In a recent Editorial published in the journal Childhood Obesity titled “Oblivobesity: Looking Over the Overweight that Parents Keep Overlooking,” David L. Katz, MD, MPH, Editor-in-Chief of Childhood Obesity and Director at the Yale University Prevention Research Center said that parents who ignore their children’s weight problems make it hard for their children to attain a healthy weight and demoralize the efforts related to fighting childhood obesity.
“Parental obliviousness bedevils our responses to rampant childhood obesity in ways that are largely self-evident,” said Dr. Katz, noting that if children and adolescents with obesity do not recognize their problem, they will not make any efforts to fight their condition, and it is their parents’ misperception of their children overweight that causes their diminished efforts.
In the Editorial, Dr. Katz mentions that whether or not knowledge is reliably powerful, denial and delusion are reliably disempowering. Knowledge may or may not translate into power. However, obliviousness far more reliably translates into powerlessness.
Katz underscores that parents cannot ignore the threat of obesity to our children and still hope to fix the overarching problem. According to Dr. Katz, it is possible to fix the perception issue, without assigning blame. “The BMI is just a measure of potential health risk, like a dashboard indicator light. When it flashes, it is not an indication of failure or neglect, but an invitation for corrective action before things go from bad to worse,” he said.
Each year, 300,000 children become obese worldwide, with estimates showing that the number of overweight children will increase by 1.3 million per year.
As a result, up to one out of every five children in the U. S. is overweight or obese, and this number is continuing to rise. Children have fewer weight-related health and medical problems than adults. However, overweight children are at high risk of becoming overweight adolescents and adults, placing them at risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes later in life. They are also more prone to developing stress, sadness, and low self-esteem. Children become overweight and obese for a variety of reasons. The most common causes are genetic factors, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of these factors.
According to Dr. Katz, an obsession with weight and weight loss is not healthy, and weight is certainly not a measure of human worth. The focus instead should be on promoting health and avoiding the long-term consequences of obesity, as a family, by eating well, being active, and helping children lose weight in a loving and supportive environment.