Recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and other research shows that doctors are ignoring childhood weight issues. Parents and kids hate talking about weight too. Many of us avoid weight conversations at all costs.
It’s too bad really, because like it or not, childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high. Childhood weight is not a slowly rising trend either. Rates of overweight kids have risen extremely quickly – more quickly than what you’d expect, given past statistics in America.
I don’t think that childhood weight and health issues should be off-limits. I think we need more frequent discussions about childhood weight and health in general in this country.
Not everyone agrees…
I’ve written about childhood weight issues before, for various clients. Also, when I was in college nursing clinicals I had to discuss weight issues with parents of overweight kids. Lastly, childhood weight issues have also come up with friends of mine in general discussions.
In most of these cases I’ve found that people HATE talking about childhood weight. In my experience, if weight comes up, especially childhood weight, people take major offense that the issue was even brought up in the first place.
Weight issues are still taboo
Although more children than ever are overweight, this is still considered an off-limit topic. Once I wrote a piece for a client simply about how parents should limit fast food because of growing obesity statistics. Readers got very mad, called me names, said I was a bully and accused me of being “anti-fatties.” One reader even told me that I should quit saying, “Fat people are the cause of all evil” – which by the way, I did not say, and would never say. I’ve had parents in clinical settings get extremely upset if weight comes up, even if the child is well over the typical BMI measurements for his age.
I get it. Weight is a sensitive topic even for adults, but more so for kids and even more so for parents. In fact, it’s not JUST weight that’s taboo. Many parents I’ve met don’t even think it’s proper to discuss activity (exercise), nutrition or other basics of a healthy lifestyle with their kids.
Before you freak out…
Before you decide that I’m the most evil writer ever for discussing childhood weight, nutrition or activity keep in mind that childhood obesity, whether you like it or not, is a real health concern for many kids and teens.
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years and according to the CDC, approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese, and that’s not counting overweight kids. Research shows that as many as 90% of overweight children already have at least one of a half-dozen avoidable risk factors for heart disease. Worse, this is literally the very first generation of kids expected to have a shorter life-span, on average, than their parents, and research shows that this is due to excess weight.
Parents in American may not want to discuss childhood weight or health issues, but dancing around weight discussions and healthy habits may be detrimental for this generation of kids.
Also consider that other serious issues aren’t as off-limits…
The Nemours Foundation notes that 1 in 3 kids are considered overweight or obese – 1 in 3.
Fewer adolescents than 1 in 3 smoke, drink alcohol or have sex. These issues are serious, so yes, it’s good to know many kids refrain from these activities, yet here’s the problem – a recent survey shows that parents would rather discuss drug use, smoking and sex with their kids, before discussing weight issues.
Before you take it out on me
If you want to leave a comment or send me an email about how I’m lame for even bringing weight up, feel free. But before sending that email or leaving that comment, you may want to ask yourself – should talking about childhood weight, nutrition and exercise be off-limits OR should these topics be part of normal healthy family conversations?
If talking about weight and related healthy topics is hard for you or you’re mad that I even suggest it, it may be time to deal with those feelings. Ask yourself why you feel the need to hide this issue from your kids. If you feel guilty or upset when you even hear about these issues and statistics, you should attempt to get to the root of why.
As a parent, it is your job to help your child be as healthy as he or she can be. It’s not my job. it’s also not the job of your child’s school, fast food companies, commercials or anyone else. Yes, marketing plays a part in with regards to childhood health issues, but you are the parent. You have the first and final word about the food you buy and the habits you help, or don’t help your kids develop.
What I believe
I’m not about kids on major diets or stigmatizing words. What I am about is healthy kids. Childhood weight and health is more than just an actual number on the scale, it’s also about healthy habits, being active, eating well and feeling great. It’s important to address these issue for your child’s health and future.
I’m not the enemy. My goal is not to hurt parent’s feelings or make everyone feel guilty. I simply don’t agree that weight and diet and exercise should be taboo kid topics. One, I think childhood weight is a major issue that needs to be addressed, just like any other health issue. Two, most research shows that parents don’t see when their kids are overweight, and often it’s because doctors don’t say a word – which I don’t think is okay.
Lastly, and most importantly…
I don’t think kids are so mindless that they can’t have honest conversations with parents about these issues. Kids are smart – and they’ll use those smarts to make healthy decisions if we value our kids enough to let them. We’ll discuss smoking and sex with our kids, so why not weight and diet?
I’m very concerned when I see kids growing up on a steady fast food diet. I’m not thrilled that kids spend so much time sitting in front of screens vs. exercising and playing. It’s concerning when I see young kids at the park who can barely run or climb a tree. When most adolescents you see have bellies hanging over their pants, yes, it’s a serious reason for concern. I’d like for this generation of kids to be healthy kids who won’t grow up to have diabetes and heart disease.