You take your child to the pediatrician or a GP or a Family Specialist for well visits and also when they get sick. So there is an awful lot of "tracking" going on when it comes to your child's health and even basic vital signs. Weight is considered a vital sign. And certainly, in those early monthly visits, you and the doctor are tracking height and weight closely. And I remember those discussions about percentiles, because as a parent I took those growth milestones quite seriously. Coming from a family of "weight challenged" individuals, and having my own weight struggles, I was worried that my kids would show those initial mega-sized growth spurts that would signal weight issues ready to express themselves. So without being obsessive, I did consistently talk to the pediatrician about the "numbers."
According to some new statistics, that conversation I had so readily and with great interest about weight, is not routinely taking place, especially when weight issues are obvious. How can that be? Despite clear recent evidence that says if you let an overweight child become an overweight teen, there is an ongoing and lifelong uphill climb to lose the weight and keep it off, parents don't seem to want to know "there's a problem" and pediatricians don't want to be confrontational on this very sensitive subject. It's a tricky subject to talk about and it's also tricky for parents to hear, say experts who look at both sides of the story. A new study says that when parents do recall a conversation about weight - their child's weight problem was already ongoing on for some time. Only 12% of parents of pre-schoolers polled in this survey said that the weight discussion occurred at all. And even though it is obvious that the earlier a weight intervention occurs, the more likely you can "hold a child at a certain weight while their height catches up," the survey suggests the conversation is not routinely happening when the child is young, if it happens at all.
Some schools are sending home "weight discussions and recommendations" along with report cards, and parents for the most part are not happy. So how do we tackle this sensitive subject? I wrote a book several years ago called Fat Families Thin Families, and certainly the choice of the title was intended to spur dialogue. If parents were brave enough to buy the book, they immediately realized that (a) they could pull off the book jacket so they did not have to face the title throughout the reading experience (b) my choice of "fat" and "thin" had much to do with "habit choices that spur weight gain and poor health" as much as these words had to do with actually BEING fat or thin. You can "eat fat" and "eat thin" without actually being physically fat or thin, if you are metabolically gifted. Those eating (and exercise) behaviors can cause health issues, despite a lean physique. But when it is very obvious that there is a blooming weight problem, I am confounded by a parent's denial. We need parents to stop taking these issues personally and get to the business of helping their kids. That's the bottom line!
Published On: December 17, 2011