a/n: i wrote this as a benchmark essay for school. the prompt was to "write a letter to the school board about what should be considered before implementing a new policy of childhood obesity". though i got a 5/5 on this, i should remind anyone who may read this that i have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and as i was writing this i did not have access to any reference materials. honestly, i didn't really read this over very carefully, nor did i doublecheck my facts online, so any mistakes are mine, and i apologise for them. if you see a mistake, please correct me. i would hate to have any incorrect information here, especially about a disorder that is so (unfortunately) common and dangerous.


5.17.12

(Please Read with Patience and a Sense of Humour)

"Childhood obesity." These two words seem to strike fear into parents, school officials, teachers, and test-makers alike. If standardised tests are to be believed, childhood obesity is a great and terrible epidemic, stoppable only by school board members', parents', and doctors' heroic efforts to make children eat less of what is readily available, and more pesticide-ridden fresh fruits and veggies. The focus on weight doesn't stop at childhood, however. Fad diets, plastic surgeons, and therapists alike benefit from a wave of attention placed on our bodies. Weight is, without a doubt, a major concern.

Throughout this movements for bodies to be smaller, sexier, more athletic, and closer to perfection, few have stopped to wonder if maybe, just maybe, we're doing it all wrong. The side-effects of obesity are obvious, but side-effects of the fight against it less so. From children not yet in middle school calling themselves fat, to the recent spike in the number of people with eating disorders, America, and in fact, most of the world, has a huge problem in the stigma surrounding food, eating, and our bodies.

Though there are many types of eating disorders, the most commonly known, and the most relevant to this performance of my writing ability, are anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia, characterised by a low BMI and the tendency to restrict calorie and food intake to the point of starvation, comes with symptoms of fatigue, a loss of bone density, fine hairs covering the body, and malnourishment. Bulimics, however, 'purge' their food after eating, usually by vomiting, taking laxatives, or over-exercising. All eating disorders are dangerous, even deadly, and are, in fact, psychiatric disorders (much like schizophrenia, depression, gender dysphoria, and bipolar among others) and it is not possible to "just snap out of it".

Now, my dear test-grader, you may be thinking (if indeed you have not given up on me yet), "What do eating disorders have to do with childhood obesity? Besides, this freak student was told to use the sources and write an essay to the school board about 'important considerations' to, well, consider before implementing a new policy to address the 'obesity problem'. I should just give them an F, and stop reading."

To you, poor educated adult, I say, "Eating disorders have everything to do with obesity. ANyway, I can't tell a school board what to consider if you won't give me their new policy. Frankly, however, I just don't care what grade the school gives me, and your topic is boring. Combine those two wonderful feelings and you get what I suspect is one of the most wonderful essays you will read today." Now that I am done "[demonstrating] a clear sense of audience," (Grade 10 Benchmark 4 rubric), onto the real meat of the essay!

Eating disorders have everything to do with (the school board's policy on) childhood obesity because a focus on weight and fat is characteristic of both. Also, I have more friends with eating disorders, or eating disordered behaviours, than obese friends, so I feel more like writing about the equally important topic of eating disorders than childhood obesity and silly policies. (In my group of ten close friends, I know of five with eating disorders or eating disordered behaviour, and one who is overweight (and, incidentally, perfectly healthy)). The intense focus on weight can easily turn into an intense focus on being skinny.

For example (and here is where you get excited I'm listening to something the prompt told me), many schools in Malaysia are now including students' BMI on report cards (B). Now, I don't know how long it's been since you were a student, but not only is this dangerous to students in terms of bullying ("You're fat!" "My BMI's lower than yours!"), but it can also encourage eating disordered behaviours in an attempt to lower their BMI. Although I know that (according to most adults) students, especially 16-year-old soon-to-be high school drop-outs like myself, have few opinions worth listening to, and fewer worth cultivating, my hope is that you, at least, can perhaps see just one of the many grave mistakes 'educated, responsible' adults make.

One characteristic many with eating disorders have is the tendency to carefully monitor their intake, most often in calories. Oddly enough, that calorie intake is something five schools in Texas are helping parents to monitor (C). Using technology (because bad habits are ok if technology is used), these San Antonio schools count how many calories each student eats, using camera and barcodes. These precious numbers (the smaller the better!) are made available to parents.

Think carefully. Something a too-large number of adults are unaware of is that parents and children often clash, and children are often more aware of what is good for themselves. (GASP! Shocking, isn't it?) Also, far too many children, and, indeed, people, are abused by others, including parents. I myself know of several of my fiends who are abused, called names, and made fun of. Unfortunately, many abused children are called fat. THis abuse can lead to eating disorders. I'll do you a favour rarely done to me by school officials and teachers and assume you possess both common sense and a fairly normal-ish amount of intelligence. ('Fairly normal-ish' being somewhere above the Westboro Baptist Church, above those in charge, and below Nikola Tesla. So, above average really.) Do you think that counting the number of calories anyone eats is healthy? I'll give you some time.

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Still thinking? Ok.

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Done? awesome. It's not really healthy, as I hope you figured out. You did? I'm glad. I'm so proud of you! Really, I am. No, my laughter is not directed at you. Well, only a little.

Anyway, one could even go so far as to say that the school system in our silly country has an eating disorder. From an extreme awareness of weight and fat, to the monitoring of the caloric intake of students, I could write a whole second essay unofficially diagnosing the school system as anorexic. Which I would, if I had a list of the diagnostic criteria and a couple more hours to waste. It'd be fun.

No? Ok then. I understand you want to get on with life and read other students' papers. I hope that you're laughing a bit, at least. Or turning red in the face with anger. Maybe both.

I'd love to waste your time even more, as I could talk to you (or this paper) for hours. I have so much to say, your puny benchmark cannot contain it all. I hope, at least, that you understand my point that a focus on weight is unhealthy either way. ("Ah-ha! So there's that elusive thesis statement," you exclaim.) Really, we humans (or otherkin, or whatever you identify as) are quite adaptable. Health at every size after all! ((r) or (c) or whatever. They're an organisation; look it up.) I hope you enjoy your day!