Nearly half the obese youth in America don’t know they’re obese

And that’s good news!

Ideally none of the obese youth in America would know they’re obese.

I’m not advocating childhood obesity. I’m advocating a happy childhood.

I was a chubby child and I knew it.

I felt inferior because of my size so I avoided activities with my peers. I used food as a substitute. It was a perfect formula for gaining more weight. My story has a happy ending when as a young mother I discovered Weight Watchers. That’s not the case for many kids who grew up knowing they were obese. 

Today we are far more concerned with weight than when I was growing up. It’s become a national hysteria. Words like “epidemic” and “crisis” are attached to obesity. We learn of all the health risks and imminent dangers associated with obesity. I am in no way minimizing the dangers of obesity, but I do question the hysteria, especially in regards to childhood obesity.

dreamstime_m_29775617Kids don’t need to know they’re obese.

It’s counterproductive to label anybody, including children, with a negative label. Many obese adults can testify that thinking of themselves as obese is self-defeating. It is a cause of self-loathing and that leads to frustration and more of the behaviors that exacerbate weight issues rather than solve them.

Let’s just label kids as “kids” and let’s apply it to all children!

Let’s also teach all children healthy habits!  Making changes in eating better and moving more will benefit all kids, even the skinny ones!

Many of the skinny kids today are the overweight, unhealthy adults of tomorrow. It’s a mistake to think it’s only the overweight children who eat too much food with too little nutrition for the calories consumed. It’s also a mistake to think it’s only the obese children who sit too much!

This child isn't obese, but her habits are worse than the fat kid who sits beside her in school. She would benefit from learning healthy-weight behaviors even if her weight appears to be "healthy."

This child isn’t obese, but her habits are worse than the fat kid whose food choices are healthier (he just eats a lot of healthy food!) who sits beside her in school. She would benefit from learning healthy-weight behaviors even if her weight appears to be “healthy.”

The recently retired, Weight Watchers International Chief Scientist, Karen Miller-Kovach wrote and excellent book called, Family Power. 

It takes what’s complicated and renders it into 5 simple steps to create a healthy-weight family. Healthy-weight behaviors are important for every member of the family because regardless of body weight, they are things to do to promote good health independently of body weight.

Instead of hanging a negative label with potentially a lifetime of negative feelings of self-worth based on body weight, let’s just teach our children healthy habits through role modeling.

She knows she's obese and it's making her unhappy and fatter.

She knows she’s obese and it’s making her unhappy and fatter.

Let’s stop preaching about weight, and healthy food and junk food while we secretly  (we think we’re being secret but the kids know!) eat everything we tell kids they shouldn’t eat! Let’s help kids discover foods that taste good, satisfy their hunger and give them more nutrients for every calorie. Let’s allow kids to eat occasional treats without guilt. Let’s teach balance and moderation to all kids regardless of their current BMI.

Let’s stop badgering kids to “get some exercise” while we jump in our car to drive to the corner market to pick up a loaf of bread. Let’s play with kids. Let’s encourage their passions for any and all activities that involve movement.Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 7.36.35 AM

Let’s not treat childhood obesity as an emergency that needs to be addressed and cured immediately.

Let’s be realistic and accept that we can’t turn it around overnight and indeed, a quick fix is rarely a permanent fix.

Health-weight habits are good for everybody! If parents are overweight and have poor habits, they are ineffective when it comes to teaching their children "to do as they say!"

Healthy-weight habits are good for everybody! If parents are overweight and have poor habits, they are ineffective when it comes to teaching their children “to do as they say!”

Let’s give our obese youth the gift of never knowing they are obese. Let’s just let them know they are loved and role model healthy behaviors for them!

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. She is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. Her experience with her own weight management journey and raising girls has given her insight into the struggles families face with weight, healthy body image, food and physical activity. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news for more than ten years and appears monthly as a guest on FOX network morning program Good Day Maine.