Back in 2001, the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota surveyed 234 Girl Scouts and found that almost one-third of them were trying to lose weight. Most of these children were doing sensible things like shunning high-fat foods and engaging in more exercise. Here’s the scary part:
12 girls said they were already taking diet pills, inducing vomiting and/or using laxatives to shed unwanted pounds.
All the girls in the survey were approximately 10 years old! Ten years later, healthy living enthusiast Stephanie Hoaglund published her thoughts about seeing thousands of Girl Scouts converge on Washington for the organization’s 100th anniversary celebration. The sight of a great many overweight troop leaders left her saddened, disappointed, angered, and annoyed.
With no intention of criticizing the Girl Scouts as a whole, she was moved to write about the experience, suggesting programs that would help both the kids and the troop leaders get and stay in shape, as well as some serious re-engineering of the cookie recipes. Hoaglund wrote:
If the Girl Scouts as an organization is truly behind empowering girls and helping them succeed in LIFE, they owe them nothing less than going all in and really backing up their words about overall health and fitness goals.
An anonymous blogger known as Dances With Fat displayed a bit of attitude the following year. First, it upset DWF that the Girl Scouts adhered to an oft-disputed “persistent myth,” the energy balance theory of weight control. A proponent of simple observation and anecdotal evidence, the writer argued:
Almost everyone knows someone who eats tons of food never works out and stays thin. On the other side, almost everyone knows a fat person who eats healthy and exercises but doesn’t lose weight (although, curiously, the calories in /calories out proponents typically say that the former is perfectly normal and the latter is impossible).
DWF also noted that in the previous decade, hospitalization of children under 12 for eating disorders had risen by 119%. Worse, the Scouts had made what the writer characterized as a “massive misstep” by partnering with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, which apparently charged the GSA $250,000 for some kind of weight control program. Despite having “foundation” in its name, this is not a nonprofit group. According to the writer,
These people are interested in promoting ‘energy balance’ because it takes [the] focus off the quality of the food…. They get to say that they are ‘doing something’ about childhood obesity… and they are doing [it] with … government money and, unbelievably, public donations….
There is plenty of evidence that suggests that teaching calorie counting to Brownies and Girl Scouts makes them more likely to develop eating disorders and an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.
Was DWF correct to be suspicious of such a well-paid organization whose present and previous board members included the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, the CEO of the Hy-Vee retail chain, the CEO of Kellogg’s LINK, and — wait for it — a board president who was also on the board of the Girl Scouts? Could anyone be blamed for detecting in this arrangement a faint whiff of conflict of interest?
Then more recently, Dr. John Mandrola got all over the GSA’s case for “selling high-fat sugar-laden cookies to an increasing calorie-addicted populace.” He maintains that such a practice certainly does not build character. He calls the cookie sales “profiteering at the expense of public health” and concludes: “It’s simply not right.”
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Preteen Girls Hop On Dieting Bandwagon,” ChicagoTribune.com, 03/14/01
Source: “Girl Scouts vs. Health and Fitness,” LiveFitandSore.com, 2011
Source: “Girl Scouts – Cookie Sales and Calorie Counting?” danceswithfat.wordpress.com, 05/23/12
Source: “Dear Girl Scouts: It’s time to cut out the cookies,” DrJohnM.org, 03/16/14
Image by North Charleston