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Julian Omidi on How to Avoid Bullying Your Child About Their Weight

With the foundation of Children’s Obesity Fund, Julian Omidi is working to provide resources and prevention to fight the obesity epidemic in the United States. Here Julian Omidi discusses ways to help children deal with obesity in a manner that is not detrimental to their self-esteem.

No one doubts the problem of childhood obesity; it is not only a national problem, it is something that is an increasing concern in countries all over the world.  Parents who see their children gaining weight at young ages are often at a loss of how to combat it.  Unfortunately, many parents are relying on methods that were used in their youth—methods that might do more harm than good.

It is not surprising to learn that the vast majority of overweight and obese children suffer from some measure of ridicule and even bullying from their peers.  What is alarming, however, is that many children face derision from adults that they trust, even their parents.  According to a study published in the health journal Pediatrics, 42 percent of 350 overweight teenagers surveyed stated that they had received harsh and even bullying treatment from adult relatives, gym teachers and coaches; 37 percent reported receiving it from their own parents. [1]

Not all parents are deliberately abusing their children; many of them are under the misguided impression that they are actually helping their children by raising their awareness of their condition.  The comments might come in the form of little jokes about their child’s weight, censure for eating extra helpings or dessert, or being critical of the child’s appearance. Persistent criticism about a child’s weight might be viewed as being an attempt to help the child lose weight, but it can have the lasting effect of weight obsession.  Many experts agree that, far from helping a child lose weight healthily, constant nagging can actually facilitate enduring eating disorders and, moreover, depression.

Rather than cajoling, threatening or trying to joke your child into losing weight, try the following tips, which will hopefully help him or her lead a healthy lifestyle while at the same time offering all of the necessary love and support.

  • Try to encourage exercise and healthy eating by example, not pressure.  If your child sees you engaging in healthy activities, he or she will be more likely to follow suit than if you just focus on his or her weight as a problem.  Make fit and healthy habits a part of the family culture.
  • Do not talk to your child as if his or her weight is a problem.  Focusing on your child’s weight will only succeed in making him or her feel like an outsider.
  • Do not force your child to go on a diet.  This is particularly true if your child hasn’t finished growing.  By restricting his or her eating and causing your child’s body to go into “starvation mode,” your child might lose weight, but his or her metabolism might be compromised forever, causing weight fluctuations that could potentially go on indefinitely.  Also, completely eliminating sweets and processed snacks could make him or her obsess over food and even “sneak eat.”

Find more methods of childhood obesity prevention and education at Children’s Obesity Fund.

By Julian Omidi
Parents Bullying Children About Weight

[1] Brown, Harriet: Feeling Bullied by Parents About Weight New York Times 1/9/2013  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/feeling-bullied-by-parents-about-weight/?ref=health

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