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Florida residents Kristen and Michael Grasso got the surprise of a lifetime through the mail one day when their county’s health department warned them their athletic daughter was at risk of becoming obese.
Branding young kids obese
A letter from Collier County Health Department in Naples warned that their 11-year-old daughter Lily was at risk of becoming obese due to having a body mass index (BMI) of 22.
Grasso told WBBH that she couldn’t believe her eyes.
She said that, if anything, her 5-foot-5, 124-pound daughter is athletic and active. “Lily is athletic, tall, plays volleyball six days a week for two different teams. She’s not overweight,” she said per Newsmax.
“My first call was to my mother to say, ‘Am I crazy, or is this wrong?’”
– Kristen Grasso
That doesn’t seem to matter much in Florida, one of 21 states requiring students to get health screenings in light of the nation’s obesity epidemic.
Beyond the issue with her daughter, Grasso says that her bigger concern is the potential psychological harm of branding young kids obese.
“To give a kid a letter telling them the rest of their life they may be overweight or be obese because of a measurement you took one day, it’s just not fair,” she said.
Taking a stand
As the story of Lily’s “fat letter” gained national attention, Grasso has been happy to champion the cause. “So many people don’t say anything because who wants to be the family with a ‘fat’ kid. Well we are ready to stand up and say it is not right,” she told the Centinel.
Her efforts have raised serious questions about the program. Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, said “I would like to see BMI testing in schools banned. For those who are already insecure about their weight, these tests can…potentially trigger an eating disorder.”
However, Deb Milsap, with the county’s health department, stands behind the testing and reinforces that it’s an imperfect test and does not claim to be a substitute for medical advice.
“We always want parents to realize that […] it’s only a screening tool,” Millsap said. “Every parent, (even) if a child’s screening is normal, receives a letter so no child is singled out.”
Children are worth their weight in gold
For her part, Lily isn’t about to be discouraged.
“[I’m] confident in everything that I do, and never give up,” she said.
Her mom agrees wholeheartedly.
“Like Lily said, this letter did not hurt her, don’t let anyone define who you are! Be active, be healthy and if you are concerned with your health talk to your parents.”
– Kristen Grasso
As children go through life, there will be plenty of teachers and tests claiming to know who they are and what they’ll become. However, just like Kristen Grasso, we need to remind children that they are the authors of their own futures.
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