Not so long ago Luke was weighed and measured. This is something that happens through school in Foundation and is a way of keeping a track on the burgeoning obesity epidemic.
A few weeks later we received a letter, telling us that our boy had a BMI in the 95th percentile. In other words he is classified as being overweight, bordering on the obese.
Luckily I have a set of eyes so can look at my lad and see that he is many things - funny, outgoing, cheeky - but obese he is not. I don't usually publish pictures of my kids, but to give you an idea of how far from being overweight he is I took one of his tummy over the summer holidays:
I'm not just a proud mother extolling the virtues of my offspring. He is stocky certainly, broad shouldered without a doubt. But obese? Not so much.
Anyway, I took the sensible view of sticking 2 fingers up to the letter blowing a big fat raspberry whilst doing so. I'm not worried about my child's weight. It is pretty perfect. Anyone with eyes in their head can see that.
What really irritated me was the lack of common sense being applied. What they have done is taken some measurements (possibly inaccurately, my experiences of health professionals being able to record weights is poor*) put them into a computer and the when computer says 'fat' they say fat. At no point has anyone looked at the children and gone 'they are not fat'.
My experience is not unusual. Chatting to a few other parents as we removed our active children from the top of the tree or pursued them in endless games of chase, there were quite a few children who came back with this label. Us parents looked at these apparently fat kids and decided that although there are clearly a number who do look larger than is probably healthy, there were also a substantial number who did not.
I was reminded of Disraeli's famous quote - "there are lies, damn lies and statistics". Next time I see a government stat bemoaning the numbers of obese 5 year olds, I'm going to look at my clearly not obese 5 year old and think 'you do all talk a lot of rot'. Next time I hear a government stat on anything that is clearly designed to be eyebrow lifting, I'm going to think 'bet you haven't applied much common sense to this stat either' and ignore it.
Clearly there are a number of things that the government stats are designed to highlight, trends in our lifestyle that need addressing. The problem is that if they can't use any common sense in recording the stats, the stats will be wrong. And when the stats are wrong it doesn't take long for us to stop believing them.
*including but not limited to the time the midwife decided I'd put on 15 kilos in a week, recorded it on my notes despite my protests and found that it led to all sorts of problems to me when in hospital having a baby - the false weight put me into the overweight category, which implied a lot of risk factors and led to a lot of unnecessary medication and a unneeded prolonged stay in hospital - all despite me constantly telling them that the figure they were using was wrong. Oooo I was cross!