Ronjanae broke down recently. She said she felt like “the only overweight child at this school.”
This is not true, but it is understandable that she feels this way. Students who struggle with obesity are more likely to be avoided by peers and adults. (Find a powerful resource for examining your own size bias here.) So it feels especially important to make sure Ronjanae feels connected. We want her to know she is an important part of our school community, and also that she is certainly not alone in her struggles with weight-related health issues.
Our school counselor asked the nurse to facilitate a health-themed support group for some of our obese scholars. It was a great idea. Now we have plans for walks to the park and conversations for a small group of high-needs children a couple of hours each week.
While perusing resources to help the nurse plan her groups, I was happy to find many that focus on valuing the diversity of sizes and body types, rather than simply emphasizing exercise and nutrition. While fitness and a healthy diet plan are certainly important variables to be address, a discussion of what it really means to be healthy can’t stop there. Attention must also be paid to the emotions, thinking patterns and individual life situations that factor into a person’s physical health.
The word “health” comes from the same root as the word “whole.” It makes sense that we should support the whole person if our aim is to support their health. I’m excited for the group at our school to start. These students deserve a special community within our school that takes extra time to validate the unique experiences each has had relating to their weight. I hope it can help Ronjanae realize that she is a precious part of what makes our school whole—and healthy.
Craven is a social and emotional interventionist in Louisiana.