This is really unkind of them

Double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell has joined calls for sugary drinks to be taxed as part of a series of measures to combat rising levels of obesity.

Did they have to use someone known to have suffered brain damage to launch such an idiot policy?

Sadly, the report itself isn’t online at Policy Exchange. But annual BMI checks for all children? Srsly?

52 thoughts on “This is really unkind of them”

  1. One of my colleagues has a daughter who swam for the county while she was at school, and was somewhere between toned and ripped as a result of all the exercise.

    She got sent home with a letter about her high BMI after one of the routine physicals they get anyway.

  2. @the sage

    Once you get over about 5’7″ or so, BMI measurements are biased against you. I’ve lost 9kg for a variety of reasons and am now at the top end of “normal” for my 5’11” frame. Problem is, my shoulders are massively wide, and since I can now start to see my ribs I can’t imagine why I should be almost touching “overweight” on the scale. I expect to stabilise around 80kg, which is a weight I haven’t been for more than a decade…

  3. This is why the whole Puritan concept of taxation as a lifestyle policy instrument should never have been allowed to get started, and why we need to end it. It’s all that Methodist twat Lloyd George’s fault.

  4. Ah – more calls for something that’s already taxed, to be double-taxed.

    More of the start of the slippery-slope of a ‘(processed) food excise duty.’

    The burning question of course, is that is it applied before, or after, VAT, or does it depend on whether the ‘current’ excise duty is more, or less, than the VAT would be if they were swapped.

  5. Weight is proportional to cubic length measurement, but BMI measures weight and /square/ length measurement, so from the very start it is flawed. You would think that medicine being a science they would understand unit dimensions.

  6. “Did they have to use someone known to have suffered brain damage to launch such an idiot policy?”

    Sheesh, Tim, that’s a low blow.

    Annual BMI checks for all children is actually an excellent idea, as long as you don’t make the mistake many commenters here have already made and view it in isolation, reifying it without making the adjustments everyone knows must be made.

    The Sage>

    So what if a letter was sent home? That’s nothing more than an invitation to learn about how BMI works, and why it is that some people, particularly the fit and muscular, get a falsely high reading.

    The idea of BMI is that it’s an incredibly broad brush, slightly better than just using weight alone (without taking height into account at all), and once you’ve looked at it you’re supposed to then look at where you’d expect the subject to vary from the model and take that into account too. I don’t think there’s any medical measurement that isn’t subject to similar issues: when the doctor takes your pulse, they also ask what physical exertion you’ve been doing immediately prior, for example.

  7. I like how Proggies always present State bullying as “an invitation to learn”, “education”, “advice”, etc.

  8. @jgh – February 10, 2016 at 10:46 am

    You would think that medicine being a science they would understand unit dimensions.

    Medecine isn’t really a “science” – it more resembles a huge collection of vaguely rationalised empiricisms… 🙂

  9. Jgh

    But people don’t scale uniformly in all three dimensions, so we wouldn’t expect mass to be proportional to height cubed in humans. Iirc it’s more like a power of two point something.

  10. If we allowed barbers to carry out routine surgery as they used to do, could that be a solution to the current junior doctor crisis?

  11. So what if a letter was sent home?

    It’s a cost, Dave, and a largely unnecessary cost.
    However, to describe it as “bullying”, as IanB does, is an exaggeration: it’s more like nagging.

  12. Theo>

    Quite, although even nagging is a bit strong: once isn’t nagging. As far as unnecessary costs go, it’s a pretty minor one, and I’d say it’s almost certainly outweighed (sorry) by managing to educate the family of even just one fat kid.

  13. “it’s more like nagging.”

    Now. In five years time? When was the last time State interference declined over time in a particular area, rather than intensified?

  14. I can’t see why schools should be sending out standard letters about BMI. Communications between school and parents should treat the children as individuals, not statistics. The school has games teachers who ought to have a pretty good idea which children are fat and which are ripped: why can’t they be made responsible for interpreting these data?

  15. “I can’t see why schools should be sending out standard letters about BMI. ”

    Because BMI, especially when used against the very young, very old, and very athletic, is a useless measure of how much of a porker you are?

  16. SJW – why should they be “responsible”?

    I am sure good ones would be happy to have a chat to parents about obviously fat and unhealthy kids, but formalising it is the road to totalitarianism.

    I agree with Ian B on this one.

