Monday, January 2, 2012

Why Fat Albert Never Adopted

The Biggest Loser kicks off again tomorrow. So, let’s talk fat (and dream about Dolvett).

Most of you know I work in the field of international adoptions when I’m not talking trash on this blog. Recently, I’ve learned some new stuff. Did you know that to adopt from China you cannot have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 40 or greater?  This was a new policy beginning in 2007.

In looking at charts, a BMI of 40 means being 5’ 4” and weighing 235 lbs. or more. Or being 6’ and weighing 294 lbs. or more. This goes for either male or female applicants. Yep, that is kind of large.

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When countries allow for “their” children to be adopted, they can make any stipulations they want about the applicants. In fact, any country can outrightly refuse to allow international adoptions, and many do. Basically, they can pick and choose.

On one hand, doesn’t it make sense that a country, in the best interests of its children, would not permit someone who is “morbidly obese” (this is how the chart labels those with BMI or higher) to adopt? We all know that obesity leads to many chronic and life threatening health and medical conditions. Just like the powers that be might not want someone with a life threatening disease to adopt a child, they might not want someone with such a high BMI to adopt a child. In addition, does China think that an applicant’s obesity sets a bad example for eating and exercise habits?

Conversely, does being obese mean you are not fit to be a parent? There are many extremely overweight people who are extremely effective parents. Yes, their lives may be at risk or cut short due to obesity-related conditions. Yes, they might not be able to physically do things with their kids as people who weigh less can. And, yes, one might question what kind of example is being set.

Because the “what if” game is fun - what if the applicant was on a strict weight loss and exercise plan, but had not reached their goal yet? Would that change your perspective? Don’t you think most children would prefer to be with parents who are overweight vs. remaining in an orphanage forever?

In the US, there are no weight restrictions put on adoption applicants. It is necessary, however, that applicants “be in good health.”  Is it possible to “be in good health” with a BMI of 40 or above?

Do you agree that being obese should prohibit you from being able to adopt? Does being overweight to the point that it affects your health make you less of a “good” parent?

SUAR

40 comments:

  1. I just HATE BMI. I weigh the same I did 2 years ago, but I am much more muscle and much less fat. And I'm 3 pants sizes smaller. And yet I'm still considered "overweight" by that stupid scale.

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  2. Morbid obesity is often a symptom. There is often a medical and/or psychological issue at play. This is not to say fat people can't be just as nice or just as effective, loving parents or just as capable as non-fat people, but I think that anything negatively affecting your health definitely compromises your abilities as a parent. The thing is that you can SEE how big someone is, but you can't necessarily SEE some health issues. But I am not saying that only people in perfect health should be allowed to be parents.

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  3. All I can say is that the biggest guy in your visual aid looks naked and the woman lost her bikini bottoms. I can't believe that you didn't comment on this.

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  4. I agree with XL...there's more than just weight involved. I would have to say that anyone with a BMI over 40 should have to get a serious psych eval to qualify. If a person has so little respect for his/herself that they can't take care of him/herself, how can they expect to be able to take care of a child?

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  5. On that scale, I've been slightly overweight and more recently overweight....And I've ran 14 half marathons along with 6 full marathons! No kids though but my two dogs are spoiled rotten and very well taken care of. Even took care of two who passed away from canine cancer. I agree - Hate that scale!

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  6. BMI is a flawed methodology. End of story.
    I admit the possibility that a "morbidly obese" person could be a good parent, especially if there is some medical condition driving the obesity, and they are actively working to control it. If the obesity is coming from a lack of knowledge about nutrition or meal planning or portion sizes, or some unresolved emotional issue, then allowing them to adopt is child abuse.
    That said, having a loving obese parent is better than having no parent at all, isn't it?

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  7. I think it is sheer craziness that people have to go to other countries to adopt a child in the first place. I was adopted for $500 in paperwork 41 years ago from right here in Maine. Are there not enough unwanted children right here in the US that we have to go to china? Is it too hard to adopt here in the states? What has happened? What is different?

    To your other question, that is a difficult one. One could argue that a food addiction is as unhealthy as an alcohol or drug addiction. I think we spend so much time trying to be PC and not discriminate against the obese. Like it's not a choice that they make each day. It is. We all know it is.

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  8. In fact, I followed the link and went to look at the chart. I would need to drop 10 pounds to squeak into the optimum range. Thats where I was the day before I did IMC, and that's the lightest I've been in my adult life. I cannot accept that someone my height could be healthy at 160 pounds, which is the bottom range of optimum. Even in our society obsessed with being thin (except in the boob department) that seems emaciated, not thin. If you go look at the paintings done throughout history, most of the women are at least plump, and mostly outright fat by our standards, and that is what was considered beautiful. Even Marilyn Monroe would be considered plump by today's standards.

