Does your child think he is fat?
A growing number of children, usually pre-adolescent and adolescent girls, believe they are overweight – but they aren’t. This reality came to my attention when my 8, almost 9-year-old son, who weighs 45 pounds, told me he didn’t want to eat his dinner because he did not want to be fat. I was miffed by the comment. Of all the things my son is having to worry about, weight is not a concern I have for him. Actually I monitor him to ensure he is gaining weight (one of the side effects of some of the medication he takes is that it causes a weight decrease at least for his body type).
It turns out that my son is not unique. Some other mothers have heard the same comment from their children aging all the way down to first grade. None of the parents I talked too felt their children’s weight was an issue, but their kids did. All the parents handled the situation in a very similar fashion, of trying to uncover where the rationale comes from and telling the children that they are just who they are supposed to be.
"I think what goes on at home and what comes out of the media are both involved," said Dr. Stephanie Setliff, medical director of the Center for Pediatric Eating Disorders at Children's and assistant professor of Pediatric Psychiatry at UT Southwestern. She has seen girls as young as 6-years-old worrying about their weight.
No longer issues just for the super-model, questions of dieting, obesity and body image are arising on the playground. One study reports that 40 percent of nine-year-olds have admitted to dieting. Results from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are obese. Which is indeed a problem, but perhaps all the efforts to help these obese kids is placing ideas into children’s minds that do not have weight concerns. It would be nice if all children can learn to be healthy and not focus on a specific number or idea of body image.
I strongly encourage parents of children of all sizes to discuss a healthy lifestyle with their child. Our children learn so much from their parents, peers, television, and other influences, and I prefer that my son learn healthy habits from me. He is willing to snack on Broccoli after dinner because he likes it that much as opposed to the junk food cabinet. I also would like him to know that he can eat and it’s only when his weight is in excess that he may need to pay attention.