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 4th Graders on Diets? 
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I was really shocked after watching the video yesterday in class as to how many young girls are concerned with their weight. The statistic about 4th graders being on diets really shocked me and made me think. I started thinking back when I was in the 4th grade and I couldn't remember any one being on a diet. I know I wasn't and my close friends weren't. Was this an issue for our generation while we were in 4th grade or has it evolved since?

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Alyse A. Bowden


Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:08 pm
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I was really suprised at the statitistics as well, but I also generally view statistics as being skewed in one way or another. I think it matters what one considers as a "diet" and where was this information obtained? Let's face it- adolescent obesity in the US is out of control. If the diets that they speak of are just teaching kids to make healthy choices, then I don't think there is truly an issue. However, I do know that eating disorders are very serious and generally start at a young age. Much of that is perpetuated by the media, but so is the push to eat and eat a lot. If we educate youth on what healthy eating and healthy living are, then I think some of the problems with both eating disorders and obesity would decrease. I also agree that I don't remember any of my friends being on a "diet" in 4th grade. Interesting topic!

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Erin Nevitt


Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:53 pm
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I remember kids being on diets around the 4th/5th grade when I was there age. Most of them didn't need to be on them, they were just a little over weight...some kids are when they are younger and tend to grow out of it. Most of the kids were active and everyone grows different. There were only few that were really unhealthy and needed a change. Now I see/hear about the diets at a young age more often then when I was young. Some parent are just way too over worried.

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Mary Alyse Mauney


Wed Mar 28, 2007 2:49 pm
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Erin you bring up a lot of good points with this topic. I think the term "diet" should be better defined. I think it is fine if a 4th grader is choosing to eat healthier. Obesity is a huge problem in the United States and I think we needed to better educate students to understand health rather than physical size. Being over weight and under weight can be very dangerous for a person. I think we as educators need to emphasis the need to be healthy.

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Alyse A. Bowden


Wed Mar 28, 2007 3:05 pm
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Honestly, I think things have definately gotten worse since we were in the 4th grade. I do recall a few people being concerned with their weight but not in a healthy way. Dieting as opposed to lifestyle change is a horrible option. In fact, a lot of the diet products are much worse for you. I think we will continue to see more and more of this cases as our society becomes more and more unrealistic.

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Brandon J Fiedor


Wed Mar 28, 2007 6:33 pm
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I completely agree with you Brandon. I also know that obescity is a huge problem for children in today's society and think that unfortunately the fault of parents allowing children to sit in and play video games all day and allowing them to have whatever they want for dinner. On the other hand though I find it sad that young girls have become so obsessed with being extremely skinny when they aren't overweight to begin with. Our society is unrealistic and is becoming more and more unrealistic like you said.


Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:53 pm
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This is terrible to hearing kids such at a young age caring about their weight. My niece told me once that she cannot eat a lot of food at one time and that she must eat lots of veggies because she is afraid people will not like her if she gains weight. This niece of mine was actually in FIRST grade when she told me this. She is under weight for her height and it was just insane to hear her feel that she is at a point to where she thinks she cannot gain anymore!

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Jessie Carrigan


Wed Mar 28, 2007 10:33 pm
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I completely agree that things are changing generation by generation. I remember in the fourth grade I was a tomboy who cared about nothing but recess, where as today I see our fourth graders wandering in outfits that my mom wouldn't let me wear in high school. I believe that our society is slowly pushing ideals that have been dangerous for teens and twenty somethings onto our children. Children learn from the models they are given, and I don't find it to be surprising at all that fourth graders are on diets when every other ad and commercial has a skinny beautiful woman or a weight loss and fitness theme.

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Sara G Marshall


Thu Mar 29, 2007 10:18 am
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I definitely agree with what everyone is saying about how it seems that our society is changing since we were in the fourth grade. I do remember, however, that when I was in about fourth or fifth grade I was extremely tall and my best friend was really short, and all I remember thinking was that I wished that I was as small as she was. Now height has nothing to do with loosing weight and dieting, but I do remember the emphasis of wanting to be little in size and I wonder if at that age I thought that people were supposed to be a certain height and weight because of the media that I was exposed to. The media is the main one to blame because even if kids are at the grocery store with their mom, the headlines of People are "Lindsay Lohan lost another 10 pounds!" and those are the girls that the kids could be looking up to. Those magazines are geared towards an older audience, but they are still exposed to these thoughts of thinness in every aspect of their lives.

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Amanda Jill Roberts


Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:38 pm
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I do not think 4th graders need to be concerned with their weight unless it causes serious health problems, which is getting into the obesity issue. If a student that young is a little overweight but is active daily and eats healthy then they will eventually lose some of their weight. Most students, however, do not get the opportunity to be physically active every day and do not get the right foods that they need. Young students who are concered with their weight just for appearance purposes is probably dealing with other issues. We need to think about as teachers how we are going to talk to these students. We need to let them know that everyone has their own unique look and to not be influenced by the media. Parents might also play a role in how their child sees themself. The Dove foundation has many neat commercials that show how the media distorts images. When I was in fourth grade, I was not concerned with my weight or anyone else's weight. It is really sad that these thoughts are starting younger and younger. Even though I want to teach elementary school I now deal with how to confront students like this and how to help them become comfortable with who they are.


