If Your Child Was Overweight, Would You Want to Know?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/22/2012 6:00 AM   :  23 comments   :  7,302 Views

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting, it’s how hard it is to feel judged by others.  When you have kids, your whole life changes and most (if not all) of the decisions you make in life take another little person (or people) into consideration.  I spend most of my day caring for my kids, trying to make sure their needs are met and they are growing up to be good individuals.  So the last thing I want to hear is that I’m doing something wrong that’s going to negatively impact them for the rest of their lives.  It’s hard to take criticism about your parenting skills, but that’s what a lot of people feel when their child’s weight comes into question.

My son was a big baby, and I got tired of hearing how “chunky” he was.  I knew he was a perfectly healthy breastfed baby, so I tried to ignore the comments, especially since his pediatrician was not the least bit concerned.  Eventually he grew out of that phase and now he’s a healthy, average 3-year old.  I have a good relationship with our pediatrician, so I think if I had a child who was overweight or obese, she would discuss it with me and we would develop a plan of action.  According to a new study, the majority of doctors don’t feel comfortable talking to parents about the weight of their overweight or obese children.

The study, published in the Archives of Adolescent and Pediatric Medicine, looked at BMI data of almost 5,000 children (ages 2-15), collected from 1999-2008.  All of these children had a BMI greater than or equal to the 85th percentile.  “In 1999, just 19% of parents recalled a doctor informing them that their child was overweight. By 2008, that percentage had climbed to 29%, which was a step in the desired direction.  Still, only 58% of parents of very obese children reported hearing the news from a doctor.”  This means that two-thirds of overweight children and more than one-third of very obese children aren’t benefitting from a parent-doctor conversation about the situation.

Doctors might be avoiding the conversation for a variety of reasons, including fear of making parents uncomfortable or defensive.  Some might be approaching the subject in a way that doesn’t convey a clear enough message to parents that their child may have a weight issue.  Although BMI is definitely not a perfect indicator of a problem, it still seems like a discussion that shouldn’t be avoided. 

It’s important for the doctor to approach the topic in a way that doesn’t seem judgmental (using terms like “high BMI” instead of “fat” or “chubby”.)  Passing judgment can cause parents to become defensive and tune out the real message, instead of listening to what the doctor has to say and working together to deal with the problem.

What do you think?


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Comments

  • 23
    This can really go either way. Parents often see what they want to see and come up with "reasons" for their child's weight -- they are about to have a growth spurt, they'll grow out of it, it's just that s/he is getting ready for puberty. All these things are possible, but that doesn't mean that that is all that is going on. If the doctor is actually concerned about the weight of course they should mention it, but they need to do it in a constructive way. - 3/22/2014   9:08:11 AM
  • 22
    I went to a pediatrician until I was eighteen years old. He was from India. I remember
    when I was twelve, he lectured my mother for allowing such a "beautiful young lady for getting so fat". Following this, I was to gain only so much per visit. It tied me up in knots. Meanwhile my mother and her friends were on again off again ww members.
    My mother, not really needing it. I believe this has set me up for distorted feelings about body image. I did lose the weight, and went on throughout my childhood a fairly petite girl who saw herself as obese when the subject came up or looking into a mirror. - 7/14/2012   1:55:23 PM
  • 21
    I'm betting that most of the overweight & obese children don't benefit from regular doctor visits due to COST ... much the same way it was for me as a child. You didn't go to the dr. unless you were SICK! SO ... a parent has to be wise in what they feed their children and make sure they aren't squeezing out extras from other sources (friends @ school & in their home is how I did it). Someone can recognize if their kid is getting to heavy for their frame. Do we really need a dr. to tell us these things? I think it's more of a matter of paying attention and taking off the rose colored glasses ... NO ONE is perfect, especially your child but let them see what can happen if weight is unchecked - like the commercials to advise against smoking. - 5/25/2012   9:51:17 AM
  • 20
    I agree, why should parents be informed by the doctor? They already should have that information if their child is overweight or not! They should get their doctor's help to address the underlying problems like thyroid issues. A doctor who is not ready to do anything at all should be fired. Just overeating might not be the issue here.
    Parenting is a tough job and nobody is perfect but being aware of our kids basic things is part of our job. - 5/24/2012   10:47:41 AM
  • 19
    One of my sons was told as a teen that he was "overweight" by his doctor, using the BMI chart, in a factual (not in an accusing or judgmental tone of voice). He has never been overweight since! I also work for this same doctor, and am proud to as he is very concerned about obesity and its impact on all age groups. We have had parents of obviously (fat rolls) obese elementary age students surprised that their child was "obese" though. The same roundness that is normal and cute on an 8 month old is not so normal when 8 years old. - 5/24/2012   8:12:50 AM
  • 18
    There may be other factors too.

    my son is 8. he is heavy for his height but he is tall and skinny.

