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How to talk to kids about weight issues?

health and fitness Updated: Dec 12, 2011 15:11 IST
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While childhood obesity looms large, so do stigmas against kids who struggle with their weight. So, what’s the best way to talk to an overweight child about his or her weight problem without triggering self-esteem?

New research advises steering clear of words such as ‘chubby’, ‘heavy’ and ‘obese’ and opting for a neutral phase: ‘unhealthy weight’.


A study published online in the journal, Pediatrics, surveyed 445 parents about their feelings on ten words or phrases doctors might use to talk to them about their child’s weight. ‘Obese’ and ‘fat’ rated low on the scale while ‘unhealthy weight’ seemed to assign less blame.

Other better choices include phrases such as ‘high BMI’, ‘weight problem’ and ‘overweight’.

“I think (we need to be) really sensitive to the fact that for many parents and children who are overweight, they have experienced weight stigma, they are sensitive to the language used,” said Dr Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota in the US.

“We really want them to feel comfortable in the heath care provider’s office so they will return and they will be open to getting advice,” he added.