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Childhood Obesity Denial! Most Parents Think Their Kids' Weight Is OK

The Short of It

To parents, their kids are perfect just the way they are—even if they're suffering from childhood obesity, says a recent study.

The Lowdown

For the study, which appeared in the journal "Childhood Obesity," researchers used data from two different surveys of parents of preschool-age kids. The parents were asked whether they believe their child was overweight, underweight or about the right weight.

Almost all (97 percent) of the parents of kids who actually fell into the "overweight" category said they perceived their child as "about the right weight." And as many as 78 percent of the parents of "obese" children said they perceived their child as "about the right weight."

Doctors are concerned about these findings because when parents are in denial about their child's weight, they aren't going to adapt the family's eating and exercise habits to help them become healthier. Dr. David L. Katz, the director of Yale's Prevention Research Center, calls this phenomenon "oblivobesity."

Some believe the parents are in willful denial, because changing their lifestyle is a difficult idea to implement. Others think it's only natural for parents to think highly of their kids and to believe maybe they'll outgrow their weight problems. It's also pretty common for parents to want to nourish their kids, to see them eat heartily, especially if they come from low-income backgrounds, says the New York Times.

Another study found that parents were uncomfortable when doctors used the terms "fat," "obese" and "extremely obese" to describe their children.

The Upshot

Experts stress that, no matter how difficult a weight problem may be to accept, it's important for parents to listen closely to their kids' doctors if they say there is one.

A childhood obesity diagnosis isn't a death sentence. In a recent article for the Washington Post, pediatrician Chad Hayes recommends parents follow a four-prong approach to handling a child's weight issue:

  • To reduce empty calories, only give your child water to drink. (Except babies and toddlers, who should have breast milk, formula and/or milk.)
  • Stop buying junk food. If it's not in your home, your child won't eat it.
  • Avoid processed foods. Stick to anything that came from a farm, especially fruits and veggies.
  • Get your kids outside and moving as much as possible. Turn off the TV and tablets!

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