Childhood obesity: Do you see what I see?

There is none so blind as those who will not see, according to a study released today by the University of Michigan. It found that the problem of childhood obesity is more than just fat kids, it’s parents who don’t realize it.

Among parents with an obese, or extremely overweight, child ages 6 to 11, 43 percent said their child was “about the right weight,” 37 percent responded “slightly overweight,” and 13 percent said “very overweight.” Others said “slightly underweight.”

National estimates indicate about 17 percent of U.S. children are obese under the standard used by the researchers.

Back in 2003, in Minnesota Public Radio’s series, The Fight Against Fat, reporter Bob Kelleher found some reasons for the coming epidemic of weight-related illnesses: a reduction in physical education programs and schools that traded the nutrition of their kids for the money vending machines took in.

The solution would seem to be a simple one: get more exercise and eat better. But, as U.S. News pointed out a few months ago, there’s a significant debate on whether kids should be warned about the dangers of obesity.

“I don’t see any benefit in denying that we’ve got an obesity epidemic. If we pretend it doesn’t exist, our kids will suffer the long-term consequences,” says Robert Jeffery, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and director of its Obesity Prevention Center.

“My research has shown that the more you talk to them about weight issues, the more likely they are to turn to dangerous dieting behaviors like restricting calories and using laxatives and diet pills,” counters Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and principal investigator for a study of adolescent eating and dieting behaviors.

  • karen

    Why not educate kids and their families about the importance of good nutrition and the freedom that comes with a healthy body rather than “weight issues”. Kids don’t understand that chips and microwaveable dinners equal obesity — they eat what’s around and easy to prepare.