Helping Your Obese Child to Lose Weight: Choose Words Carefully

A new study found that certain terms to describe a child’s weight were not well received due to their derogatory nature.

Key takeaways:
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    A new study finds certain words are not beneficial for helping a child struggling with their weight.
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    Nearly one in five children in the United States is currently obese, which can lead to serious heart health issues.
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    Using positive words can help reinforce a child’s motives to be more cautious of their weight.

The study titled Patient and Family Perspectives on Terms for Obesity was released on Nov. 21, 2022. It suggests that words such as obese, fat, or large were not well received by children, as opposed to more preferred terms like a healthy weight. The researchers also found a discrepancy among racial groups.

For example, terms such as thick or curvy were more popular among different racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, and higher-weight youth. Negative comments made about a child’s weight are more popular among fathers, along with Latino parents versus white and African-American parents. The study ultimately concludes that a child’s needs vary per situation and that parents must be able to adapt to what is preferred by the child.

One in five children have obesity

One in five children and adolescents in the US is currently affected by childhood obesity, which is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, and joint issues.

Childhood obesity is more prevalent in Latino and African American children, followed by White and Asian children. Children who are in a lower socioeconomic class are also more likely to be obese. For low-income families, healthier options may not be available at a cost-effective price — leading to higher consumption of fattier foods.

However, there are some healthy options for quick meals, such as frozen meals with less fat or tuna-pack salads to-go are a few options that provide nutritional value over unhealthy options processed meats or fried foods.

There are ways to prevent childhood obesity from becoming a factor. Having a healthy diet with sufficient servings of fruits and vegetables, and limiting the sugar consumption found in sweets is a great start. Many kids love sugary drinks like juice or soda, but limiting consumption of those can go a long way to newfound health.

Also, exercise is another way to combat obesity. Spending too much screen-time playing videos game or watching television can reduce the chances of playing in the sun. It is recommended children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. However, it should be noted that video games are not necessarily a link to obesity.

Last week on Thursday, the CDC adjusted its body max index (BMI) after an increase in childhood obesity. BMI is a mathematical formula calculating a person’s weight in pounds divided by the square of height in feet. A good BMI score for adults ranges from 18.5–24.9.

Before this release, the BMI scale was charted as high as 37 for children, now the scale reaches 60. BMI is important for determining the health of a child, however, it is not the end-all-be-all. BMI is age and sex-specific, often referred to as BMI-for-age for children and teens. Other factors including family history, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, eating patterns, and physical activity level are evaluated when determining a child’s future health standing.

How to speak to your child about their weight

Children can be sensitive to comments about their weight, like anyone, so it is important to be extra careful when speaking to a child about the subject. Listen to the child’s concerns, and use positive reinforcements to motivate the child to take ownership of his situation.

Don’t be negative, but encourage the child by leading through example through healthy eating habits. Children love fantasy stories and becoming their favorite movie or TV characters in real life. For example, if a child loves dinosaurs — talk about how dinosaurs consumed greens to get big and tall. While talking about a child’s weight can be a serious subject matter, try to ease the situation by making health fun.

Don’t threaten the child or bribe him to better his weight situation, those scenarios will more than likely affect the parent-child relationship negatively. Most importantly, seek help from a registered dietician with a specialty in kids’ health if the problem grows to be too difficult for a parent.


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