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  9. I could definitely see the wisdom in either argument. I know overweight parents who do a wonderful job, but I also know an obese women who consumed so much fat that she developed pancreatitis, almost died, and spent 8 months in the ICU. She was 41. Her three high schoolers had to leave the Christian school they had attended since kindergarten to go to one of Louisiana's fine public schools (sarcasm), the family sold their second car, and mom was on a ventilator in a coma for her daughter's graduation. She miraculously survived, but she is an invalid for life and her whole family life is changed. So there are certainly obesity complications that create hardships for kids.

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  10. I don't usually comment... but I will on this one.

    2 years ago in November I decided to lose weight. I lost 120 lbs in 7 months and have kept it off since then. I had a BMI of 39.9 when I was at my highest weight. (270 lbs at 5'9 at age 23). Looking back on it now, I would NEVER have wanted a child in my ownership when I was in that lifestyle. I didn't know how to read a nutrition label, I was lazy, I didn't care about myself or my life or well being - I KNOW that if I hadn't lost over 100 pounds and commited to a life of running and exercise and ditched the old lifestyle of taco bell at 2am, I would have died before I turned 35.

    Anyways... that's just my 2 cents. :)

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  11. What an interesting post! My mother is obese (probably even morbidly!) and although she is very loving and supportive, she is a terrible example to my sister and I regarding taking care of herself. She chooses a poor diet and a pretty sedentary lifestyle, which has hurt her relationship with my father, made her unable to work a steady full-time job which has hurt our family's financial situation, and she never implemented exercise or vegetables into our lives. As a result I have had to teach myself that she is an example of how not to be and it is incredibly disappointing. I try to inspire her and provide resources to help her but nothing seems to work so I put that energy to more productive use by improving my future. I now love vegetables and am training for my first half-marathon.

    It's hard to put a number on weight/BMI to signify good parenting but I do think a healthy lifestyle should be put into consideration when adopting. If you want to be responsible for someone's life, you should have to have some responsibility for yourself first.

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  12. I usually don't post, but this is too close to my heart. In response to the post as to why we adopted from China and not the USA...#1 it's not anyone's business #2 do a little bit of research...each state is different, Maine may be an "easy adoption" state but our state is not. The birth mom and dad had more rights than the parents that wanted a baby and wanted to adopt....I was not interested in being a foster mom. Adoption from China was the right thing for us and that is all that matters.

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  13. I say fat parents are better than no parents. There are plenty of people who are parents who are aren't nearly fit to be parents as someone classified as obese.

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  14. I think many (not all) morbid obesity is a result of an unhealthy lifestyle and I think the govt is just trying to make sure the children of the families they live with will not become a statistic. Yes, you can be a loving parent no matter the size, but can you can't give a child the adventures (hiking, biking, etc) they deserve when you can't partake in those activities yourself.

    Happy New Year, chica! :)

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  15. Glad some others have pointed out some of the issues with Bmi. I can imagine some weightlifters or discus throwers who would push a 40 BMI and be elite athletes! Health not weight should be the measure, especially as we seem obsessed with being on the lower end of normal on the Bmi scale, yet studies show that those who are slightly overweight (ie Bmi 26-29) actually have better health.

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  16. I know someone who is very overweight and has adopted one child from China (prior to 2007). She is loving, caring and that little girl could not have a better mother than her. I don't think people's weight should be taken into consideration for adoption.

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  17. Thank you SO much for this post. And read "Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture" by Amy Farrell for more on the correlation (or lack thereof!) of good health and fatness.

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  18. allowing yourself to be morbidly obese first of all, is not "good health" but also adoption agencies would look down upon someone who endangered their life daily and had risky habits (smoking, motorcycle racing, drugs habits, etc) so just because weight is a taboo subject doesnt mean it is less risky. the parents are leaving their health at risk. that doesnt mean they are unfit parents, they can still offer love and care and be great examples for children in make aspects of life, but i think it is something to consider

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  19. Intersting....I posted on my blog a while back my blood work numbers when I was obese and then just last month. Both numbers were considered normal. Infact when I was obese I still qualified for normal Life insurnace because my blood work came back healthy as person in a normal BMI. I am think that just a person should not be disqualified based on weight, there are many other factors to consider.

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  20. BMI is certainly an imperfect metric, but c'mon, 40?? I can see if it says you're overweight and you're really just muscular or big-boned, but that's nothing like a 40. If your BMI is a 40 then you're either physically or psychologically unable to care for yourself, much less someone else.
    That said, any parent is better than none, if that is the option.