  17. Now. In five years time?

    Who knows? If the scheme is challenged by a sound cost-benefit analysis, it might have been scrapped by then.

    When was the last time State interference declined over time in a particular area, rather than intensified?

    Privatisation of nationalised industries?

  18. Theo-

    Nagging is psychological bullying. I see no reason to mince words, when it is the State doing the nagging, bullying or whatever you want to call it.

  19. Dave: “So what if a letter was sent home? That’s nothing more than an invitation to learn about how BMI works, and why it is that some people, particularly the fit and muscular, get a falsely high reading.”

    Yes, clearly, your average benefit monkey single mother is going to do just that.

  20. SJW: “The school has games teachers who ought to have a pretty good idea which children are fat and which are ripped: why can’t they be made responsible for interpreting these data?”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, good one! *wipes away tears of mirth*

    Oh. Wait.

    You were serious?

  21. I’d probably concur that bullying is nagging+ but given the broad front on which the state, its organs and mock charities nag us, then the cumulative impact amounts to consistent and vigorous bullying.

  22. IanB

    Just as feminists try to stretch the definition of ‘rape’ to suit their agenda, so are you stretching the definition of ‘bullying’ to suit yours. In the process, you are diminishing real bullying – just as the feminists diminish real rape.

    Whatever a letter about your child’s BMI might be, it’s not bullying. It’s a tiny administrative nag, and nothing more. It might be tiresome, and it’s a waste of public money; but it’s easily ignored and binned.

  23. Good news, everyone! I’ve knocked up a little Greasemonkey script that should function like the glasses from “They Live” (RIP Roddy Piper). See for yourselves:

    My Chrome extension is similar 🙂

    http://imgur.com/lTbWco9

    (If anyone wants a copy, feel free to ask)

  24. @ The Sage
    Back in the dark ages my school used to weigh every boy at the beginning and end of term; any boy who had lost more than half-a-stone got sent to the San for a check-up. Sister more or less nodded through the regulars knowing that in our case the reason was school food, the others did get checked in case there was something wrong.
    Still seems to me a better system than the brainless mass index. When I was 18 I trained with a guy an inch or two shorter than me who sweated down to 40 lbs heavier than me without an ounce of fat left on his body.

  25. Let’s have the same system for the staff. It’s only fair. In fact, it’s even more necessary – a fat teacher is far more likely to keel over than a chubby child.

    Twice yearly weighings, conducted on a random day in a month to prevent cheating. Two strikes and you get sent to Fat Farm, unpaid. It’s Progressive and it is sound; it’s for your own good, teachers.

  26. Talking of formalising it didn’t the Welsh assembly insist that all children in a school, regardless of age or size, ate the same amount? The six foot tall star 14 year old rugby player and the 5ft tall skinny kid both had the same portion?

    This is the sort of fucked up thinking which appeals to the sadistic and bureaucratic mind. Give them an inch and that is what you’ll get.

  27. It’s all bollocks.

    At 5’9″ The only time I’ve been under 13 stone in the last 30 odd years people were asking me if I was ill. The BMI index says I ought to be 12 stone or under and I think the only way I could do that would be by cutting a leg off.

  28. BMI is significant only at its extremes. Under 17 or over 40. In these cases, BMI is a quantification of the obvious.

  29. BMI is completely useless for me personally. When I was in the best shape of my life at 220lbs I was considered overweight. Without working out to any extent I normally weight between 180 and 185lbs which is at the very edge of the healthy range. Before my first back surgery I dropped to 155 and looked like a stick yet according to the chart I was finally in the dead center of the “healthy” range.

    With regard to sugar taxes we are not looking at the issue correctly. Before we consider any new taxes on sugar we should first eliminate the subsidies on corn and sugar beets. If the resulting higher sugar prices have no effect on obesity then we know for sure that an additional tax isn’t even worth discussing.

  30. One unusual side effect of having lost 9kg is that I had a couple of suits made to measure before I lost it. They looked awesome on my slightly chunkier frame, much better than off-the-peg muck. On 9kg lighter me they now look like off the peg!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  31. Dave:

    Annual BMI checks for all children is actually an excellent idea

    Why? Schools incur the expense of conducting and communicating a flawed measurement of something that’s none of their damned concern. I expect schools to concentrate their efforts on areas of their expertise (teaching math, or English, say), or on issues that otherwise wouldn’t be apparent to me – my child’s conduct while out of my sight. Their physical health is readily apparent to me: I see them every day. I don’t need an ill-thought letter from the school, to keep me up to date, and nor does the school need to take time away from actually teaching to branch into half-assed medical advice.

