It’s not easy to talk about the subject of weight. That became clear to me as Lisa Fairbanks-Rossi searched for a parent to interview for her story in our Healthy Kids special section in this issue. Nobody wanted to use their real names.
Turns out, it isn’t just the parents who don’t want to speak out loud about kids’ girth. A new annual report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals that most doctors don’t want to address it either. The survey shows most children who were already overweight have never been told that they were overweight by their doctors. Fewer than 40 percent of kids were educated by their doctors about the amount of exercise and physical activity they should get, and just over half were ever given any advice about healthy eating.
Now I’m not suggesting that a brief discussion with a physician is enough to alter kids’ habits. On the other hand, I have never forgotten the simple advice given to me when I was about 12 years old by my kindly, older pediatrician after a weigh-in. “All you have to do is this: Eat like a king at breakfast, a queen at lunch and a pauper at dinner. You should wake up starving every day.” Not a bad motto.
The same report cites research that shows, “When health care providers alert young patients and their parents about their overweight status, a new opportunity is created to encourage the development of healthy diet and exercise habits that may be carried into adulthood.”
There’s just no way around it: Kids are developing poor eating and exercise habits that are going to last a lifetime. It’s time to start talking.
To your health!