In the Blog

Fat camp goes to school

July 28th, 2008     by Cate Simpson     Comments

There is nothing worse than being fat.

That’s the message we get from every magazine that obsesses over the weight of (mostly female) celebrities, and every movie that places someone heavy in the leading role only to make them ridiculous and asexual (again, this mostly applies to women: think chubby teenage Monica from Friends, who miraculously stops being a total spaz about dating once she loses the fat suit).

Now there’s a special boarding school opening in England for kids aged 11-18 who are more than 20lbs overweight. In addition to the regular high school curriculum, there’s a regime of “intense physical activity”, and a strict diet of 1,500 calories a day and 12g of fat. According to the UK programme director of an existing British “fat camp” at which participants are allowed 1,200 calories a day, the average weight loss is 10lbs a week.

I am concerned.

Isn’t the consensus that the best way to lose weight is slowly? Haven’t studies suggested that overweight people do more long-term damage to their health through dramatic yo-yoing than they would by keeping their weight high but steady?

I can see what they’re trying to achieve. It’s seriously tough being heavy in school, and it’s also tough to start exercising when you feel like everyone’s staring at you, so maybe getting to play soccer with other kids who look like you isn’t such a bad thing.

But why is it only the fat kids who are singled out for nutritional boot camp? What about those skinny girls who, like many I went to school with, are so obsessed with their weight they skip lunch every day? Is that setting up healthier patterns for life than having an extra serving? Wouldn’t it be better to just teach healthy balanced eating in schools, all schools?

I worry that this school will only succeed in teaching young people to hate the way they look at an early age, precipitating a struggle with their bodies that will likely go on for the rest of their lives.

Maybe we should stop screaming about the dangers of obesity for a second and spend some time talking about emotional health.

Tags: body politics

« A prime example of sexism in crafting

Hooray for Hillside! »