Parents can be unwitting source of weight bullying

Stethoscope generic (Photo: Adam Berry, Getty Images)

KUSA – About a third of American children are considered overweight or obese according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group, which promotes the health of children, put out a new policy statement about the stigma experienced by children adolescents with obesity.

“The statement really wanted to raise awareness that across many domains of American culture whether it be in families, in schools, even in medical provider offices, there is a problem with weight stigma where individuals with excess weight feel devalued,” said Dr. Matthew Haemer Medical Director of the Lifestyle Medicine Weight Management program at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Read the American Pediatrics Policy Statement here

Weight stigma is primarily expressed through teasing or bullying and it’s not just from peers. More than two thirds of adolescents surveyed at a weight loss camp said they had been teased or bullied about their weight by a parent.

“So the idea is that if I label my child, my own child, as being quote un quote fat, which is a really negative term that we know should be avoided, perhaps that might be a motivator for them to start eating more healthfully,” said Richard Boles, a pediatric psychologist with the Lifestyle Medicine Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Boles says that type of behavior is unlikely to help and could really have a negative impacts on a child’s overall health.

“It shows an association with increasing unhealthy behaviors,” said Boles. “The interesting thing is there’s a study that actually shows being teased by family members predicted obesity in an even stronger way than being teased by peers. So that kind of interaction at home really has a profound effect that ultimately leads to effects on their health.”

Those effects can include being less physically and socially active and the development of eating disorders. But there are things parents can do to promote…


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