First, do no harm. Raising the red flag on school obesity prevention programming

Once upon a time…

School’s typically sold foods associated with weight gain: pop, chips, chocolate bars, fried food, etc… In 2011 the government of Ontario decided to save the children from the BAD foods by creating the School Food and Beverage Policy which provided guidelines for foods sold in school cafeterias. Subsequently, more and more  ‘healthy eating’ teaching were surfacing  in every part of the curriculum from counting calories in math class to label reading in gym class.

Two years later, health practitioners/researchers of a Canadian Study found an association between ‘well-intended’ healthy weight/ healthy eating school programs and the development of an eating disorders.

“A 14-year-old, grade-A student with perfectionist tendencies decided he was going to be “the best” at following the healthy living program at school. He signed up for track and field and soccer and began exercising compulsively. He ate only chicken, fruit and vegetables in ever-shrinking portions and began reading food labels.”

The main author who also happen to be Psychiatrist at Sick Kids hospital in Toronto states that “the programs present this idea that weight loss is good, that only thin is healthy”  and something small such as a ‘healthy eating’ teaching from a dietitian could trigger

In one case, a 13-year-old girl’s “progressive food restriction” began after a visiting dietitian talked to her class at length about what foods students should and should not be eating.

While not all dietitians speak about good/bad foods, I can’t help but feel that red flag rise as I reflect on the many food-based nutrition education presentations I have facilitated to students.

Unfortunately this fairy tale has no happy ending. Children and society as a whole are being convinced that being or becoming fat is something to be ashamed of.

We need to re-write this story and create an ending that results in children being free of food prescriptions and health-ism.

The End?

With hope,



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