Fri Mar 30, 2007 4:24 pm
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i find it interesting that we treat several topics the same in the school system: obesity/eating disorders, drug/alcohol use, sex education and so on. Why dont we address the issue head on? We like to not talk directly to students and really hope they dont figure it out the wrong way for themselves. First of all, very few school cafeterias serve healthy food, packed with sodium and grease. Why is health class a joke? why is it not in the form of exercise/cooking/gardening class? it is very hard to understand obesity or eating disorders when you have no idea what you are filling your body with. We have got to fill their minds with conscious choices instead of dead end options that offer them nothing. No wonder the rise in promiscuity/pregnancy, drug/alcohol abuse and obesity/eating disorders are all occuring in the same generation. we dont talk about any of it.

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Samuel Reeve Kirkpatrick


Sun Apr 01, 2007 10:54 pm
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Sam- Fantastic point!
The shock and awe that we are filled with when children respond to their environment is one thing. How we address these changes and help our children is another thing. Society may be causing the changes in our young children but we have to accomodate them by providing them information that will help them, rather than leaving them alone to cope and adjust in inappropriate, misinformed ways. In relation to this topic, for instance, we had a presentation in my Educational Psychology class about sex education, and despite the extensive changes in the sexual behavior of adolescents (having sex younger, teen pregnancy, beliefs about sex and relationships), the most highly promoted programs in health education remain ABSTINENCE. In fact, abstinence programs are the only ones which the government will fund for public schools. Clearly we need to make a change in the information we are sharing with our students. As educators we need to respond to what we are seeing as the issues with our students, or we are doing such an emmense and irreparable disservice to our children. I am fearful of what kind of adults they will become if left to their own devices... At this point, children really seem to be on their own to figure out these problems.

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Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:39 am
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I too agree with everything that has been said so far to some extent. Obesity is obviously a huge problem due to lack of education, video games, etc. Jessie, your niece is absolutely correct that you should not eat large meals, and that you should eat lots of veggies, however, the part about not being liked if she gains weight is troubling. When people hear the word 'diet' they think of it as being only unhealthy. Did I or anyone I know diet? No, not to lose weight, but I did have a healthy diet as a child. My parents prepared meals that included fruits and vegatables, did not allow my brothers and me to drink soft drinks, etc. Today, families either have no time to prepare healthy meals to model for their kids or they choose to eat out or prepare unhealthy faster methods of cooking.

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William Byrne


Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:19 pm
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I agree with what Sam said, school food is a joke. Why would anyone want to serve something to their kids that they know they will not eat themselves? When I was young my parents were so busy with trying to work that they didn't teach me to eat healthy, because of that I was very unhealthy in high school and now I am trying to go about fixing it. I think we should try to fix this problem and teach children that they can be healthy without being too skinny or too chubby.


Thu Apr 12, 2007 4:25 pm
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Good call, William. What seems to missing is the motivation, or aptitude, to teach students the basics of nutrition. It seems like just saying "green beans are good for you so eat them all, the crust of the bread is good for you, eat apples, they're good for you" suffices. None of those things are necessarily good for you. Why do we think they are? Our opinions of diets are largely based on little more than folklore. We still think that starving ourselves makes us lose weight, when in fact it makes us gain weight to an extent.
So yes, now diet is a bad word. But we're all on a diet. What kind is it? Nutritional information isn't a riddle. It's out there.

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Matthew Pickard


Tue Apr 17, 2007 10:19 pm
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In a related topic, I was in Target when I was at home over Easter break and I was in the dressing room and I heard a little voice from a couple rooms over. It was a little girl and she was telling her mommy that she didn't like the bathingsuit because it made her hips look big. The mothers response was that a second grader shouldn't have to worry about that and where did she hear that language from. The little girl learned it from her babysitter, so that just proves that kids do absorb everything from people they are around and look up to. I just could not believe that it was a second grader saying these things, and I was pretty disgusted by it!

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Amanda Jill Roberts


Thu Apr 19, 2007 8:06 pm
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I hear more and more from the children that I work with that you shouldn't eat a lot of food at one time because it makes you fat. While this is a good prinicple, not eating a lot at once, I think the concern for appearance is growing so rapidly. Children are not active and busy like they used to be. There are not healthy alternatives in the schools for lunches and there are vending machines all over the place! Maybe a change in school environment would show children what we should be doing, in theory and practice.

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Lesley Paige de Paoli


Fri Apr 20, 2007 4:38 pm
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Lesley, I have also heard several children (PRESCHOOLERS!) say similar things. I had one 3 year old last year who made references to what was "good for you" and "bad for you" and certain things that she believed would make her fat. The odd thing was, her perceptions were not based on actual nutritional needs for children. Instead, they seemed to reflect an adult's perception of things that would make them fat (like carbohydrates, for instance). It got to the point that most days she would refuse to eat the snacks. At lunch, she would just pick at her food. I remember one day in particular, she wouldn't eat anything on her plate (nothing that would be "bad" for a 3 year old of course) and then sipped her milk. She looked over to me and nodded, as if continuing a conversation in her head, and said,"but I can drink the milk because that's not bad for me."
It was really disturbing, but when I mentioned it to the teachers, they seemed almost unable to comprehend the notion that a preschooler could have an eating disorder. Regardless of whether she did or not, it certainly was very revealing about the attitudes she is being exposed to about food. I think this is how negative relationships with food begin... not heredity itself, but rather by being around people with negative attitudes about food.

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Mon Apr 23, 2007 10:38 pm
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