Who Wants To Tell A Kid He’s Fat?

Not pediatricians, according to Russell Saunders, who admits, “I absolutely hate talking to patients about being overweight”:

Reading the results of a new study from the Centers for Disease Control (PDF), I couldn’t help but wonder if other medical providers are even more reluctant to talk about weight with their patients than I am. Using survey data collected from children ages 8-15 from 2005-2012, the study finds that roughly a third of children and adolescents misperceive their body status. Only 23 percent of overweight children knew they were heavier than was healthy, and 41 percent of obese respondents thought their weight was about right. …

When overweight children are roughly similar in appearance to many of their peers, it takes someone telling them their weight is unhealthy for them to realize it. Though the study does not report on the reasons for the rate of body status misperception among overweight children, I strongly suspect it’s that those conversations simply aren’t happening. Further, I suspect they’re not happening because they are so challenging. Trying to tell little girls and boys that their weight is too high without making them feel bad about themselves or their appearance is a daunting task. It’s relatively easy to give across-the-board recommendations about what comprises a healthy diet and getting enough physical activity. Discussing what changes a specific child might need to make to get back into a healthy weight range is trickier, and clearly isn’t happening nearly as often as it needs to be.

As important as fostering self-esteem in children is, medical providers cannot be so afraid of damaging it that they sidestep sensitive but clear conversations with patients and their parents when the child’s weight is unhealthily high.

One medical provider who doesn’t have such qualms: