Talking To Children About Their Weight

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From Your Health Journal…..”I always enjoy pieces from the New York Times, and today, found a great article by Harriet Brown about ‘Feeling Bullied by Parents About Weight’ – which I strongly recommend your reading the entire article on the Times site (link provided below). So many times, parents have good intentions when they try to discuss their children’s weight, but once in a while, it can be hurtful, and in many cases, the parent may not even be aware of it. The parents response usually is, “I was just trying to be helpful.” But, this can sometimes cause the child harm. Please visit the Times site to read the full article, and some very helpful ways of discussing this topic with your child. One things I always recommend is to base a discussion on health, rather than weight issues. But, always a sensitive topic, and each child is different – so one method may work with one child, but not another.”

From the article…..

Nancy Keefe Rhodes, a therapist and writer in Syracuse, N.Y., has struggled with weight all her life. So when the uncle she idolized asked her, at age 10, if she went to “Omar the tentmaker” for her clothes, she was devastated. “When I begged him to stop, he said he was just trying to help,” she said.

Parents and other adults who are “only trying to help” may do harm rather than good, as a recent study from the journal Pediatrics makes clear. More than 350 teens who had attended one of two weight-loss camps filled out detailed questionnaires about their experiences of being victimized because of their weight. It found, not surprisingly, that nearly all heavier teenagers are teased or bullied about their weight by peers. What was surprising was the number of teenagers who said they have experienced what amounts to bullying at the hands of trusted adults, including coaches and gym teachers (42 percent) and, most disturbingly, parents (37 percent).

“What we see most often from parents is teasing in the form of verbal comments,” says Rebecca M. Puhl, director of research at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and the study’s lead author. Such comments can range from nagging a child about eating too much to criticizing how she looks in a particular outfit to trying to bribe him into sticking with a diet.

Those are the kinds of comments that Kim Kachmann-Geltz, 46, of Hilton Head Island, S.C., heard from her father, a neurosurgeon, around the dinner table, where he would needle both her and her mother “that if we ate our dessert, he would find a new wife and no one would ever want to marry me.” Coming from a father she adored, they triggered decades of bulimia and compulsive exercise that she’s only now getting over, she said. “My father’s rants still must be stirring deep within my subconscious,” she said. “Cognitively, I know the things he said weren’t right or good. But somehow the truth still hasn’t sunk in 100 percent.”

“There still remains the widespread perception that a little stigma can be a good thing, that it might motivate weight loss,” said Dr. Puhl, a clinical psychologist. (Medical doctors, too, fall prey to this misconception.) But research done at the Rudd Center and elsewhere has shown that even well-intentioned commentary from parents and other adults can trigger disordered eating, use of laxatives and other dangerous weight-control practices, and depression.

Parents who struggled with weight themselves when young, for example, may believe their criticism will help their own children sidestep some of the hardships they endured. Kido, a mother in Oakland, Calif., who goes by only her last name, says she was obese as a child, and that her mother used to set up booby traps with food, to catch her sneak-eating. So when her older daughter started gaining weight in middle school, she reacted harshly. “I didn’t want her to know any part of what I’d gone through,” she said. “I’ve been apologizing to her for years about what I did.”

To read the full article…..Click here