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  21. No. The BMI is flawed; at best, it tells you the risk for a large group of people with a height-weight ratio that comes to that number. Doesn't say whether any one individual will die next week, or in his or her bed at age 104. Doesn't tell you what their cholesterol is, or the fat-to-muscle ratio, or what they eat, or how many marathons they've finished. (And yes, there are people with BMIs over 40 who are endurance athletes.)

    Also, I don't want people looking at my purchase of, for example, three six-packs of beer and deciding I'm an alcoholic (I'm not, but I do stock up when our favorites are on sale) so I'm not going to look at anyone else's size or purchases or food consumption and automatically assume anything about them. *shrugs* Especially something as inchoate as whether they're a 'good' parent or not.

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  22. Absolutes clearly don't work but their needs to be guidelines and that is what the BMI provides us. Yes there are people out there that are all muscle that fall into certain categories but the BMI is a guide and not an end all be all. It seems to me that China picked a # that cannot be disputed in terms of obesity and it makes sense to me. Yes they might be good hearted but if they won't take care of themselves then the notion of them taking care of a child would seem to not be of utmost priority.

    My question is why go across the globe to adopt a child? There are plenty of children here that can and should be adopted. That part I truly don't understand.

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  23. I think they need to figure out a better way to test BMI....it just doesn't seem correct.

    (I am considered normal weight (...edging to slightly overweight with this holiday gain ...... but I know others who look better that are considered bigger??)

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  24. I think BMI is a good gage of someone's fitness and overall health if it is done correctly. Plugging in your height/weight and coming up with a number is BS. According to their chart I my BMI is 21.5(which is fine) but my *actual* BMI is 12-13 (I am a runner) via bioimpedance(sp- the electrical testing)as MUSCLE WEIGHS MORE THAN FAT!!! You could be 5'5" and weigh 150lbs and be called obese...and not have a ick of fat on your body! Those charts are rediculous and shoud be burnt.

    As far as adoption goes...I would think if you pass whatever qualification standards there are to adopt in the first pace your weight should have NOTHING to do with it. Those children need loving homes...are overweight people less capable of love? I think not. I do think people should try to adopt locally before they go overseas, but if it is not possible to adopt here, than have at it. Anyone who adopts a child is a hero in my book.

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  25. 40 is very high. Bmi is flawed. There is so much that should be taken into account other than weight. I struggle with my weight. Blood work and all have been in healthy range. I am aware of my struggle and do my best as a parent to help my children not have my same struggles. They are active and have a good relationship with food. Being overweight does not always mean a person isn't a healthy eater and lazy. There are no absolutes.

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  26. Yes, it often is too expensive, too complicated and too heartbreaking to adopt domestically. And really, an abandonned kid is an abandonned kid. Does one deserve to be adopted more than another because of where they were born?

    The rules that China sets seem strict but South Korea is strict also. It is frustrating when you want to be a parent and it seems everyone else can have a kid (health problems, legal issues, single parents, etc.) and you have to make it through a maze of rules to adopt. Thankfully my husband and I were young with no legal issues and now have a 10 and an 8 y.o. adopted from China.

    BMI may not indicate health but I think China was trying to make it as simple as possible. I'm sure that the rules will change again.

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  27. wow, fascinating. I had no idea that these kinds of regulations existed, and what a tough issue. reading through the comments, I kind of agree...a BMI over 40 is probably a symptom of a more serious issue, but, whew. tough stuff!

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  28. BMI is such a tiny part of the overall picture. When I started my fitness journey, I was in the upper 30s, but my only health issue was slightly high blood pressure, which was really a product of my anxiety rather than my weight.

    I think anyone who wishes to adopt--obese, a little overweight, at healthy weight or underweight, should be screened extensively before adopting. Sure, someone who is obese may (but may not) pass bad eating and lifestyle habits on to a child...but it is also possible that someone who is at a healthy weight will place too much emphasis on weight, BMI and fitness on a child, causing problems for that child down the road with body image, eating disorders, etc.

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  29. This is very interesting! I work for an organization that advocates on behalf of foster children so adoption or reunification are always the end goal. Getting the kids out of the system is the most important thing for us. Sending a child to a home with a morbidly obese adoptive parent in some way seems better than leaving them in a group home setting, however, long term, is this the best option for them? Will that person be able to properly care for the child with all of the limitations they have due to their obesity? These are just questions - I don't have an answer. But it is very interesting.

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  30. Overweight adults (even those with a BMI of 40) can provide nurturing, happy, and safe environments for children. Seems like there are more important issues to consider when it comes to adoption.

