The Boys Scouts of America (BSA) recently announced that scouts and scout leaders with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher would be banned from its annual Jamboree.
We at Healthy Futures add our voices to those of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) in asking Boy Scouts of America to reconsider this policy.
According to news stories, BSA defends this exclusionary policy as a way to encourage a “healthy lifestyle” among scouts and leaders.
As experts in the eating disorder field, we at Healthy Futures assure the BSA their new policy will have unintended, negative effects and we strongly urge a reconsideration of the exclusionary policy for these three reasons:
1. The policy centers on BMI – BMI never was intended to be the sole indicator of health and should not be used in that way. It is one small piece of a complex puzzle.
2. The policy encourages “crash dieting” and other unhealthy eating. Scouts and leaders should be made aware that weight loss, if necessary, is part of an overall healthy lifestyle and should be undertaken under medical and/or professional care.
3. The policy centers weight-loss motivation on shame. Overwhelming evidence shows using shame as a motivator can, at times, bring about short-term results, but in the long term can be extremely emotionally damaging.
We sincerely hope Boy Scouts of America reconsiders this exclusionary policy.