More than 50% of parents of overweight or obese children in Australia believe their child is of normal weight and continue to think so as their kids pile on more kilos, according to researches from the University of Melbourne. These parents have what is called ‘Goldilocks syndrome,’ a term given to those who are in denial about their overweight children.
Parents’ weight perceptions are extremely important for preventing childhood obesity, however if parents are assuming their kids’ weight is just right when in fact it is well above average, we could have a huge problem.
So what’s going on? Are parents confused about what a healthy weight looks like or are they simply in denial? There are certainly a combination of contributing factors:
Average weight has changed.
In the 60s, only 5% of Aussie kids were overweight or obese, now that figure has climbed to 25%. We are all heavier, and as a result our visual perception of what we think average weight is has shifted too. Interesting to note, the study found parents and kids perceived themselves to be thinner, more active and healthier than they really were. Of course parents don’t want to see their children in a bad light nor be blamed for their child’s weight, so it is understandable that they may feel a sense of guilt and hence can be in denial about the truth.
Overweight parents contribute to the problem.
According to Better Health, parents whom are overweight may be less concerned about their child being overweight, as they may see themselves and their kid as ‘normal’. It is not as easy to tell if a child is overweight as they tend to put on the kilos around their belly, which happens to be concealed most of the time. Overweight parents most likely live sedentary lifestyles and eat unhealthy foods. They act as bad role models for their kids, whom don’t know any better and which makes it very difficult for them to recognise they are living unhealthily, are overweight and increasing their risks of diabetes, heart diseases, cancers and other debilitating illnesses later in life.
Weight measures can be confusing.
Using body mass index (BMI) to assess weigh results are more likely to label children as overweight than using a waist measure. Not only does the study suggest parents struggle to determine what a healthy weight is, but that a lot more research is needed to determine how best to define children’s weight status and importantly, how best to communicate this to parents and children. However, inconsistent weight measures aren’t the only factor contributing to childhood obesity.
Parents believe their kids will grow out of it.
Unfortunately, research shows they most likely won’t grow out of it. If a kid is overweight, there is a strong chance they will become overweight as an adult. Parents should not be fooled. Why take a gamble on your child’s life?
Parents aren’t sure how to tackle the problem.
In one of my previous posts ‘To Tell or Not to Tell‘, I talk about the best way of approaching the topic of weight with your child. Avoiding the conversation and telling them out right they are chubby could possibly do more harm than good. Rather, speak to them about healthy foods, involve them in the cooking process, ask them questions to get them curious about fresh foods, how to prepare and cook them. Asking them questions about how junk food as opposed to fresh foods make them feel? Above all, parents need to be supportive, show unconditional love and provide positive reinforcement all the way.