    And sometimes, obesity is actually the result of hormones that have gone awry, and it has little to do with the dietary behavior, or activity level of the adult.

    Sure, thinner adults might model some healthy behaviors, but in the big picture, isn't it more important to have loving parents than thin parents?

    And, just because a potential adoptive parent is thin, it doesn't mean they would provide the love and discipline that the children would need. Plus, we all know that thinness doesn't equate fitness. There's a large population of skinny fat folks who can't teach their kids crap about being fit.

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  31. From my experience, a child can go into a normal weight family and end up with obesity issues based on the emotional weight of foster care and adoption. There are other issues at play here.

    In addition, this is something I have struggled with as an infertile woman who cannot meet domestic adoption criteria for other health reasons.

    Interesting discussion. BMI sucks. Wish there were a better answer.

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  32. Another tough one. On the one hand--the poor habits of obese parents are not good for the kids. And you never know what health issues they may be or will be facing as a consequence. On the other hand--an orphanage vs. a set of loving parents. I'd probably go for getting the kids into a family, in spite of everything.

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  33. Didn't know this is what you did outside of running. We have 13 children - 2 foster, 5 adopted and 6 biological. I was a foster mom for ten years. I think we're all different in how we feel about adoption and need to choose our own path. I love my life and family. It morphed over time into what it is and every decision was individual but it's been a great ride. I think a lot of things should be taken into consideration with adoptive parents and obesity is a health issue. Where the line is drawn is the gray area. Yes, children need homes, but as a child with an overweight, unhealthy parent that's not necessarily a good option. But still there is so much to take into consideration. This is just one piece.

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  34. Interesting topic! My parents are both obese and sedentary. Its sad to see them in their mid-sixties living like they are eighty, all because they couldn't push back from the table. No hormones awry etc etc. just lack of discipline. But I never doubted that they loved me. On the flip side my SIL is extremely thin/anorexic and is the worst parent I have ever seen. She has force-fed her children (both domestically adopted, ironically) into obesity. The 7 y.o. has type-1 diabetes and lives on chips, crackers, milk and cookies. Vegetables? Lean meat? Whole grains? Don't be ridiculous! I have seen her eat one healthy thing ~ a banana! It makes me so absolutely insane to be around them that I have stopped going to family functions. So. Fat or thin doesn't seem to make much of a difference. Either can be equally as loving or bat-s*** crazy.

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  35. I agree with the chinese government on this, if an adult thinks that they have the ability to take care of a child, then they should first and foremost be able to take care of themselves. it would not be fair to take a healthy child and put it in a household where junk food and laziness is prominent. I think that it would be a form of abuse!

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  36. I'm SO excited about Biggest Loser...woohoo! I think all people can be great parents, however I do think health can get in the way of the quality of life for the children and those parents. Restrictions and sedentary lifestyles can definitely have a negative impact on the children being adopted.

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  37. As a parent of a child I adopted internationally the biggest eye opener for both my husband and myself were all of the "different" rules you had to abide by. South Korea can be tough as well. China would not even accept our dossier until I turned 30, I was 28 at the time. The BMI issue was not a problem for us, but I can understand why they have it. It breaks my heart to see obese people scooting around in scooters because of their obesity and obesity related problems. Our travel partner was almost denied her decree because she was a single mom (new judge). On a side note, adoption is a personal choice. To adopt internationally or domestically is a huge decision. Until you have researched it and considered all of the rules and stipulations that go along with it, I think it is unfair to make the suggestion that people should adopt domestically.

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  38. Considering some things I've read about how the children live in the orphanages I think they should let them be adopted by "fat" people. If someone is serious enough to go through all the hoops to adopt a baby from another country they should let them. I doubt it will be worse than being underfed in a crib all day.

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  39. Speaking as an obese person...I realise what my weight is doing to me. I am also doing something about it. But it doesn't happen overnight. That being said, I have a 3 year old son who I look forward to riding bikes with and hiking with someday soon. But I don't think I will be trying to adopt a child. Not that I shouldn't be allowed to because I have been told that I am a good mother...even great sometimes. I am practically obsessed with my son eating healthy. I didn't even want him to eat sugary, fried foods at all but other family members exposed him to it and now it's all he wants :(. I will continue to cook us balanced, healthy meals...and gradually phase out the junk.

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  40. I admit the possibility that a "morbidly obese" person could be a good parent, especially if there is some medical condition driving the obesity, and they are actively working to control it. If the obesity is coming from a lack of knowledge about nutrition or meal planning or portion sizes, or some unresolved emotional issue, then allowing them to adopt is child abuse. Rabeprazole Sodium

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