anads-open-letter-to-the-boy-scouts-of-america

ANAD’s Open Letter to the Boy Scouts of America

Dan McCarthy
Summit Group Director
Boy Scouts of America
National Headquarters
PO Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079

Tico Perez
National Commissioner
Boy Scouts of America
National Headquarters
PO Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079

Dear Mr. Dan McCarthy and Mr. Tico Perez,

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), an eating disorder advocacy group, would like to express our outrage over the decision by the Boy Scouts of America’s to use BMI (Body Mass Index) to restrict some of its members from participating in its 2013 Jamboree.

The Boy Scouts of America mandated that no one (child or adult) with a BMI of 40 or greater would be allowed to attend, thereby excluding several of its own members.  According to Tico Perez on the BSA website, “its members have been given advance notice regarding the BMI guidelines.”  Mr. Perez further stated that he hoped the guidelines would inspire children and adults alike to lose weight.

ANAD strongly disagrees with the use of BMI as the determiner of whether or not its members are allowed to participate in the Jamboree.  BMI was never intended to be a sole indicator of determining an individual’s health or fitness. This exclusivity by The Boy Scouts of America appears to be based on the illusion that thinness equals fitness.  There is no evidence to support the idea that excluding an individual will effectively change a person’s weight, as shaming encourages only unhealthy and restrictive behaviors.

Additionally, Mr. Perez implies that individuals with a BMI greater than 40 would be unable to hike uphill a half mile each day to the staff camp or to hike 3 miles of mountain trails–and even if they could, they would not enjoy it.  ANAD would like the Boy Scouts of America to be aware that a BMI does not indicate what a person’s physical abilities are, and a BMI does indicate what an individual would or would not enjoy.  ANAD is very concerned with the Boy Scouts’ harmful attitude concerning weight, which may encourage and contribute to the development of unhealthy behaviors that can lead to inactivity, social isolation and eating disorders.  Encouraging youth to lose weight in order to participate in an event of major importance can contribute to the development of these unhealthy behaviors.

Although the Boy Scouts of America aims to teach its members to maintain a sustainable, healthy lifestyle, it seems as though it is only meant for men and boys with BMI less than 40. This exclusionary policy that you have created is not only denying larger boys the opportunity to challenge themselves in physical activities and the feeling of confidence one feels after successful completion of an endurance activity, but it is also denying them the atmosphere of camaraderie.  Young men living in larger bodies should be encouraged to engage in events that promote physical fitness instead of being denied opportunities to improve both their emotional and physical health.

ANAD does acknowledge that your 2013 Jamboree includes a component of endurance. It is our recommendation that the Boy Scouts of America seriously considers changing its policy to one that focuses on endurance and physical exertion standards, regardless of a person’s size or BMI.  If any individual is unable to or uncomfortable with the idea of hiking a half mile to camp or hiking along the three mile trail, then the Jamboree may not be the type of event they want to participate in. With guidelines set around endurance and exertion, the Boy Scouts of America may find that individuals with a BMI less than 40 may still want to opt out of this event due to physical limitations or disinterest.

Finally, we would remind the Boy Scouts of America of their creed and the commitment the organization has made to help build character and promote responsibility of its members.  This Jamboree has stated that it will focus on the 3C’s; cardio, character and citizenship.  It is ANAD’s hope that the Boy Scouts of America’s National Counsel has the character to look at this policy and see the damaging message it is sending to our youth.  It is ANAD’s hope that the Boy Scouts of America will stand up for all young men, regardless of their size, to demonstrate the importance of physical fitness for all sizes and body types.

Sincerely,

Laura Discipio, LCSW

Executive Director