Should You Tell Your Child He or She is Overweight?

Despite research that you’re likely to delude yourself about your child’s weight, you admit there is a problem.  So what do you do now?

Coming right out and telling your child he or she is too heavy inherently just sounds like a bad idea.  Having the person that a child trusts the most in his or her world telling them that he or she has a weight problem is going to create deep seated problems.

This particular study lends credence to this fear.  Researchers looked at a large group of child / parent sets and how the communication about weight issues was discussed.  Here’s what they found:

  • Mothers and fathers who engaged in weight-related conversations had adolescents who were more likely to diet, use unhealthy weight-control behaviors, and engage in binge eating.
  • Overweight or obese adolescents whose mothers engaged in conversations that were focused only on healthful eating behaviors were less likely to diet and use unhealthy weight-control behaviors.
  • When both parents engaged in healthful eating conversations, the behaviors were further improved.

I have written in the past about healthier methods of engaging your children in healthy behaviors (in particular, you can read about overt versus covert parenting styles in a previous blog article by clicking here).  In addition, it is very clear that parental behaviors guide children’s behaviors and health habits.

Much of this depends on the age.  With Keegan, I had always made eating healthy a game, but this was made easier because his choices have always been within the subset of foods that I eat.  The discussion on healthy versus unhealthy eating and weight did not enter into the picture because most of his options were healthy.

When I have had discussions with patients of overweight children, the discussion centers on healthy behaviors and not weight.  Usually weight is not an issue; gaining MORE weight is the issue.  If an overweight 8 year old’s lifestyle improves, he or she will get taller for some time, but not likely put on additional weight.  They will grow into their weight.

With a teenager, this is less likely to happen as they are closer to their full grown height.  For this age, the discussion HAS to center around making the right choices for good health, NOT for weight reasons.

If your child begins to make the right decisions for health reasons, his or her long term healthy weight behaviors are going to be better.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.