    my daughter is 7. shes really on the higher percentiles. she has lots of muscles. she doe have a little bit of baby fat because she is 7. but still shes solid muscle.

    my other daughter is 7. shes "just right" according to the doctor. shes skin and bones and shorter.

    so to a certain degree I don't buy it. some drs might not want to mention for certain ethnicities - like here in alaska, native babies are super chunky and then go to being normal weight when they get older.

    a lot of somoans and their kidz tend to be bigger, even when skinny. so that could have something to do with it. - 5/23/2012   2:02:52 PM
  • 17
    If doctors were more educated about nutrition they would be better equipped to have these conversations - sad fact is, many are not, and even worse, many are overweight/unhealthy themselves. So telling a parent that a child is overweight opens the door to "Well, what should I do about it?" Which can be uncomfortable for the doctor. Education is the key - doctors, parents, children.... - 5/23/2012   7:52:03 AM
  • 16
    Sometimes it is hard to see what is right under our noses! Today I read in the Vancouver Sun that the Canadian Obesity Network has set out a new "roadmap" for doctors to use in talking to their patients about obesity. Called the "5 A's of obesity management" - ask, assess, advise, agree, assist - the checklist is designed to help doctors and other health care workers broach the subject in a sensitive and non-judgmental manner. It also goes beyond just telling the patient that they are obese, but helps them move towards changing their situation.


    - 5/22/2012   11:20:29 PM
  • 15
    Instead of blaming the doctors and the teachers and the school system, here's a thought. Blame yourself for being a sorry parent! No one should have to tell you your child is fat. You know *&^%$%&* good and well that if you feed your child a constant stream of McDonald's, s/he is not getting the nutrition s/he needs. That goes for letting your kid sit in front of the television or video games for hours every day instead of engaging him/her in an outdoor activity or even better learning the multiplication tables. It's time parents took responsibility for doing such a sorry job and blaming their work schedules, their commutes, their....... - 5/22/2012   8:44:56 PM
  • 14
    I think the health of the child should be more important than if the doctor feels comfortable or not.... - 5/22/2012   1:53:31 PM
  • 13
    I am curious how many of the Dr's were overweight themselves. There was a fairly recent study showing that general practitioners who were overweight were less likely to discuss weight with a patient. Studies also show that many Dr's are reluctant to discuss alcohol and drug abuse with patients too.

    I make sure I see a Dr. who discusses total health, including weight and substance abuse, with me. If I had a child, I would find a Dr who did that or, after reading this, compute it myself!

    - 5/22/2012   1:24:40 PM
  • 12
    I'm not yet a parent but I would absolutely want to know. I know enough that this situation probably would not arise but in such a case the child is more important than my ego being bruised. If my peadiatrician held information like this back from me, I would find a new one. Such omissions do not foster trust. - 5/22/2012   1:02:50 PM
  • 11
    Yes, yes, yes! A doctor wouldn't not tell a parent their child had cancer or a broken leg. It's been proven over and over again that obesity and being overweight cause or aggravate major health problems, and parents need to know if their child is in danger of this. If the kid is already obese as a young child for no medical reason, then they aren't going to magically be healthy when they grow up. No parent wants to hear "bad" things about their child, but also no parent wants their child to have to deal with the complications of being obese. Doctors need to be on the front lines fighting this epidemic, whether the family wants to hear it or not. Maybe the parents don't realize their kid is fat, maybe they aren't educated on the problems it causes, or maybe they just don't know how to help. Doctors can help with that! - 5/22/2012   12:29:09 PM
  • 10
    I often wonder if they don't say anything because they don't know the best way to help the family develop a plan to create positive change. Often times this is a family problemm, with one or both parents being overweight or obese as well. Perhaps they feel that they will be viewed as personally attacking the parents/family if they bring up this point, however, with over 30% of the youth of this country being overweight or obese, I think the medical profession is bordering on irresponsibility at times with this issue. When it comes to solving obesity issues with adults, many physicians do not have the expertise with developing healthy eating plans or even suggesting exercise programs that will benefit their charges. I personally believe that we need to have a medical system that takes a more holistic approach to treating the patient, by incorporating physical trainers as well as nutritionists/dieticians regularly into the healthcare program of patients. I think physicians often feel unprepared and yet are hesitant to use the expertise of those in other fields to help reduce not only obesity rates but also help in creating a lifetime program of wellness for our society. If you or your child is overweight, you do not have to go through this alone. Please reach out for help...be willing to step outside of your comfort zone (and possibly your ego) and seek the expertise of not only physicians but also trainers and nutritionists who will work with you in creating a healthy plan that will benefit you for years to come. - 5/22/2012   10:08:31 AM
  • 9
    I think it's a crying shame that doctors are essentially succumbing to a form of peer pressure. Doctors and patients aren't exactly peers, but it's pretty much what it is. The docs are too scared to offend the parents and consequently have them take their MONEY elsewhere.

