit he said: ''Inclusion of weight in primary school reports could spark discussion between teachers and parents about diet and levels of physical activity.''
Um, I don't mean to be rude, but really? There's no polite way around this, so I'll just say it: apart from the Physical Education department, how many teachers would you look up to as paragons of healthy eating and fitness?
At my last parent/teacher meeting, the English teacher ate a chocolate muffin and sprayed crumbs on me as he praised my daughter's composition skills. Miss Geography, a delightfully warm and engaging woman, was wide enough to occupy two time zones.
Truthfully, I couldn't care less about teachers' BMIs, but if they're going to be weighing my child shouldn't they have to step onto the scales themselves, and maybe meet some standards?
Professor Penington went on to say that the reports could ''use the school environment as a way to contribute to ensuring the broader issues are there for discussion''. Again, that ''discussion'' word.
I don't know which rock the professor has been living under, but my daughter and her friends have been ''discussing'' and comparing their bodies since kindergarten. It's endemic. The school environment is the absolute worst for creating insecurities about body image.
God help the girl who develops early, or doesn't fit the standard stick-thin prepubescent mould. My daughter has been figure skating for years, and as a result has nicely shaped quads that I would kill for. Sadly, in her mind this equates to fat, because her legs don't look like matchsticks. Never mind that she is the only girl in her year who can do a camel spin; none of her friends' thighs touch at the top so hers are too big.
It's bad enough kids compare their bodies - do we really want them to compare their weights? That can only be a dangerous thing. My daughter has no idea what she weighs and neither do I, because I've deliberately kept her away from the scales.
As long as she looks fit and healthy I think her weight is irrelevant. I don't want her investing her self-worth in a number on a scale, and I certainly don't want her school to set her on that slippery path.