Childrearing

Overweight Kids Are In Denial Because Of How Americans Treat Obesity

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teenage girl eating on couchAccording to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 33 percent of overweight and obese kids and adolescents ages eight to 15-years-old don’t have an accurate understanding of their weight. Based on data collected from over 6,000 kids between 2005 to 2012, 42 percent of obese kids and 76 percent of overweight kids believe they are actually at a healthy weight. Apparently 13 percent of health weight kids believe they are actually underweight. I think the problem here is that we see obesity as a moral flaw instead of what it really is; a medical condition.

Why is this a problem? Because it’s a well-known fact that recognizing obesity plays a vital role in combating it. But if we can’t separate someone’s BMI from their moral character, how can we ever have a genuine conversation about obesity and the health problems that can go along with it? Calling someone “fat” is considered one of the worst insults you can throw at a person, but it doesn’t have to be. Your weight is no more of a description of the type of person you are than your eye or hair color. Yes, obesity can be unhealthy and it’s become a major health problem for kids and adolescents in the U.S., but the more we can discuss its potential health ramifications without treating it like a sign that someone is lazy or gluttonous, the less likely kids are to be in denial about their weight issues.

According to NCHS nutritional epidemiologist Neda Sarafrazi, the lead author of the report:

“When overweight kids underestimate their weight, they are less likely to take steps to reduce their weight or do additional things to control their weight, like adopt healthier eating habits or exercise regularly. On the other hand, when normal weight or underweight kids overestimate their weight, they might have unhealthy weight-control behaviors.”

Basically, if someone is fat, they are shamed for it, which makes a person less likely to want to admit they are fat, which in turn makes it harder to lose weight. It’s a vicious cycle. The way I see it, the only way to break the cycle to stop equating obesity with negative personality traits.

(Photo: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock)