A new study published online in the March issue of Pediatrics found that 51 percent of parents with overweight or obese children don’t believe their kids are too heavy. This perception is also true at the other spectrums of weight. When a parent describes their child as being underweight to me and argues that the child needs all the high fat, high calorie foods they want, I usually plot the child’s weight on the CDC growth chart to see if they are truly underweight. About 95 percent of the time, the child is not underweight but normal weight.
I believe if we do a similar study as the one published in Pediatrics among adults, we may find similar results. Recently, I watched a show about a young African American woman who told her family she wanted to participate in a reality weight loss program. No-one supported her decision because they all felt that she really wasn’t that overweight for that kind of show. When she announced she weighed 340 pounds, the silence in the room was palpable. None of them really thought she was that heavy! So I guess, we can give parents a break. As a society, it seems we have a lack of understanding of what a healthy weight looks like.
As the medical director at the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition, I see the disconnect between a child’s actual weight and parents’ perception of the child’s weight every day. Sometimes, the denial may be a parent’s protective mechanism to help them deal with problem. However, Studies show that that parents feed or make decisions based on their perception rather than the their child’s actual weight.
Learn the Truth About Your Child’s Weight
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese. The CDC assesses children’s weight according to their body mass index (BMI) growth charts. Children in the 85th to 94th percentile are considered overweight, while those in the 95th or above are classified as obese. Unsure where your child ranks? Use this calculator for children aged 2 through 19 to find out.
Unfortunately, childhood obesity causes both immediate and long-term effects on health and well being. If your child is overweight or obese, what can you do as parents to promote a healthier lifestyle for your kids?
Remember, as a parent is that it’s your responsibility to feed your child well and teach them how to eat well. Same thing applies for activity- it’s your responsibility to support and help them with opportunities to be active. This includes setting screen time limits too!
So, What can you do as parents to promote a healthier lifestyle for your kids? Be their role model! Start by looking at what you are doing in your home, take an inventory for the last 3 days and pick 2 small changes to make. Get the family into a new routine by encouraging healthy eating habits, . Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your meals, spend less time in front of the screen and more time doing physical activity.
If you are interested in learning more about how to help your child achieve a healthy weight, or if you would like to request an appointment, visit the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition online.
Ihuoma U. Eneli, MD, MS is medical director at the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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