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Do parents accurately perceive their child's weight status?

Posted Oct 21 2009 10:03pm

It has been reported in the past that up to 90% of parents do not correctly identify the level of their child's overweightness, risk for obesity, and thus, associated health risks.  The latest research seems to back this up...  

A study just recently came out regarding parent's perception of their child's weight status.  It is eye-opening!  Over 550 parent-child pairs of children ages 5-12 were involved -- it was reported that  "86% of parents of obese and overweight  children misclassified them as overweight or normal weight, respectively" (Medscape,  Edmunds and Scudder,   My Child Is Not Fat , October 2009).

In other words ...  wake up, parents and primary caregivers!  A significant majority of us underestimate our child's weight -- possibly due to denial or unrealistic optimism or we ourselves being overweight or being too busy to really take notice the expanding waistlines of our children or feel helpless despite seeing warning signs.  Whatever the cause, the family, as a whole, needs to be aware of the situation in their household and take charge!  

Here are a few tips and suggestions:

  • Make healthy living a priority in all of your family members and hold each other accountable -- not only for their own life and health but that of their brother, sister, parent, child, or spouse.
  • Talk to your child's physician regarding your concerns.  It can be determined whether of not your child is, in fact, overweight or obese and at risk for present an future health problems by simply having their  BMI  (Body Mass index)  and other key factors evaluated.  It's a great start.
  • If you yourself are also overweight or obese, talk to your own physician.  
  • See or talk to a weight management specialist.  There are physicians who specialize in both adult and pediatric weight issues that can help - this is what they are trained to do and many have a passion for doing just this -- helping you though the tough phases of weight management ( my training zone  - child and adolescent weight management or  American Society of Bariatric Physicians ).
  • Enroll the  entire family  (yes, including yourself) in exercise and active programs whether before-, after- school or weekend programs. It could be as simple as exercising close to home or going to the local park or signing up for a gym membership.
  • Read, read, read!  Inform yourself from reliable sources regarding healthy living -- the more education and information you have, the more easily you will integrate these changes that work for your family and children.  No family is alike and no two children are alike. It is very important to tailor what you read to what will work for you and your family.  Good places to start are the  my pyramid  and  kidshealth  websites for parents, teen, and children.
  • Be aware of what your children are eating -- nagging is never very effective but facilitating proper eating like helping them  pack their lunches , letting them provide input on meals, and having healthy snacks at home ready when they arrive sure help!
  • Always start your kids' day (and your own) with a good breakfast.  It has been proven that when you do not eat breakfast, the rest of the day you will be famished and are way more likely to overeat by dinner time, leading to unwanted retention of excess calories.
  • Take a little extra time  at the grocery store  and become an informed, smart consumer!
  • Be an example to your kids -- actions speak louder than words (and those of you with teenagers sure know that!).  

Embark on this journey with them, share your thoughts and challenges with each other, use this time as quality time, not fighting about food or exercise.  Make it fun... your kids will thank you for it!

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