  32. I’m six foot eight. The BMI chart says that (at my current wieght) I should be dead of malnutrition. It’s bunk. But the first doc I saw who used the chart had to extend the plotlines onto his deskblotter with a pencil and ruler, as the chart only went up to six foot four. His verdict was: “Well, you look healthy enough, so I suppose this is rubbish, really”.

    Although a district nurse said of my son “If he was shorter, he’d be overweight”- still not sure what to make of that as he’s got so little body fat, he’s the only two and a half year old with a sixpack in playschool.

  33. “I’m six foot eight.”

    !

    Tall.

    I looked up the low to mid healthy BMI for my height and if I reached it I would look like a professional cyclist. It’s total shit, why do people tolerate it?

  34. Accepting its flaws, in general terms with regard to all cause mortality and morbidity, the optimum BMI is around 27/28, i.e. allegedly overweight. The risk for those who are termed mildly obese are about the same as those who are supposedly of normal BMI. The evidence suggests that the health nazis trying to pressure people to reduce their BMI to the normal range are actually increasing their health risks.

    Had we ever received a letter regarding any of our children’s BMI, as with the home-school agreements, we’d have sent a letter back to the school politely telling them to mind their own bloody business and do the only job we pay them for, i.e. teach our children.

  35. “the optimum BMI is … allegedly overweight.” Yup; and you have to be grotesquely “obese” to be in as much danger as the skinny-ma-links.

    P.S. Their use of “obese” is propaganda too. Before all this BMI malarkey was publicised, “obese” meant something like “nearly spherical”. Before that you had “plump”,”well-padded”, “portly” and “fat”.

  36. The optimum BMI varies from person to person.
    Fifty-odd years ago, people would be classified as ectomorphs, mesomorphs or endomorphs according to their build. “Progress” since then has been to use a “one size fits all” model which is dimensionally flawed.
    There is no polite way to describe these people.
    My example above was of two guys at peak fitness with one BMI 43% higher than the other. Different build means different weight *without any fat*.

  37. Bloke in North Dorset

    And whatever happened to the the term “puppy fat”? Many a portly child has turned in to an athlete without the help of the nanny state.

  38. @ BiND
    Of course you are right.
    I was only quoting from my personal knowledge which is, inevitably, limited. There are umpteen other reasons to complain.

  39. ““If he was shorter, he’d be overweight””

    I don’t wish to be a pendant, but this isn’t necessarily correct. How much shorter would he need to be?

    The charitable thing is to assume it’s one of those brainfarts we all have from time to time …. a transcript of everything we say during would probably reveal something similar.

    Either that, or she’s a moron.

  40. There’s something very amusing about BMI measurement. Canvas any random group of people on the physique of a range of test subjects & you’d likely get about 95% agreement on the awarding of stick insect, underweight, bit skinny, about right, muscleman, chubby but cuddly, porker, land whale …
    What’s the super scientific measure of BMI manage, compared? 50%?

  41. BiND,

    Our eldest son (of 4) was the podgiest as a toddler by far, but he is easily the best athlete in the family, including running 1:15 half-marathons which is pretty swift. This despite being the only one of our children to smoke in his early adult years.

    John77,

    You are quite correct regarding individual BMIs which is why I prefaced my comment with “accepting its flaws, in general terms.” Rugby union forwards are a case in point.

    I’m a firm believer that obesity is an individual rather than a societal problem, and only then if the individual sees their weight as a problem. The point I was making is that the epidemiological evidence does not support those who believe it is a societal problem and who are trying to engineer us to become of normal BMI. As in all health matters, they are fundamentally dishonest. God knows what their agenda is, but they’ll massage the numbers to suit that agenda as in conflating obesity (potentially a problem, especially of the morbid variety) with overweight (generally beneficial, rarely a problem) in order to create the impression of a widespread obesity epidemic.

  42. BMI for children is not calculated using the weight/height^2 formula, but with reference to population statistics.

    Since it’s all done by computer anyway, there’s no reason other than familiarity not to use a less arbitrary method for adults too. (Empirically, weight scales according to something like the 2.5th power of height.)

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