Whether they're shopping for groceries, calling for takeout, or serving up dinner, parents have a lot of control over what and when their kids eat. Because of their influence, it's no surprise that parents play an important role in helping their overweight or obese kids lose weight. But many parents may not be ready to help their children lose weight, say researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children and Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Researchers surveyed the parents of 151 2- to 12-year-olds who were overweight or at risk for becoming overweight. Moms and dads noted whether they thought their child was overweight and whether they were overweight themselves. They also reported whether they thought their child's weight was a health problem and whether they'd ever talked to the doctor about it. In addition, the parents answered whether they were thinking about making changes to help their children lose weight and whether they thought they'd make those changes within the next month or 6 months.
Thirty-eight percent of the parents in the study said they were already making changes to help their child lose weight or preparing to make changes in the next month. Seventeen percent of parents said they were thinking about making changes, but didn't plan to make any soon. And 44% of the parents said they had no interest in making changes to help their child lose weight in the next 6 months.
So what affected a parent's readiness to make changes? Parents of older children, parents who believed that they or their child was overweight, and parents who thought their child's weight was a health problem were most likely to be making healthy changes or planning to make them within the next month.
What This Means to You: The results of this study suggest that more than half of parents with overweight kids don't plan to make changes to help their children lose weight. One important factor may be that parents don't believe that their child is overweight or that excess weight poses a health problem. Talk to your child's doctor and review growth charts (height, weight, and BMI) to find out if your child is overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Your doctor can suggest ways to help your child achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Even if your child isn't overweight, it's always a good idea to foster healthy eating habits and to emphasize exercise in daily life. Encouraging your child to choose more servings of fruits and vegetables each day and limiting your child's TV and video game use are just a few strategies for helping keep your child active and healthy. If you have a weight problem yourself, set a good example for your child by visiting your own doctor and making a plan to get to a healthy weight.
Source: Kyung E. Rhee, MD; Cynthia W. DeLago, MD, MPH; Tonya Arscott-Mills, MD; Supriya D. Mehta, PhD, MHS; Renee' Kysko Davis, MPH; Pediatrics, July 2005
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2005