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Teenage girls are too fat or too thin - schools have to share the blame

TEENAGE girls in Ireland are among the heaviest in Europe -- the third heaviest, to be precise, according to the latest findings of the World Health Organisation.

It might be the only occasion where there is consolation to be drawn from not coming first. But we've been granted the equivalent of the bronze medal of obesity; not exactly something to brag about.

But who is surprised by this? Look around you: we as a nation are not exactly poster children for healthy living.

We are seeing eating disorders develop among a much younger demographic and now we are met with the news that, at the other end of the eating disorder spectrum, the obesity epidemic taking over this country is growing some serious legs.

It angers me when I see a young girl, already visibly overweight, tucking into a breakfast roll (even if it's not breakfast time) and washing it down with a can of Coke.

It might sound like a stereotype, but it's one that makes my blood boil.

Sure, in a perfect world, we'd all be eating an organic, high-protein diet, but that's a luxury not afforded to many -- myself included.

But apples, to pick one example, are cheap -- they're cheaper than a can of Coke -- so why don't we buy them?

There seem to be only two extremes these days: either you're anorexic or obese.

Rarely do I see a teenage girl walking home after school, still red in the face from a hockey match and resembling something of a healthy weight.

And yes, it's easy to blame the parents. But what about that place where they send their children for more than eight hours every day -- school?

It is the responsibility of our education system to, dare I say it, actually educate.

Teenage girls need to know the importance of taking care of their bodies. Home economics is probably the closest representation on the curriculum and it is still only an optional module.

By passing the blame back and forth between parents and school, the only thing we achieve is evading any real responsibility.

Why can't we just introduce a new curriculum in primary and secondary schools, featuring compulsory talks, courses and interactive activities emphasising the importance of healthy eating and body confidence?

A word to the wise, though; don't bring in a middle-aged "expert" who claims to be connected to the youth. Send in someone in their 20s -- someone whom students can actually relate to.