Half of American Children Don't Know They're Obese

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • Have you ever driven the wrong way up a one-way street? There comes a moment when the error becomes clearer than crystal, but until that moment we are not fully aware of what is exactly wrong. 

    Although we are startled by the chaos, the fact of the matter remains distorted for a second or two. Our first impulse might be to question the judgement of all those drivers heading directly toward us and wonder why they are in our lane and driving in the wrong direction. Then comes the "aha" moment of truth.


    Awareness of personal obesity is the current "wrong way drive" up that one-way road for half of America's youth.

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    Who, Me?

    Recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination shows that about 81 percent of overweight boys and 71 percent of overweight girls think they are the correct weight. In addition, the survey showed that 30 percent of children and adolescents misperceive their weight status. The number of kids who are missing the target comes to about 9.1 million.


    Although the majority of kids who were overweight misjudged their weight status, the overall misperception meant that some kids who are not obese can incorrectly believe that they are underweight. 


    Misperception was slightly higher among boys than girls and more prevalent among Hispanic, African-American and Mexican-American kids. Misperception also was much lower among children from higher-income families than among children from lower-income families. 


    Those of lower-income status are within the population where parents are more likely to be obese and suggests that kids believe their weight is normal because of the condition of their parents. 


    Other studies have suggested that many parents are equally unaware of their children's weight problem, with about half underestimating their obese children's weight. Unfortunately, children who are not aware that their weight is problematic do nothing to address the problem, such as increase physical activity or change eating habits. 


    What To Do and What Not To Do

    Labeling kids as overweight is not in their best interest. Psychologist and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, Marlene Schwartz, believes it is more useful to offer feedback to kids about their physical fitness and eating habits while suggesting ways to improve. Schwartz feels it is better to encourage children to not snack while watching television or to cut out sugary drinks than to tell them that a 20-pound weight loss is in order, citing her belief that "shame is a terrible motivator."       


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    My Bariatric Life


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Published On: August 06, 2014