Are Parents Turning a Blind Eye to Child Obesity?

Are we truly aware of size of our children?


It can be an uncomfortable question, debating the size of your child without crushing self-confidence – there can be an element of blame on your part as well. However in light of children becoming larger and larger, it appears our perceptions on weight has shifted. Is this because of denial, misinformation, the new “norm” or our unconditional love?

A report from researchers at the British Journal of General Practice have suggested it could be down to the new “norm” theory claiming UK parents have a biased view on their child’s weight, with some startling figures to match.

In the study, 2,9976 UK families were interviewed regarding their child’s weight followed by medical assessments of the youngsters involved. From this 2,976, only four parents considered their child to be obese – the official figure was 369.

Why do we have such a warped view on our children?

Rose-tinted glasses

The love for our children eclipses all. Could this be warping realistic size perceptions? Put simply, are you seeing your child through rose-tinted glasses?
Not only is it difficult to monitor growth when you’re around them 24/7, but obesity is a gradual process – one of which may mean you get used to your child’s size, becoming blind to any health risks.

The “norm”

We are very familiar with obesity and the risks that accompany it. The wealth of information surrounding the topic, not to mention statistics claiming that approximately 65% of us are overweight, means having that extra few pounds can go straight over our heads. Our views on obesity are relaxed because the likelihood of you knowing a number of people that are classed as overweight – or being overweight yourself – is very high. We have become more forgiving to obesity and this is damaging our health, and the generations after it too.

Lack of knowledge

We have very visually-orientated thoughts when considering obesity, or someone who is considered as overweight. We’re told that size matters, and to a certain degree, it does. However, our version of weight – when we see news reports or articles associated with the topic for example – and the photos that follow are always the most extreme version of the scenario. Could there be a lack of knowledge on what obesity can REALISTICALLY look like that could be confusing the majority of us? After all, 365 parents is a large percentage.

The fact of the matter is children have been getting gradually larger in the last 35 years. Statistics from show us that 42 million children worldwide under the age of 5 were categorised as overweight or obese in 2013, whilst more than 1.9 billion adults were classed as overweight (a further 600 million are obese).

With these figures and varying factors, it appears the line between obesity and the appearance of UK children is blurred. So what exactly classes a child under the age of 18 as overweight or obese?

At the minute, the clearest indicator of obesity in children is still the BMI, which stands as:

Obese / >98th

Overweight / >91st

However, reports have suggested the guidelines are not transparent enough, with the National Obesity Forum implying parents and doctors should record the height and waist circumference of the child without any figures on what should be considered abnormal in certain age ranges. As a child’s BMI is constantly changing, as well as their height and weight, there needs to be a stronger conclusion on what constitutes as “obesity”.


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