    But another issue is that it's a parents job to keep the kids healthy, and this includes a childs weight! It's the parents job to teach kids what is good for them to eat and to do it by example. Barring specific medical reasons, no child should be overweight. No excuses. - 5/22/2012   10:01:46 AM
  • 8
    You have to have the proper medical care food and education And money to Carey it out. If not you will be in bad trouble. - 5/22/2012   9:36:23 AM
  • HEALTHY_SB
    7
    I think it is the responsibility of the pediatrician to inform parents. But it need to be constuctive. They need to provide helpful information about how to make changes. They should also be talking with the kids. My kids could care less when I talk about eating healthy, but when the doctor tells them, they listen.

    That being said I have a son in the 10th percentile for BMI. Our pediatrician has been encouraging him to develop healthy eating habits for other health reasons and he listens to her. It is really imporatant to me that he learns to eat healthy. I was a beanpole like him when I was a kid and ate whatever I wanted. My metabolism stopped keeping up in grad school and I have lots of bad habits that I am still trying to overcome. - 5/22/2012   9:20:12 AM
  • 6
    My son's pediatrician informed us that he was overweight when he was a young teen. He had always been a big kid, so the news was not surprising to me at all. I've always tried to set a good example by working out and eating healthy. I admit it, I'm overweight too. The doctor told him that he was at risk for becoming diabetic if he didn't make changes. He cried, he panicked, but we talked about it. He's 22 now, and works out regularly. And yes, we still both battle keeping our weight in check.

    We and the doctor are African American, and this is a major health problem in the Black community. We need to address it because too many of us are overweight and suffer the complications of diabetes.

    Doctors are not doing their job by ignoring the issue of weight in children. What did I just read yesterday? That the percentage of teens either pre-diabetic or diabetic has increased in past years. 23% of teens fall into this category?

    Somebody--either parents or healthcare workers--is missing the boat here. By ignoring the problem in young children, it won't go away. They will suffer later on and we'll all suffer dealing with the cost of healthcare issues that could have been avoided.

    Being a parent is the hardest job their is, but guess what? You're going to get hear things about your children that you won't like. They might have health issues or a learning problem or a discipline issue. Good parents learn how to deal with these things. It's our job to take on the tough problems and help our children. - 5/22/2012   9:10:07 AM
  • SHERA586
    5
    Doctors are not doing their jobs if they are holding back health concerns for their patients. Also, some doctors have an issue with putting their pride aside when listening to health concerns that their patients have. For example, I had a doctor who brushed me off and told me I was fine when I knew something was wrong with me. I went and got a second opinion from a doctor who truly listened to me, and after some examinations, it turned out that I had a tumor! All in all, doctors need to keep an open 2-way communication with their patients, or the patients won't benefit from the doctors visits. - 5/22/2012   9:08:41 AM
  • 4
    I am the mother of a obese 3 year old, he had a procedure done when he was like 14 months old that affected his thyroid. I voiced my concerns because his weight doubled in a matter of six months and the doctor said it was nothing. More time went by and the numbers got larger on the scale even though we were being active all the time and eating like we were on a diet. They just now finally tested his thyroid and all his levels and I was right the whole time. I feel bad for my little man having to start preschool and all the social interactions with such a chunky frame. I hope that we are getting the help that we need now and that the scale will start to show some progress. My sons weight is 65 pounds and he will be four in july. I hope that soon he will be back in the normal curve for his age group in the area of his weight. - 5/22/2012   8:14:52 AM
  • 3
    My daughter is overweight. She wears a size 14 pants and is 9 years old. I think an MIBG she had done destroyed her thyroid (as was a possible effect). She has always been thin until 2 months after her MIBG. When I mentioned something to her oncologist about wanting her thyroid tested to see why she was gaining weight so rapidly her reply: "Your daughter is fine she is Mexican and heavy is in her blood." Not quite the professional answer I expected. And I was the one who had brought up my concerns about her weight. - 5/22/2012   8:04:54 AM
  • 2
    For the most part, parents are going to know if their kids are over weight or not. It's just trying to make parents understand that they control this. My son went thru a phase where he put on a bunch of weight. He was in 6th or 7th grade and going thru changes. It really concerned me, but by the next year, it had all gone away. I think Dr. should discuss the weight of their children with the parents. Give advice, but don't make the parents feel like they aren't good parents. - 5/22/2012   7:06:44 AM
  • 1
    Our local school system actually does childhood obesity screenings every few grade levels for students. While I think it's a great idea, overall, I was *stunned* when I got the report that said that *MY* son was overweight. Now granted, he's not obese, and he crossed that line by only a pound or two. However, it really opened my eyes. I work long hours, my husband's not as physically active at home as I am (or used to be,) and as such most of my son's non-school activity involves jumping up and down while playing video games. I now try to get him outside and active at least once a week: Going on walks, swimming, etc. - 5/22/2012   6:58:18 AM

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