Thursday, September 4, 2008

Is there harm in telling parents their children's weight?

I read this article today, published in Pediatrics about how there was little harm in telling parents their children were overweight. The article was from a survey in the UK looking at the National Child Measurement Program in which parents are told their children's weight upon request. While it may be true that a small percentage of parents and children were not upset about their weight feedback, I still question the repercussions of the children.

The study says that 96% of the children (ages 6-7 years and ages 10-11 years) said being weighed was "okay" or enjoyable and about the same percentage said they would be measured again in a year. Of those, 10% of healthy weight and overweight children did not like being weighed. 15% of healthy and overweight children did not want to be measured again in a year. And most of the ones who responded negatively were older which would be about right at the beginning of puberty for some.

The article also says that there was only a slight increase in restriction of food by parents of overweight girls, but that it wasn't apparent that parents were becoming overly vigilant about their eating habits after feedback.

There's a lot missing in this survey. Even if about half of the parents of overweight children changed their dietary and physical habits after feedback was given of their children's weight, there is no indication of how they did this, how they told their children, and whether it was merely to be "healthier" or to just lose weight. I think these are all important questions to ask. There's a lot to be said for how parents and other professionals talk to someone about weight. And I think with children, the utmost of care ought to be given with little emphasis on BMI or a number on a scale.

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