Are Parents Fueling Obesity?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • In the world of dieting there are certain basic truths:


    (a) Knowledge does not necessarily translate to action
    (b) Your exercise effort cannot outpace overeating
    (c) Parents are often in denial despite obvious signs of excess weight in their children
    (d) Parents tend to underestimate their child's calorie intake and overestimate their physical activity
    (e) Despite parents being overweight, struggling with weight, they do not necessarily translate their personal realizations (or knowledge) to how they raise, feed and even view their children


    With regards to the final statement, a recent study of 150 preschoolers and their families suggests that awareness and knowledge alone is not enough to cause "meaningful changes" in families, even when parents realize that preschoolers may already have a weight issue. In fact, preschoolers are generally overlooked in most studies, and even health and weight prevention efforts are typically aimed at school age kids who have weight issues entrenched. With most of the preschoolers in this study identified as overweight by CDC standards, and many from low income homes, "lack of parental awareness" was NOT a driving force for the weight issues.

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    In fact, parents of normal weight and overweight preschoolers shared similar depth of understanding in terms of nutrition and fitness information and realizations. What was apparent is that all of the parents undervalued the impact of adequate daily fitness, exercise and physical activity in helping maintain healthy weights in children. Nearly 40% of the parents in both groups identified ‘buying and preparing unhealthy food" despite knowing better, as a top contributor to weight gain in their young children. Close to 30% of both sets of parents acknowledged lack of control over children's choices of food as a top barrier to healthier weights. It should be noted that many of these children spend most of their waking hours in daycare, where the food being served may be high calorie, high sodium, high sugar and high fat, because it tends to be cheaper food.


    On a more positive note, the state of Massachusetts showed a recent decline in obesity rates among preschoolers, though the rates specifically among lower income children remained more stable. Some experts credit greater awareness of the problem and pediatric screening for obesity as helping nudge the numbers a bit. The takeaway message from this discussion should be that obesity prevention at a young age is critical and must be at the core of healthcare efforts.


    Do you identify with these parents?  Do you "know better' but still employ food practices in your home that may encourage excessive weight gain?  Are your kids moving enough?

Published On: May 01, 2012