Overweight Children and Obesity

More and more we’re hearing about how the obesity rate in children is increasing. Many experts say that today’s sedentary lifestyle is the culprit.

With children spending more time plugged into television and computers, and less time outdoors, it’s not surprising that studies show a pattern of children’s weight increasing and their activity level decreasing. Still, while it’s important that parents provide their children with good nutrition and opportunities to stay fit, obsession about a child’s weight can lead to other problems.

Dr. Miriam Kaufman, pediatrician and co-author of All Shapes and Sizes provides criteria for when your child’s few extra pounds are a health concern and when they are not. “If your child can do everything that they want to do and everything that you think they should be able to do like running for a bus, if they seem happy with themselves and how they look, if they’re not being teased, then I think that there may be a possibility that the parent is putting their own weight preoccupation onto the child and they want their child to look like the models in the magazines, or the kids on the TV, or whatever. It’s very important to pull back in that situation and ask, ‘Who am I doing this for? Am I doing it for my child, or for me?’”

Dr. Kaufman adds that instead of focusing on a child’s size “parents should let their kids know what things about them they think are really terrific. There’s a lot more to us than how we look. And in many societies of course, many North Americans would look outrageously thin and unattractive because of that. But there’s much more to most children. And a lot of these kids feel so bad about themselves, that they’re not doing anything. So it’s very important that parents help get those kids involved in things they can do well.”

Dr. Lance Levy agrees that too much emphasis can be placed on the size of a child rather than what’s going on inside a child. However, he does feel that weight problems, particularly obesity, should be taken seriously to ensure that there is neither a physical or emotional problem behind it. “I think what you want to do, is to get behind the obvious which is ‘yes this child is obese’, that information is immaterial. You want to get behind it, and find out what’s going on in their heart, what’s going on in their head. Are they physically uncomfortable? Is there something physically going wrong? You want to look at the interpersonal relationships, family dynamics, peer group interactions. That’s the treatment of obesity, not diets.”

If you feel that your child’s weight could effect his health, either physically or emotionally, then have him seen by doctor. Otherwise, it’s best to take a relaxed attitude and accept and love your child for the unique individual he is.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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