Research shows being overweight in childhood leads to numerous health concerns. But a new study finds kids between ages 8 and 12 are more likely to link weight to athletic performance and appearance than health.
Even more significantly, their parents also fail to see the importance of a healthy weight, instead viewing overweight problems in children more in terms of appearance and self-esteem.
These results come from an extensive set of surveys conducted by investigators from the International Food Information Council Foundation and published in this month's Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The prevalence of overweight children has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, rising by 50 percent since 1991. Doctors generally believe the problem lies in an imbalance between energy consumed and energy expended -- in other words, kids are eating too much and exercising too little. Combating the problem has been a challenge, and these researchers decided to undertake this extensive consumer survey as a first step in the development of a research-based communications and education campaign.
Given the overwhelming disconnect between the health implications of being overweight and the perceptions of childhood obesity seen in the study, the authors identified the following strategies for addressing the problem:
Parents and children need to work together to address overweight prevention by communicating more effectively about eating and exercise habits.
Attainable eating and exercise goals should be set and celebrated when achieved.
Self-esteem issues regarding appearance and other issues should be addressed by parents in a sensitive and positive fashion to avoid emotional outbursts that can derail positive changes.