National statistics show that nearly one third of American children and teens are overweight or obese. But while the majority of adults say they believe that “childhood obesity is a “significant and growing challenge for the country,” most of them are convinced that their child is not part of the problem.
A new study conducted by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) finds that as the obesity epidemic continues to grow, so does denial. If the 84% of parents who feel confident that their own child is at a healthy weight are correct, then just whose kids are overweight?
According to the study “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010,” not only are African American parents more likely to underestimate their child’s weight, they are also among those more likely to have an overweight child. And in a study of low-income Latinos, it was found that many mothers actually prefer their children to be a little plump. Both of those findings likely contribute to the fact that in 40 states, the obesity rates for blacks and Latinos were found to be higher than for whites.
But money plays a part as well. 35.3 percent of adults who earn less than $15,000 a year are obese, compared with 24.5 percent who make $50,000 or more. And if a parent is obese, statistics say there is a 50% chance that their children will be obese as well.
But regardless of who they are, experts say a major contributor to weight denial among parents may be the simple fact that kids are bigger than they used to be. An overweight kid just doesn’t stand out from the crowd like he used to.
That may be, but could it also be that parents are just afraid to talk to their kids about weight? With 10% of girls said to be “vulnerable” to eating disorders and all the conflicting advice we hear about what to say and do regarding our children’s food intake, it’s no wonder many parents ignore the topic altogether rather than risk a misstep.
But, as Dr. James Marks, senior vice president of RWJF, points out, willfully ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. “We’re in danger of raising the first generation of children who could live sicker and die younger than the generation before them,” he says.
With 1 in 3 American children at risk for obesity and diabetes, weight issues are something we can’t afford to ignore. For tips on how to encourage your kids to eat healthy, check out Babble’s 9 Ways to Encourage Healthy Attitudes About Food.
Image: Bruce Tuten/Flickr
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