How to Talk to Kids About Their Weight

No Easy Task

There is a childhood obesity problem in the United States. All the lab coat types tell us what we’re already seeing with our own eyes. Crappy food and hours of video game play do not a skinny Johnny make. There are many issues conspiring to create overweight kids, but now, we may have a bigger problem.

First, kids don’t know they are overweight, even if they are. A recent study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, discovered that fewer of today’s adolescents self-identify as overweight. They may be beyond the optimum weight range, but are blissfully unaware. This, at the same time that more kids are actually beyond the bounds of normalcy with respect to weight. It’s a bad combination.

For parents who are aware of their child’s weight problem, the seemingly obvious thing to do is have a talk with them about healthy eating and exercise choices. That’s what I’d do….. and I’d be wrong! Well, sort of.

According to yet another adolescent obesity study, this one from researchers at the University of Minnesota, addressing the weight loss topic with adolescents (the average age of the study participants was 14.4 years) can have all manner of bad consequences, including triggering eating disorders.

Talking to Kids About Weight Problems

Up front, the straight poop is don’t. Don’t talk to them about weight. The key is in knowing how to speak with them and what to discuss, researchers found. Scientists found that discussing healthy eating behaviors was more beneficial than talking about weight and size. That held true whether one’s children were overweight or not.

1)Talking about healthy eating with the kids resulted in significantly lower rates of unhealthy weight loss behaviors than avoiding the subject altogether.

2) Extreme unhealthy eating behaviors were far more prevalent in kids whose parents discussed healthy eating vs those who discussed weight and size. The difference was stark 5.9% vs 1.6%, a nearly 400% increase!

As a parent, how you handle the situation is vital. It’s not simply that overweight adolescents need to be handled just right. Research shows that kids starting off on the wrong dietary foot have huge problems righting the ship. How you address things now can have a huge impact on the rest of their lives. Properly speaking to your kids about their weight (i.e. don’t mention it), really involves healthy eating discussions instead; but it’s still very difficult.

Had the birds and bees talk? What about the drinking conversation? Well, this next one’s only going to be more difficult. A 2011 WebMd study¬† found that parents have more problems talking with their kids about obesity problems than about sex, drugs, or drinking.

Like so many other difficult things in life, it may be tough, but it’s important, and can change the course of your child’s life for better or worse. Speak to their doctor and decide how you’re going to address the situation. Their future depends on it.

If you’ve had to confront an overweight situation with a child, how did you handle it? It would help others in your shoes, thanks!