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Legislators weigh in on problems with portly kids

April 04, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

It figures.

Just when the Maryland General Assembly was in danger of doing something interesting, they scrap the idea and commit it to that legislative graveyard known as "further study."

Lawmakers, who I'm guessing have an over/under weight of about 220 pounds each, are concerned not about their own weight, but about the weight of schoolchildren.

So in an apparent effort to shame the kids into getting thin, they had a plan to weigh students periodically and record the number on their report cards.

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This is typical of lawmakers. They want everyone else to deny themselves food, be thrifty, law-abiding, moral, temperate, community-minded and pious. But when it comes to their own behavior, they are more judicious.

Personally, I don't think lawmakers should be allowed to pass any anti-fat legislation until they can all strip to the waist and we are able to count every rib.

But after they can pass that test, I am all for this kiddy weigh-in idea. It will be just like a prize fight.

"And in this corner, standing 5-foot-3 and weighing in at 186 pounds with a body-mass index of 32.9 and still undefeated at the buffet table, Liii-tlllle Chaauuun-cy."

The way I see it, it's just one more way of boosting a child's fragile self-esteem. Girls especially will love this. Her BMI strays into the overweight category, you stamp a pig on her report card, pat her on the head and send her home.

Who could see a problem with that?

"Yes Mrs. Chowalewski, your daughter is doing well on her algebraic equations, but we'd really like to see some improvement in her weight."

There were some other plans, too, such as removing junk food from school menus and vending machines. But I'm sure they won't do that because that would make sense. Just tell them to be thin, don't give them any help in actually becoming thin. Don't want to violate the No Fries Left Behind act.

In my experience, a teen will do anything he is forced to do at virtual gunpoint. Anything else, forget it. Teens are incapable of performing any task unless there is a threat attached to it. "Initiative" might have some vague, theoretical meaning to teenagers, but it is nothing they ever put into practice.

Even if you can move them off of ground zero, they will slip into a passive-aggressive mode that actually requires more work of you than if you performed the chore yourself.

"Do the dishes."

"OK. Where's the dish soap?"

"Next to the sink."

"Where's the dish rag?"

"Next to the soap."

"Should I use water?"

"Yes."

"Hot water or cold?"

"Hot."

"The water's not hot yet."

"Let it run."

"Where's the soap?"

Then you come back in two hours to find the pots, pans, forks, knives and spoons are still dirty, because you only specified to do the "dishes."

So it's going to take more than an act of the legislature to depork these kids. Like, take out the desks and put in treadmills. Tie weight to text-message usage. For every pound they lose, they get 10 more text messages. All it takes is the right incentive.

Be that as it may, I can't help but wonder what the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty thinks of the state's plans to jump ugly on kids' weight. It's about "acceptance" and "celebrating who you are." It's a little hard to celebrate when the State of Maryland is writing "oink" on your report card.

The Dove campaign reports that 92 percent of all girls "want to change at least one aspect of their appearance."

This is valuable information to have, because it tells us that 8 percent of all girls are in comas and we really should be doing something about them. When I meet a conscious or semi-conscious girl who is entirely happy with herself, it will be the first time.

Which is a real shame, because - and I am speaking from a boy's perspective here - there is very seldom all that much wrong with 92 percent of the girls out there. Girls might be surprised that boys, if they are being honest about it, prefer a girl who is a few pounds over to one who is a few pounds under.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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