A survey of over 2000 parents by the research firm Knowledge Networks recently confirmed the axiom, ” Love is blind.” The parents in the survey almost universally denied that their kids had serious weight issues, even when the children were outright obese — in the 95th percentile of body mass index (BMI) or higher.
The study found that the parents of 6- to 11-year-olds were particularly deluded. Forty-three percent of those with grossly overweight offspring claimed that their children were ” about the right weight,” and seven percent went as far as to indicate that their kids were ” slightly underweight.” Only thirty-seven percent acknowledged that their progeny carried any heft at all, and in those cases, the parents mostly indicated that their children were just ” slightly overweight.”
While it’s rather touching that Mom and Dad perceive only the svelte being inside of their young ones, such oblivion has serious health consequences for the kids. It’s no secret that obese children are at greater risk for medical conditions such as heart disease and stroke when they reach adulthood. And in the interim, they suffer more diabetes, depression, hypertension, joint issues and liver disease than their slim peers. You’ve undoubtedly seen the statistics:
- 22 percent of preschoolers are overweight
- 15 percent of teens
- Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 35 years
- 40 percent of obese children remain obese into adulthood
- 60 percent of adults are overweight.
All this adds up to a culture of learned fatness. Parents who consider their kids slender rarely impose caloric restrictions. A diet rich with cokes and cookies becomes standard, so that the kids develop junk-food addictions and learn poor eating habits before they outgrow Sesame Street. You can bet that as those chubby kids grow up into rotund adults, they’ll feed their own children the same foods that they’ve become addicted to. Over half of the kids in the study had at least one overweight parent — and it’s not a stretch to imagine that the overweight parent serves the overweight child an overweight diet. The cycle perpetuates itself: unhealthy lifestyle habits get passed down from parents to kids to grandkids.
It’s important to note that those unhealthy lifestyle habits include a host of factors beyond potato chips and ice-cream. A study by the University of Liverpool found that obese and overweight children increase their food intake 134% after watching food advertisements on television. Given that 32 percent of 2- to 7-year-olds and 65 percent of 8- to18-year-olds have TVs in their bedrooms, it seems obvious that taking away little Josie’s candy won’t solve the problem alone. Josie also needs to turn off the TV, put on the baseball glove, and go get some exercise.